Boosting public safety in Athens

The upsurge in violent crimes in the center of Athens, culminating in the beating late Tuesday of labor union chief Christos Polyzogopoulos by a group of some 15 suspected anarchists, raises some very serious issues. First there was the bank robbery shootout in the downtown Kolonaki district. Then came the firebomb attack on a National Bank of Greece branch on Panepistimiou Street. And now the gang-style attack on the head of Greece’s largest umbrella union, GSEE, as he was driving his car through the Exarchia neighborhood of central Athens. In all cases, the perpetrators managed to escape, a fact which makes concerned citizens question what sort of crime it takes for the Ministry of Public Order to actually mobilize its forces. At some point, these criminals must be brought to justice and be punished. Yesterday’s statement by the association of Attica’s police officers added to popular concern. The statement said that «questions naturally emerge concerning the tolerance and regrettable protection offered to those who nearly killed the GSSE president… by those who are essentially responsible for the safety of all of us.» The statement went even further by questioning whether Greece’s police has the necessary political will to do what it takes to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. Unless the statement by the officers’ association was the product of supreme irresponsibility, the authorities must conduct a thorough investigation into the grave allegations: «tolerance,» «protection,» and the «lack of political will» to arrest the offenders. The statement obviously fanned the fears of skeptical citizens by linking the impunity to political expedience. The government and the police must do away with the climate of mistrust by stepping up measures to reinforce security in the center of the capital and, needless to say, by netting the perpetrators of criminal acts that have caused deep concern among the inhabitants of Athens.

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