Combating crime

The emphasis laid by contemporary policy on crime prevention in local communities is not based solely on theories about participation and common management, but on strictly practical observation. The explosion in certain types of crime and the police’s complete retreat from dealing with them is linked to the urban environment, where people don’t know each other and policing is much more difficult than in a closed environment where everything is known. The endeavor to reconnect the police with local society appears to be an appropriate measure to counter this alienation. Crime-fighting measures in cities like New York have demonstrated an additional benefit of the local approach: By monitoring any criminal activity from the outset, the authorities are able to send in reinforcements wherever there are worrying developments and deal with them at the source. The Local Crime Prevention Councils that were set up in Greece three years ago – the subject of a meeting held yesterday by the Public Order Ministry for local government bodies – constitute Greece’s attempt to adopt the local approach. The councils undertake to collect data on local crime, recommend measures and encourage initiatives for crime prevention programs and public participation. They are not either a law unto themselves or informers’ networks. This clarification has obvious political importance since, no matter how much times have changed, large numbers of Greeks have painful experience of how the initiatives of local government can operate, especially when it was easy to make political accusations against «anti-national and anti-Christian elements.» Those sad times must never come back in that or any other form, such as the racism which underlies the creation, for instance, of «a citizens’ guard» or «private urban patrols» in Austrian cities. But it would be hypocritical to deny the effectiveness of local crime prevention in informing the authorities. Simply, the ministry should make every arrangement to prevent abuse. This is the most difficult aspect of the new system. The only other reservation is over the pace and intensity of the local approach. Three years elapsed from the legislation regarding the councils until the management team was set up a few days ago – slow progress for an urgent problem. In addition, the presence of so many academics may give a theoretical direction to an institution that must not lose sight of the practical. Local councils must give priority to the latter.