OPINION

Organized crime

Yesterday, outside the Neo Faliron racetrack, in the light of day and in the middle of the street, two unknown men shot a man in cold blood and injured another one. This sort of assassination is not a common phenomenon but its frequency has soared over the last few years. Seven years ago, Pete Papadakos, a man of the underworld, was murdered in the same area, in a similar manner. According to police sources, yesterday’s incident was another bloody settling of accounts which brings to the surface the problem of undeclared mob wars. Crime in Greece has gone through a qualitative change. The new type of crime is characterized by groups of relentless criminals who enjoy capital, education, international connections, and sometimes, partners inside the State. The unchecked inflow of hundreds of thousands of foreigners in Greece has, no doubt, enhanced the basis of organized crime. In this new environment, the Greek police force has failed to live up to its admittedly daunting task despite the significant steps made in modernizing its structure, training and equipment. It has yet to curb gang activity, even though it knows most of the mobsters. The failure to fight organized crime in an effective fashion is only partly explained by the fact that criminals have attained a high level of professionalism. It is an open secret that some policemen, penitentiary officials, and judicial authorities are paid to turn a blind eye. For this reason, the establishment of the Internal Affairs Agency was a qualitative step. Over the last two years, traditional forms of crime that have a direct effect on the average citizen, such as theft and burglary, have decreased. On the other hand, there has been a precipitous increase in crime that has no direct impact on citizens – perhaps because it yields larger profits. Professional assassinations, offshoots of an undeclared war for control of the underworld, are the most extreme expression of this sort of crime. The decline in the traditional type of crime is, no doubt, a very important development as it had come to constitute an acute social problem with broader repercussions. On the other hand, however, the alarming increase in other elements of crime, and particularly assassinations in broad daylight, gives the impression that Athens is an open city, reminiscent of Chicago in the interwar period.