Escapes and ladders

According to a police statement issued in the wake of Wednesday’s grenade attack on the premises of an immigrant support network in Exarchia, the suspects left the scene in a vehicle bearing «unregistered [false] number plates.» It’s hard to see why the perpetrators went to all this trouble. After all, thousands of cars drive without plates in the center of Athens and no one seems bothered. They could have driven all the way to Exarchia without anyone stopping them. First, Exarchia is a no-go area for the police and, second, the police do nothing about cars without plates. There is simply no monitoring of petty offenses. A second question is this: Given the large number of cars without plates in Athens, can you imagine the number of unregistered prepaid mobile phones? If the government does scrap anonymous prepaid mobile phones, millions of users will go to the trouble of registering their phone devices while those who really need an unidentified connection will simply import one from abroad – like those who drive around with false number plates. A car with no registration is clearly illegal. But more than 700,000 such cars circulate in Athens. Lack of policing means their number is rising. Of course, as everyone knows, the problem is not the absence of laws, but the failure to implement them. If terrorists are not caught, it’s not because they are using mobiles with phone cards, but because no one is there to check if they’re using «unregistered cars.» When a helicopter can land right in the country’s best-guarded prison it’s ridiculous to talk about banning anonymous phones. Security has been reduced to a public relations stunt for the minister of the day. Each time a government fails it’s the people who bear the brunt. If the government really must unveil some new measure, it should enforce the registry of rope ladders. For these are more useful than phones to those seeking to escape and since they are cheaper than cell phones, the social cost will be smaller too.