Regulated parking in the municipality of Athens has gone off the rails since the disbandment of the municipal police as part of cost-cutting measures imposed by the previous government. As a result of the force’s abolition, illegal parking, petty traffic offenses and the expansion of cafe and bar tables and chairs on sidewalks all over the commercial center of downtown Athens have become a recurring phenomenon. However, this is about to change after the leftist government decided to reinstate the Athens Municipal Police. The force is expected to make a strong comeback, operating under modernized standards.
“The system under which regulated parking controls are carried out never vanished, the responsibility was just transferred to a department with insufficient staff. Now, the system will regain its competency and it will also be legally empowered,” Athens Deputy Mayor Antonis Kafetzopoulos told Kathimerini.
A former municipal police service that is still in operation has been responsible for monitoring parking spaces assigned to permanent residents and visitors in 12 sections of the city, with particular emphasis being placed on slots near hospitals. However, without municipal police officers, the task of investigating complaints of illegal parking fell to other city workers.
According to recent data, the abolition of the force resulted in fewer inspections for parking and traffic offenses. In April 2013, for example, the number of traffic-related inspections rose by 102 percent compared to the previous year, only to drop by 72 percent in 2014. It is also worth noting that the Hellenic Police’s traffic division does not keep a record of parking offenses, only road accidents and their causes.
The new force of the Athens Municipal Police has over 100 officers and much better technology at its disposal.
“We’re considering the use of more advanced technology, such as sensors and smartphone applications. Accordingly, we will be gathering information on everything. Soon enough, we will have a clear image of the entire city’s traffic situation,” says Kafetzopoulos, who is responsible for supervising and coordinating the Sustainable Mobility Department of the Athens Municipal Police.
The digital equipment that will be used by the force is currently being developed and tested in parts of the upscale Kolonaki district. Among other functions, this new technology will allow drivers to pay for a parking space via audio or text message, whereas a smartphone application will enable citizens to check for available spaces, as well as to supervise the efficiency of the municipal police itself. Furthermore, this new smartphone app will also provide data regarding the volume of traffic at all times in the city and will serve as a reference point for future mobility policies.
“I was mobility advisor when we designed the bicycle lane from Metaxourgio to the Faliro Delta on Athens’s southern coast. Our goal now is to create bike lanes in low traffic roads and streets,” says Kafetzopoulos.
The implementation of the new and improved force’s services will be gradual. However, the City of Athens says that it will have a zero-tolerance policy toward offenses such as parking on sidewalks and wheelchair ramps. The number and types of duties that the municipal police will assume is not yet clear but parking and public sidewalks will certainly be among its responsibilities. Be that as it may, offenses pertaining to the traffic code, such as running a red light, will remain under the jurisdiction of the regular police.