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Friday, March 24, 2006 

Protecting and Serving Whom?

After a string of robberies in the vacation towns of Oropos and Kalamos, the townspeople were furious because the police weren’t doing anything about it. The local police chief dusted off the usual response and claimed that his department was understaffed and therefore, couldn’t handle the 200 or so robberies in the towns. Once the media got hold of the story, the government initiated a police sweep involving 2,000 officers to root out the culprits resulting in the arrests of 6 members of an organized gang responsible for the break-ins along with several hundred other offenders during the questioning of over 14,000 people.

While the arrests were a welcome event to the citizens in the affected areas, a greater issue is evident. The police simply aren’t doing their jobs until the media gets involved and the government becomes embarrassed. The operation and subsequent firing of the two police chiefs was largely seen as a public relations ploy designed to quell the hornet’s nest stirred up by both the media and disgruntled townspeople.

Considering that there are approximately 3,000 police officers serving as bodyguard to VIPs, the Hellenic Police are in no position to complain about being understaffed. These police officers are paid by the taxpayers, not by the celebrities and therefore they should not be allocated to celebrities as a perk just because they recorded a few pop songs. It is nothing short of scandalous that taxpayers are paying for a service from which they do not benefit. Celebrities and rich businessmen are neither employees of the state and therefore, should not be entitled to personal police protection. The practice needs to stop. Police need to be patrolling the neighbourhoods making their presence felt not escorting the rich and almost famous to awards and parties.

Reassigning the police bodyguards back to active police duty is the first step to making the police force more efficient and effective. The police departments need to be computerized and staffed with competent personnel. My husband went to the local police station to apply for a new passport this week and they told him he had to come back on April 11--3 weeks away. He managed to get the date changed due to the intervention of a police acquaintance of ours. As soon as the woman took his passport, the office experienced a blackout and their one and only computer shut down and could not be rebooted. The two women processing the applications used the down time to have a conversation with each other and after a half hour realized that their computer would not magically start working since they didn't even have a surge protector and they didn't even know who to call for service. Dozens of people ended up waiting for over 2 hours while their information was written by hand. Experiences like this one are the rule, not the exception.

The Greek taxpayers deserve better service and protection from their police departments not just one-day dog and pony shows to appease the media. Consistent, diligent police work is required on a daily basis to stem the surge in crime rates and time-wasting bureaucracy.

Hello SeaWitch!
I just spent a couple of hours reading your fascinating blog, and I agree with your point of view on many issues. It seems we have a bit in common- I'm also from Canada (my parents live in Nova Scotia), and I'm an expat in of all places- Albania! Not far from you. I really appreciated your post about the way Albanians are treated in Greece. After a year in Tirana, I'm tired of all the ethnic hatred surrounding me. I'll be back often to read your blog!

Hey traveller! It's great to see you here. :-) You're the first visitor I've had blogging from Albania. I look forward to your comments on my posts in the future.


Yeah in my village they've cut the police force down to one guy who's usually sleeping at his desk if you just pass by. In summer, when all the tourists flock in, they send officers from the nearest "town" to patrol - usually they arrive at 8:00 in the morning, just in time to miss all the late night revellers departing for their one-hour drunken drive along narrow, twisty roads, back to their home in the island's capital. I worked in a bar so I'd see them pull up in their car just after we'd closed, and seriously suspect they timed their arrival so as not to have to do any real work.

I would also like to add that former MPs and MEPs, as well as any former ministers and former top ranking government officials have a police officer/bodyguard.
These officers are used as chauffeurs, private baby sitters (taking the VIPs' children to and fro school), making errand runs or just wasting away in the former official's office reading newspapers and blowing off his work day and the taxpayer's money... That is if the officer ACTUALLY goes to work, because I know a handful of police officers who aren't even required by the former officials to show up!
I would support the need to protect these former VIPs if they were in any way "threatened". This regulation came out of the need to protect former officials because of the terrorist group 17N. But, I see no just reason to squander public money and needy human resources anymore.

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The greek police have been complaining that they need a grant for the dangerous work that they do. They're right. The plastic straws they use to drink their frappe have many toxic substances.

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