Fear in Exarchia as crime peaks

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Res­i­dents of Exarchia, the cen­tral Athens neigh­bor­hood where youths in­jured three by­standers last week when an ar­son at­tack on a po­lice sta­tion went awry, have told Kathimerini that they no longer feel safe leav­ing their homes, even dur­ing the day, due to a spike in vi­o­lence by self-styled an­ar­chists.

Res­i­dents are to gather to­day at the spot near the lo­cal po­lice precinct that was tar­geted in last Satur­day’s fire­bomb­ing at­tack which also hit a lo­cal street mar­ket and left three peo­ple with se­ri­ous burns. Lo­cals are to meet at noon, the time that the at­tack oc­curred, to ex­press their frus­tra­tion at a re­cent in­crease in vi­o­lent crime in their area.

“I’ve lived in Exarchia for 40 years and this is the first time I feel scared,” Ge­or­gia Blani, a mem­ber of the lo­cal res­i­dents’ group told Kathimerini. Blani said the in­crease in vi­o­lent crime has un­set­tled her, not­ing that she re­cently wit­nessed an armed rob­bery a few blocks from her home. She said she be­lieved that not enough is be­ing done to dis­cour­age the youths be­hind on­go­ing ar­son at­tacks. “The peo­ple who pro­voke the ten­sions here are be­com­ing bolder all the time, they don’t re­spect the el­derly or chil­dren or poor peo­ple or any­one,” Blani said.

Lo­cals who pre­ferred to re­main anony­mous told Kathimerini that the po­lice are afraid to pa­trol the streets of Exarchia in uni­form as they of­ten come un­der at­tack by gangs of hooded youths. Other wit­nesses re­port that im­mi­grants are join­ing the ranks of rab­ble-rous­ing youths and par­tic­i­pat­ing in ar­son at­tacks and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

Mean­while sev­eral mem­bers of long-es­tab­lished left­ist groups in Exarchia, a bo­hemian neigh­bor­hood known for its an­ar­chist links, have crit­i­cized the per­pe­tra­tors of blind hits such as the fire­bomb­ing of the street mar­ket last Satur­day, claim­ing that “real” an­ar­chists have no in­volve­ment with these ac­tiv­i­ties.

Al­though res­i­dents have ex­pressed their dis­con­tent with the tac­tics of po­lice in Exarchia in the past, it ap­pears that some lo­cals sup­port the ef­forts be­ing made by of­fi­cers to en­force the law in a neigh­bor­hood where the sight of the po­lice uni­form is of­ten seen as a red flag to a bull. “For the past year or so, the po­lice have main­tained a very low pro­file here but they re­spond to ap­peals by cit­i­zens,” one res­i­dent said. “Of course they never ap­pear in pub­lic in uni­form and they are very care­ful,” he added.

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