Mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force is back on pa­trol in Athens and will soon be equipped with new tech­nol­ogy

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY MATTHAIOS TSIM­I­TAKIS

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 divi- sion 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 De­part- ment 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.

In April 2013, the num­ber of traf­fic-re­lated in­spec­tions by the Athens Mu­nic­i­pal Po­lice rose by 102 per­cent com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, only to drop by 72 per­cent in 2014, af­ter the force was dis­banded.

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