Re­in­stated mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force set to ad­dress bur­geon­ing prob­lem of il­le­gal park­ing in Athens

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY TA­NIA GEORGIOPOULOU

One by one, the main streets of Athens are start­ing to look like they did a cou­ple of decades ago, with cars parked il­le­gally on both sides, ob­struct­ing pedes­tri­ans and traf­fic.

“What with the cri­sis and the ab­sence of con­trols, mo­torists park wher­ever they want. No fines have been is­sued for months, so why pay for a park­ing garage when you can park for free in the street?” says the owner of a store on Pa­tri­ar­chou Ioakeim Street in the up­mar­ket neigh­bor­hood of Kolon­aki. “Un­til spring, they’d leave on their hazard lights as though they would be back in a cou­ple of min­utes. Now they just park with­out reser­va­tion and we can’t even un­load our prod­ucts.”

On Solonos Street, cars are parked on both sides de­spite the signs warn­ing that it is il­le­gal and on Ip­pocra­tous they are of­ten dou­ble-parked, chok­ing the busy thor­ough­fare. The right­hand side of Academias lead­ing to Syn­tagma Square is closed to reg­u­lar traf­fic by parked cars. Even the city’s side­walks have be­come un­pass­able for pedes­tri­ans be­cause of il­le­gally parked mo­tor­cy­cles. The sit­u­a­tion has de­te­ri­o­rated since the im­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal con­trols in the sum­mer, as the traf­fic po­lice re­duced the fre­quency of or­ga­nized crack­downs and the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Athens has is­sued only a small num­ber of fines.

“On the one hand, af­ter the dis­band­ment of the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice [in the sum­mer of 2013] there is only a very small of mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees who are is­su­ing fines. On the other, it is as though some in­for­mal or­der was given some­time be­fore the sum­mer to cut back on fines,” says a mu­nic­i­pal em­ployee who de­clined to be named.

Come Oc­to­ber 26, though, the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice (or at least 391 of­fi­cers from the 1,050 serv­ing on the force be­fore its dis­band­ment) will be out on the streets of Athens again.

“The mu­nic­i­pal po­lice has al­ready re­sumed its du­ties [it was re­in­stated in May] but will be ready for ac­tive duty on the 26th,” says Athens Deputy Mayor An­to­nis Kafet­zopou­los. “We shouldn’t ex­pect things to change overnight, for every­thing to be put in or­der. But right now the sit­u­a­tion is such a mess that even a few im­prove­ment will help.”

Kafet­zopou­los ex­plains that the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force’s task is to en­sure that pub­lic spa­ces are not en­croached upon, which means by mo­torists or busi­nesses that have ta­bles and chairs, and to crack down on il­le­gal street trade.

“The first or­der of busi­ness is to empty pub­lic spa­ces of all im­ped­i­ments, so that mo­torists are not us­ing side­walks to park and pub­lic benches are not used as seat­ing by cafes,” he says. “The em­pha­sis will be on preven­tion, not on im­pos­ing fines. We will try to con­vince cit­i­zens to com­ply and if they don’t, then we will im­pose fines. We want to give peo­ple the sense that they are be­ing su­per­vised. As far as rev­enues are con­cerned, I will be happy if the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice man­ages to cover its own costs and there’s some­thing left over for mu­nic­i­pal cof­fers.”

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