It seems that every week one of the island’s inhabitants who has been into the Big Olive—in fact all type of visitors to the Rock—has a harrowing story to tell of being robbed on the Athenian public transport system. Most commonly, they report being mugged on the fabled attractive new metro—one of the crowning architectural achievements for the 2004 Olympics.
By the sound of it, deft pickpockets work in gangs to relieve innocent tourists of wallets, handbags, i-phones (any phones/cameras for that matter). In some cases laptops are snatched, and apparently the swag is immediately passed onto other fleet-footed fellow thugs, who disappear into throngs or scurry up stairwells, never to be seen again.
One would think this rife invasion of travellers would encourage some sort of major security clamp down. Things like CCTV would be installed more prolifically (and manned); maybe a few burly plainclothes cops would be allowed free passage. These are the sorts of measures other capital cities have employed with fair success. Letters to local newspapers seem to be ignored, and the general answer is an apathetic shrug and “tea-nah-khan-amay” response of ‘what can we do,’ and it has been going on for years now.
Well, what we all can do—apart from suggesting commuters arm themselves with Tazer guns or stand with mace in hand—is advise our visitors to stay away from public transport or, if one does need frugal connections, to be very alert and make sure all valuables are tucked tight, zipped, and locked.
Sad times for a city once renowned for its honesty and friendly welcoming atmosphere.
Twenty-two suspected members of a mugging and car theft ring believed to have targeted dozens of people in central Athens were in police custody yesterday. Officers from the Aghios Panteleimonas and Kolonos police precincts worked together to arrest the suspects, 16 Algerians and six Afghans, on Sunday. The suspects are believed to have carried out 35 muggings and 45 car thefts over the past six months. The muggings targeted women who were stripped of purses and jewelry. Police found large quantities of jewelry, cell phones, purses and watches in raids on two apartments in central Athens.
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