Fear grows in Exarchia as crime peaks

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 on Saturday at the spot near the local police precinct that was targeted in last weekend’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.
http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_20/05/2011_391618

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