At about 10pm on Monday evening, I was walking along Panepistimiou Boulevard, about three blocks from Syntagma Square.
It was a lovely Athenian night, and for a while I was enjoying my stroll. However, without being aware why, I began to glance anxiously to my left and to my right. As we were wont to do in the 1980s and early 90s in Manhattan.
At that moment I realized that this central avenue of Athens, so close to the heart of the city, was empty.
At that time there were no pedestrians. No one. And no cars or buses.
Nothing. It was empty. I began to walk more quickly.
A little further down, on the opposite side of the street, I saw a group of about 5-7 young people. Police, I was thinking in plain clothes. “But what if they are not?” I thought again.
Now I started to walk much faster, almost running, and to look back behind me.
Fortunately, there was no problem.
In general, however, the issue of citizens’ safety in Athens has taken on large proportions.
Almost every day, something outrageous happens.
The other day, for example, they threw paint at… the Parliament building.
Also, the expected Supreme Court ruling on the Koufontinas prison furlough request was postponed for a few days. A new court ruling seeks to find a way to give him… another vacation.
Exarchia, Patission, these are sections of the city that my friends tell me are no-go-zones for the police. States within the state.
And the Police, as I know firsthand, are no longer issued security vests. Police must buy them on their own.
You who read these lines, somewhere in America, who have not been to Athens for a few years, will think I am exaggerating.
Unfortunately, I am not. In fact, the situation is worse than my description suggests.
However, beyond stating the problem, it is advisable to suggest a solution.
What, if anything, can be done?
I again cite the example of New York. Many of you remember that there was a time when we were almost afraid to go out in the streets. When the Police did not enforce the law out of fear of being accused of excessive violence because they were politically unprotected.
Society, however, eventually reached its limits, and this situation was no longer tolerated.
What happened? Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor (from 1994 to 2001) and appointed a competent person as Chief of Police who began to enforce the law. And Giuliani offered political coverage to the Police, who began to feel encouragement as they did their job.
Giuliani even emphasized small violations of the law, such as loud music, inappropriate use of car horns, etc.
The sense of danger and chaos began to evaporate.
Within two years the situation changed dramatically. Real estate prices were rising and the number of tourists also increased. New York resumed its proper place as one of the world’s most desirable cities to visit and live in.
Michael Bloomberg then followed and improved upon Giuliani’s policy.
Today New York is the safest big city in America!