Police get help to tackle crime, 500 new recruits

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Law enforcement authorities have received a comprehensive set of resources aimed at bolstering public safety, following concerns over a recent upswing in criminal activities, including mafia-style executions and shootings.

The leadership of the island’s police force met with Justice Minister Marios Hartsiotis, to whom they presented proposals for discussion in effort to prioritise a definitive course of action.

Recent incidents, including the gangland style murders of Thanasis Kalogeropoulos and Alexis Mavromichalis at the end of October last year, a recent attempted murder in Aglandjia and a couple of shooting incidents in Nicosia have raised concerns about public safety.

Added to these is the growing rate of football violence, including the injury of a Nea Salamina player by a firecracker thrown at his face by APOEL fans.

In an announcement on Tuesday, the police said that they will be enhancing frontline presence, with plans to increase the number of police officers operating on in key areas.

The minister said during a visit to the Limassol police headquarters on Tuesday that 500 new officers would be recruited this year.

However, it is not clear if all 500 will immediately join the force as they would still need to complete training at the police academy. In the absence of wider law enforcement reform, the police cannot hire staff by contract or specialists, and resistance is strong within public trade unions.

According to the number of immediate measures to be implemented or already in place, the force will also step up officer patrols, both on foot and in vehicles. The MMAD special forces unit will be carrying out armed patrols in high risk areas.

In comments to media on Monday, police spokesperson Christos Andreou said that, “recognising the importance of effective use of data, the Police Information Management and Analysis Sub-Division will be enhanced”.

The force’s Financial Crime Investigation Branch (MOKAS) will receive additional resources to tackle financial crime more effectively.

Efforts will be also intensified in financial investigations to identify and seize proceeds from illegal activities, according to Christou.

National security

The government has also decided to implement undisclosed additional measures, according to Minister Hartsiotis, citing national security concerns and underscoring the necessity of the operational effectiveness of the police.

To address issues related to football violence, the police will be introducing a set of stringent measures during sports events, including thorough checks of all people entering stadia.

Officers at games over the weekend had checked even the teams’ gear, as reports have players ‘smuggling’ firecrackers and flares into the ground on behalf of fans.

Supporters’ associations and clubs will come under scrutiny, with the force suggesting even closing some down entirely.

The police will make better use of the power granted to the force through available legislation, to recommend the cancellation or suspension of high-risk matches.

In separate statements to the media, Hartsiotis, stressed that the measures were not unprecedented, emphasising the need for immediate action.

“The measures aim to address long-standing concerns among frontline police officers, who have emphasised the importance of effective measures and leadership commitment. The challenge now lies in converting these announcements into tangible actions with the ultimate goal of restoring citizens’ sense of security”.

Asked whether the measures should have been taken earlier, the minister said that the measures “were already in place. The crucial issue was the reinforcement and strengthening of these measures to have an immediate effect. When we say immediate implementation, we mean immediate.”