Police greet tourists at historic centre of Athens

ATHENS (Xinhua) – The entrance to the Acropolis Museum, at the pedestrian street of Dionysiou Areopagitou which leads to the ruins of ancient Athens, is the starting point of a day for the eight police officers patrolling on bikes.

Their duty is to patrol the surrounding area, offering protection, security and information in an innovative way.

“The Apparent Policing with Bicycles is one of the services provided by the Greek police in order to enhance the sense of safety for both citizens and tourists,” said Archimandrite Georgia, commander of the Tourist Police Department of Athens.

“Our cyclists respond directly to any request, give directions to all the interested parties, manage cases of tourist interest and solve any question of police nature in cooperation with the competent services and agencies,” she continued.

In Athens there are now 12 bicycle officers, 11 men and one woman, who are riding to the historical centre of the city, from Acropolis and the Hill of Pnyx to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Monastiraki Square and the National Garden next to the parliament building.

“We face various emergencies in our area of action. It is common for tourists to feel ill, especially on Philopappos Hill, because of the heat, so we inform the National Centre for Emergency Care (EKAB) to give them first aid. Finally we have several petty cases in our area because of the big numbers of tourists, so we inform them to watch their personal items,” said police officer Dimitrios Gagastathis with the tourist police section of Athens.

Greek bicycle policemen patrol near the Acropolis, in Athens. – PHOTOS: XINHUA
A Greek bicycle policeman provides information to tourists

The bikes provide numerous advantages to the department and officers, allowing a quiet and quick response and great mobility. In addition, the cost of a bicycle is much lower than a patrol car and provides environmental benefits. Furthermore, one of the greatest pros of this initiative is the interaction between officers and citizens, according to the authorities.

The policing on bicycles programme began at the Thessaloniki International Exhibition in September 2015 and then from October 2015 has expanded to Athens.

Until today it has also been implemented in other cities and islands of Greece, such as Chania, Rhodes, Corfu, Nafplio and Katerini.

A few days ago, police cyclists managed to arrest a thief in the city centre, a 53-year-old man who stole a box containing 45 euros (USD53) from a city store. A group of cyclists from the Tourist Police of Heraklion was immediately mobilised to find and arrest him.

Above all the programme is believed to have strengthened the sense of security in crowded touristic places where petty criminals such as pickpockets usually operate.

It is expected to be further extended in coming months to seven other tourist areas of Greece, such as Hydra, Spetses and Chalkida, the chief town of the island of Euboea, according to officials.