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Violent Crimes on the Rise in Greece

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Caroline Crouch was brutally murdered by her husband. Credit: Facebook/Caroline Crouch

Almost every other day since the lockdown was eased in mid-May, there has been some sort of violent crime in Greece-killings, stabbings, abductions-it’s as if everyone blew a gasket at once.

Earlier this week, two boys, aged 15 and 13, armed with a knife, robbed a 16-year-old in a tram train at noon in Athens south suburbs.

Also this week a 54-year-old man, a fugitive from a psychiatric hospital, attacked and stabbed four passers-by in Zografou. After the unprecedented attack on strangers on the street, the man ransacked his home and called the police. “Come on, I have stabbed people, I will commit suicide,” the perpetrator said when he called the police.

Since Babis Anagnostopoulos committed the murder of Caroline Crouch it seems that violent crimes are running rampant. It calls attention to violent crimes in the home, with intimate partners, perhaps as a result of six months of lockdowns.

And the attack in Zografou draws further attention on psychiatric hospitals in Athens, as it seems patients are easily escaping. Thus putting the life of the patient in peril and as well as others.

In April, transgender Greek Dimitri Kalogiannis escaped from Dromokaition and days later was the victim of a hit and run. Yesterday, the fugitive from the Psychiatric Hospital in Dafni, had been admitted for treatment last December but also managed to escape.

Also this week, a man was arrested for abducting a 17-year-old girl for the purpose of sex trafficking.

Violent Crimes Since Lockdown

The record of violent crimes in Greece reported in the past weeks since the easing of lockdown is as follows:

May 11- The murder of Caroline Crouch

May 12- Actor Petros Fillipidis charged for rape and attempted rape of 3 women, #metoo

May 13- A 60-year-old man was robbed and stabbed by a group of youth when he complained to them about having a “corona-party.”

May 21- Police banned public gathering in Athens central squares the threat of football fan violent outbreaks would result following the final for the Greek Cup.

May 26- The body of an 11-year-old girl who went missing in Chania is found on a rocky beach and foul play is not ruled out.

May 31- Two mafia style shootings that result in two dead in a 24-hour period in Athens.

June 6- A local man on the island of Corfu kills a French couple and then takes his own life.

June 14- A 25 year-old assaults and draws a gun, firing shots, on two women outside of a bar in Halkidiki.

June 21- A 50-year-old cleaning woman is abducted, beaten and raped while on the job in a residential building.

June 23- A priest throws liquid acid at seven bishops at an internal hearing session, sending them all to the hospital.

And then of course there is the macabre daily news alert on Covid-19 since March 2020: The daily report lists number of cases, number of deaths and number of intubated. Religiously waiting for the daily death count and case count cannot be good for anyone’s mental health.

Even members of parliament were prone to excusing violent wife beaters during this period. On May 21 New Democracy MP Yiannis Loverdos said that if a man beats his his wife or abuses her he can still be a good farther, as the discussion in parliament considered draft legislation of joint-custody even for couples where there is evidence of spousal abuse.

Europol Report on Violent Crimes and Covid-19

According to a report from the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, Europol, “On the whole, other general violence incidents were seen to decline, arguably due to lockdown measures. However, assault against law enforcement personnel in relation to enforcements of COVID-19 restrictions, domestic violence caused by stress and extortion by some criminals targeted as crime threats to pharmaceutical manufacturers to gain access to medicines used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients have been observed during the monitoring period.”

The report, “How Covid-19 Related Crime Infected Europe,” stated that “In the short term, the return of strict lockdown measures may present a situation similar to the start of the pandemic. In this scenario, criminal activities will continue to exploit the situation and various crime schemes may become more sophisticated.”

Executive Director of Europol, Catherine De Bolle, stated “Individual criminals have been quick to exploit the crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting their activities and modi operandi to the new situation. Criminal threats have remained dynamic; altered and new criminal activities have emerged during the crisis and in its aftermath.”

What has unleashed this outburst of violence in a country that has a long standing history of being safe? The pandemic’s economic and human toll has destabilized communities and increased criminal activity in some areas. There’s also talk that months of lockdown may have spiked mental health issues and pent-up rage that all too easily spills into violence on the streets.

Police Records On Violent Crime for 2020, 2019, 2018

The Attica Police Directorate has not responded to Greek Reporter to comment on what appears to be a surge as the country has emerged from the winter lockdown in this June.

Police statistical records show that in 2020 there were 49 deaths through murder or manslaughter, 76 in 2019 and 95 in 2018.

In 2020 the record shows 242 rapes in 2020, 167 in 2019 and 152 in 2018.

It has not been a good year for the Greek police force. In March, issues of police brutality sent people into the streets to protest, violating lockdowns to guard against the spread of Covid-19, as a video went viral of officers accosting a man sitting on a park bench in Nea Smyrni.

All though violence seems to be surging in Greece, as yet the country has not been afflicted by the gun pandemic the US experiences where the dying never stops.

At least 150 people were killed on the long Independence Day weekend in more than 400 shooting incidents, as violence, that coincided with the reopening of major cities, intensifies.

Greece has not had 400 shootings in 10 years, let alone over a weekend. But there does seem to be proliferation of using weapons to commit violent crimes, if the stabbing incident in Zografou or the shooting in Corfu are indicators.

The onset of warm weather nearly always brings with it a spike in violent crime, but with the country emerging from months of lockdown from the coronavirus, violent crime has been noticeable.

The short fuses may indicate restlessness and anger. The police have attributed homicides this year to arguments, some involving people with no serious criminal history. Economic hardship also appeared to be a factor in some of the killings.

Prolonged Emotional Response Living With Stress

“Living with a highly stressful situation for months is not a human physiology problem, we are built for that, but allowing it to get under our skin with exaggerated and prolonged emotional responses is,”  according to Elissa Epel, Ph.D., a stress scientist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco.

“Chronic stress left unchecked can dampen our immune response, which is a focus of our research. We of course want a pill, a quick way to ‘just say no’ to intense anxiety and panic. Stress science has a lot to say about situations we cannot control, and certainly a global pandemic is the exemplar.”

The psychiatrist stated “What we are facing now in the midst of this pandemic is acute traumatic stress. In other words, COVID-19 is a direct threat to our life or the lives of others we know. We are all either vicariously witnessing trauma, through media or through supporting others, or directly experiencing trauma, by becoming ill, isolated, or experiencing the plight of others. We all know, in some vague way, that ‘normal’ has changed and the world will never be the same.”

Epel added “One of the most powerful ingredients for stress reduction is calm caring emotional support. Opportunities to help abound. Helping behaviors are known to be happiness behaviors as well.”  She stated “We can rise above our reptilian panic responses, and fight our best battle against this vicious virus.”

According to Epel, “Isolation paired with psychological and economic stressors accompanying the pandemic as well as potential increases in negative coping mechanisms, such as excessive alcohol consumption, can come together in a perfect storm to trigger an unprecedented wave of family violence. As social distancing measures came into place, alcohol good sales rose, and as restaurants, bars closed, people were drinking more within the confines of their homes.”

The psychiatrist added that “Unemployment figures around the world have rapidly risen into the double digits, with millions signing up for welfare payments and a worldwide recession predicted in the near future. Substance misuse, financial strain, and isolation are all well‐known domestic abuse risk factors. During isolation, there are also fewer opportunities for people living with family violence to call for help. Isolation also helps to keep the abuse hidden with physical or emotional signs of family violence and abuse less visible to others.”

 

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