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22 May, 2024
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Black holes in public safety

Communication 'firecracker' or action? Navigating the Justice Minister's pledge

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

Last week, Justice Minister Marios Hartsiotis pledged to enhance security, proposing an increased uniformed presence in the city center to combat crime.

However, his assurance faced skepticism from police circles, branding it as proverbial naivety, and others dismissed it as another government "communication firecracker" detached from the harsh realities. The unfolding events, including an assassination attempt on Larnaca Avenue, shootings in Geri, an explosion in Nicosia, and the arson of a public prosecutor's car in Paphos, underscore the depth of the security crisis.

The root of the problem
Examining the complex issue of escalating crime, particularly daylight assassination attempts with potential collateral damage, reveals four main axes:
1. Long-term inadequacy of justice-related institutions.
2. Leadership vacuum within the police force.
3. Necessity for restructuring the police function.
4. Presence of corrupt individuals ("rotten apples") within the police.

Justice Ministry's Troubles
The role of the Justice Ministry historically leads to political damage, with four ministers in the past 15 years forced to resign. George Savvidis, promoted to attorney general, faces societal scrutiny due to perceived conflicts of interest and questionable handling of societal affairs, casting doubt on the General Prosecutor's Office.

The weak link
Justice Minister Hartsiotis' success is intricately tied to police leadership, with concerns over the perceived incompetence of figures like Anna Koukidi Prokopiou and Stelios Papatheodorou. Events in Chloraka and Limassol, along with unsolved murders, highlight a leadership crisis within the police force, triggering discomfort within the government.

Without a first line
Police leadership faces a crisis, evident in the departure of three chiefs in eight years. Stelios Papatheodorou's competence is questioned, and fears within the government regarding potential compensation add complexity. Issues in the police force, identified by Greco, call for transparent criteria for appointments and dismissals of key positions.

Central prisons debate
Debates surrounding Central Prisons, including organized crime connections and their location in the city center, intensify. The need for reorganization and relocation discussions surfaces, contributing to the broader security challenges.

Rotten apples and criminal ties
Police members' connections to organized crime present a serious challenge. The creation of The Independent Authority for the Investigation of Complaints against the Police (AADIPA) aimed to address corruption but faces challenges, including concerns about its effectiveness and potential vindictiveness.

As the security crisis deepens, Justice Minister Hartsiotis must navigate these intricate challenges, demonstrating a nuanced understanding of the problems, engaging in dialogue, and committing to rectifying deficits within the police force.

The urgency to address these issues is heightened by the emboldening of organized crime, requiring decisive actions to restore public trust in Cyprus' justice and law enforcement systems.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  security  |  police  |  minister  |  justice  |  crime

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