Cyprus police came under immense pressure during Holy Week following incidents of chaos, anarchy, and even violence against officers, with arrests starting to pile up and efforts doubled in arming up the force with more riot gear.
According to local media, two teens were detained Tuesday afternoon in connection with events in Limassol on Holy Saturday, when a police patrol car was set on fire after responding to illegal street fires.
Reports said youth gangs were burning tires and making use of illegal firecrackers near the Agios Nicolaos church, when they started throwing rocks at the vehicle. A number of youths then proceeded to throw gasoline bombs at the car, setting it on fire.
On Easter Sunday late at night officers in Paphos located two 6-inch metal tubes on a sidewalk in a local parish, which turned out to be make-shift pipe bomb fireworks
Police said the two suspects aged 16 and 17 were arrested on arson charges, with local media saying investigators based their suspicions on a video showing the two teens buying gas cylinders.
Over ten residences have already been searched by police following the incident. Police have not ruled out more arrests while investigations of similar incidents were reported in all districts.
On Easter Sunday, late at night around 11:30pm, officers in Paphos also located two 6-inch metal tubes on a sidewalk in the parish of Apostolos Pavlos, which turned out to be make-shift pipe bomb fireworks. The unattended explosives, which were defused on site, were sent to the lab for forensic analysis.
Police said they responded to some 700 incidents during the Holy weekend, involving public disorder, illegal fireworks, lambradjia bonfires, and other youth delinquency offenses.
Youth delinquency and malicious fires
The Fire Department also responded to over 400 incidents, with one case of arson ending up getting caught on video in Strovolos, Nicosia.
Two youths were seen on video Monday early evening after 6pm setting wild vegetation on fire in a plot adjacent to residences, with home owners rushing to put the flames out and one of the perpetrators returning to the scene of the crime and watching as panic unfolded without getting off his bicycle.
Over two thousand firecrackers were seized in the three-day weekend while a total of 52,000 have been confiscated this year along with 7000 fireworks.
Working conditions for police officers
Nicos Loizides, a representative from Equality Branch union, a police network created in early April, went on state television Monday warning that officers have been working under difficult circumstances.
Loizides, who listed a number of grievances back in April, said officers needed better reassurances in labor claims as well as more coverage in health insurance. He also argued some patrol cars were not up to performance standards, while a number of officers were still waiting on overtime back pay from 2020.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou responded to the criticism, saying the Force was paying over double the budgeted amount in overtime, with the complementary budget exceeding €8 million and total benefits minus salaries reaching €36 million.
Reports said administrators at police headquarters worked late at night on Good Friday to compensate over 100 overtime requests, with some left to be processed the following working day after a busy and hectic day.
Riot police gearing up
Andreou also said police were seeking to buy more riot gear and anti-riot vehicles, so that officers can reach trouble spots in safety.
Reports said the two officers in the patrol car that was attacked in Limassol had just managed to get out before the vehicle was torched.
“We are going to lose police officers and fire fighters if nothing is done,” Loizides told RIK News.