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24 June, 2024
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Surge in custody escapes sparks government response

Teen's bold breakout exposes police detention flaws

Pavlos Neophytos

Once again, the spotlight shines on the issue of escapes from police custody, ignited by the daring getaway of a 17-year-old from the Kokkinotrimithia police station on Sunday afternoon, February 18th, just three weeks after another detainee broke free from the Lakatamia police cells on January 25th.

This growing concern has escalated in recent years, with public reports documenting 20 escapes within the last three years alone. These incidents are directly linked to the overcrowding of prisons and detention centers, the understaffing of police stations, and the deteriorating conditions within the detention facilities.

As this issue continues to weigh heavily on the government, the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, and the Police Force, it adds yet another layer to the myriad of challenges plaguing law enforcement and capturing public attention, from the surge in criminal activity to instances of violence in sports arenas.

Following the Lakatamia escape, the Police Prevention Office has been tasked with conducting a comprehensive reassessment of the conditions within police stations across Cyprus, as confirmed by Police spokesperson Christos Andreou. He underscored the gravity of the situation, emphasizing ongoing training initiatives aimed at addressing these breaches in security.

As authorities await the official report on the circumstances surrounding the 17-year-old's escape, efforts by the specialized "Z" team successfully located and apprehended the fugitive near the Pournara Reception Center, where he was being held for burglary offenses.

Justice Minister Marios Charalambous echoed concerns raised by both himself and the government, attributing the root causes of these escapes to the chronic overcrowding of prisons and detention facilities, compounded by staffing shortages within the Police Force. Charalambous outlined plans to bolster police personnel with the recruitment of 400 new officers by year-end, a proactive step towards alleviating operational strains.

Reflecting on the gravity of the situation, Nikos Loizidis, President of the Police Equality Branch, raised pertinent questions regarding the approval processes for detention center facilities. He highlighted structural deficiencies as a contributing factor to the spate of escapes, calling into question the adequacy of security measures, particularly at facilities like the Kokkinotrimithia police station. Loizidis emphasized the imperative for stringent oversight and accountability, stressing the need for comprehensive reforms to mitigate future risks.

As discussions surrounding the understaffing issue persist, concerns over operational constraints were voiced, with Loizidis noting the demanding nature of police duties. Despite the challenges posed by limited resources, he underscored the unwavering commitment of law enforcement personnel in fulfilling their duties diligently.

In the face of mounting challenges, the pursuit of effective solutions remains paramount, with stakeholders committed to safeguarding public safety and upholding the integrity of the justice system.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  police  |  prison  |  breakout  |  escape

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