Cyprus Mail

Residents dread raucous lead up to Easter

File photo: Boys preparing the Easter bonfire

Police have assigned special teams to prevent rowdy incidents and the lighting of bonfires in dangerous areas in the lead up to Easter, the Nicosia police chief Demetris Demetriou said on Monday.
With Easter approaching, teens are collecting firecrackers and gathering wood for the traditional lampratzia or bonfires which are lit after midnight on Easter Sunday.
Firecrackers are popular but are illegal. Last week, two teenagers, 17 and 18, were arrested for possession of explosives in Larnaca, while earlier in the month, police seized ten boxes containing 400 firecrackers from three teens on the Pyla Oroklini road.
But teenagers are not the only ones to exhibit juvenile behaviour during the Easter season. On Sunday two 36-year-old men were arrested in Limassol for allegedly attacking police officers and resisting arrest after officers attempted to put out a bonfire of burning tyres.
According to the fire service, since April 1 more than 20 lampratzia-related fires have been recorded.
In their attempt to gather as much firewood for the big bonfires, and to guard it from rival groups seeking to steal it for their own bonfires, teenaged boys have been known to stay up all night with loud music, throwing firecrackers and sometimes even fighting with rivals.
For nearby residents this can mean sleepless nights.
To residents of the area around the School for the Blind in Nicosia, for example, Easter is now a time of tension because of the noise and the lighting of fires.
“This is happening every year, two months before Easter,” an area resident told the Cyprus Mail. She added that due to the noise, they can’t sleep and every time a resident tries to reason with them, they become aggressive.
“We call the police and they say they will do something about but they never do. I have started to dread Easter because of this,” she said.
Police, who have to deal with similar situations on so many fronts, have decided to change their approach this year.
“We are in close cooperation with the church committees, the fire service, and schools in order to better monitor and handle the situation,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides told the Cyprus Mail.
“We took into consideration last year’s problems to be better prepared for this year,” he said.
Demetriou said that special teams have been set up to visit schools and investigate incidents. He added that officers also record all the “problem spots”.
“Last week, in cooperation with Strovolos municipality, we confiscated almost three trucks full of wood,” he said.
Police said that patrols will intensify during the Holy Week, mainly outside the churches, while lectures take place in schools, and youth centres to inform youngsters on the hazards of using firecrackers to themselves and others.
Meanwhile Limassol municipality has urged residents to keep wood and wooden furniture out of sight as they “become a target for youths” searching for bonfire materials.

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