Police, members of public struggle to deal with unruly gangs of teenagers
Youth criminality in Cyprus has become a social problem being dealt with across the island, as incidents across all communities have increased, police confirmed, with issues often coming to a head at Easter with the building of bonfires and use of firecrackers.
Recent complaints of youth engaging in criminal activities including breaking in and entering in Pervolia, have refuelled a debate about not enough being done to stop this issue.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Pervolia community leader Constantinos Tsingis said that there have been issues with youth in the area causing disturbances, and said this has even led to stones being thrown and police officers attacked.
But he said this a wider problem, as such behaviour has not only been seen in Pervolia, but also in neighbouring Larnaca villages in addition to many around the island.
Police also admitted that this was a social problem, highlighting cases in other areas of Cyprus, including Paphos and Famagusta, where most recently minors were caught with firecrackers to be used for Easter bonfires.
“It [youth criminality] is a problem for all, which necessitates working together to create a culture for a better society and community,” Tsingis said.
He added that from time to time the community holds seminars in schools and invites the police to speak to the youth, in an effort to stop criminal behaviour, but that it is a very slow process.
Commenting on future steps to deal with the issue Tsingis said they would speak with government officials and MPs to promote ideas to deal with the matter.
“Everyone needs to be involved,” he said.
Police said that these issues tend to come to a head during the Easter holiday period. Police spokesman Christos Andreou told the Cyprus Mail that especially during this period police have increased patrolling everywhere, as youth engage in the tradition of creating Easter bonfires.
“The culture in Cyprus needs to change,” Andreou said.
He too said that when police are invited to speak to various communities on the matter they always accommodate.
Asked about the procedure for arresting minors, Andreou said that only those above 14 can be arrested and taken to the station.
Then their parents are informed, and the individual is released, as police cannot keep a minor in custody overnight.
Andreou said that police then report the minor’s crimes to the welfare services, which are then meant to carry out periodic checks on the minor and their family to establish how much there will be continued criminal behaviour.
Complaints have continued to increase, with further reports surfacing about unruly youths that have turned to violence and hooligan-like behaviour in Limassol.
According to a report in Philenews, parks and play areas across the island have turned into small ‘ghettos’ where youth gather at night, often vandalising the area, using drugs, and causing disturbances.
Residents are unable to do anything and often receive threats as well as malicious damage to their properties if they try to intervene. At the same time, they don’t let their children go out to play.
Indicative of the situation, a woman called Mary who is a resident of Ayios Ioannis, Limassol told Philenews that minors, mainly teenagers, gather in the park from the afternoon and cause disturbance and vandalism. The situation has got out of hand and she said if commented are made to the offenders stones get thrown at homes.
“They have turned the park into a ghetto. We can’t go out of our houses. We’ve got to the point of double-locking the doors and sleeping in fear of being burned,” she said.
It was a point repeated on Monday by Dali mayor Leontios Kallenos who was speaking on CyBC radio in the wake of last Friday’s seizure by police of a stash of Molotov cocktails and hydrogen canisters.
He went on to describe a situation where various bands of youths roam about at night, stealing, stashing and hiding wood and other flammable – as well as toxic – materials, in a type of ‘sport’ aiming at outdoing the other’s bonfire.
The mayor detailed how the Molotov cocktails seized by police were likely to have been prepared to blow up one group’s bonfire stash in retaliation for the burning down of another’s makeshift hut, where the youngsters had been spending their nights.
And, in a letter in March, one reader of the Cyprus Mail said that his partner reported to Kiti police that youths were breaking into local apartment blocks causing both criminal damage and stealing property to set up a camp on waste land next to the peaceful church of Ayia Irini and the town hall.
The resident said that the reward for reporting the act was to have their property damaged.