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Our View: Police action plan should not inconvenience law-abiding citizens

traffic police
The car’s driver was arrested after attempting to escape.

The police command has put in force an action plan, which is aimed at “prevention and elimination of serious and organised crime.” Details of the plan, which came into force last Friday and will last two months, were given in a 16-page memo distributed to heads of police departments and services and leaked to Phileleftheros.

The plan envisages daily car patrols in all districts between late night and the early hours. Some 89 cars would be on patrol every night and a total of 188 officers, including those performing office duties; in Nicosia and Limassol there would also be two motorbikes on patrol, presumably because there is more crime.

Concerns about a surge in organised crime surfaced last year after the murder of a couple of underworld figures. More recently, there have been attacks against police officers and public prosecutors, attributed to organised crime, even though nobody was arrested in connection with these crimes. The police command clearly believed that it needed to act.

The prime objective, according to the memo seen by Phileleftheros, is the imposition of law and order through a heavy police presence. The reasoning is that through frequent, coordinated operations and systematic checks of the vehicles of suspects and of premises, the desired result of dealing a strong blow against criminal elements, would be achieved.

This seems a rather simplistic approach to fighting serious and organised crime, as it assumes that protection rackets, loan sharking, money-laundering, big drug deals, and illegal gambling take place on the streets late at night. Then again, if there are plans for undercover officers to try to infiltrate crime organisations, we doubt this would be included in a memo circulated to all police departments and units.

There is nothing wrong with increasing the police presence on the streets as it would probably make people feel a little safer. It could also reduce minor crime, such as robberies, violence, and vandalism among other things, but it is unlikely to deal a blow to serious crime.

We hope this new police operation will not be used as an excuse to inconvenience law-abiding citizens going about their private business. In the 16-page missive, traffic police are ordered to stop cars on highways and carry out checks of individuals, which is unnecessarily intrusive policing.

Unless the police are carrying out a search for an escaped convict or wanted suspect, or have seen a driver using their mobile phone, there is no justification to randomly stop cars on the highway to check who is inside. This is a violation of the right to privacy and should not happen. Making people feel like they are living in a police state should be avoided at all costs.

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Source: Cyprus News Agency