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article imageBurglars target homes as Greeks withdraw cash from banks

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By Katerina Nikolas     May 27, 2012 in World
As nervous Greeks fear an imminent exit from the eurozone and return to the drachma, cash is being withdrawn from bank accounts and hidden in homes. The new trend has resulted in an increase in home burglaries as thieves take advantage of the crisis.
National police spokesman Thanassis Kokkalakis told Reuters , "Many people have withdrawn their money from the banks fearing a financial crash, and they either carry it on them, find a hideout at home or in storage rooms." He added, "We urge people to trust the banking system, leave their money there, or at least in a safe place, not hide it at home, where they must anyway take the basic security measures. Some people don't even lock their doors and windows."
USA Today reported one Athenian man said, "I have friends that even hide their money in their closets. It reminds me of our grandparents and old Greek movies, where people sewed their savings in their mattresses."
Hidden cash is a magnet to gangs of thieves who have begun to target homes as an easier option to robbing banks. Foreign gangs of criminals are often involved and two gangs from Georgia were arrested this week in connection with 300 burglaries.
Earlier this week Ekathimerini reported two girls aged 11 and 13 were arrested in Kavala on suspicion of committing numerous break-ins. Set Times reported "crime is on the increase with the Citizen Protection Ministry reporting one homicide every two days, 18 robberies every 24 hours and 11 thefts every hour: all this in a country that once enjoyed one of the lowest crime rates in Europe." Illegal immigrants are blamed for much of the increase in crime thus boosting support for the far-right Golden Dawn who campaigned on an anti-immigration policy.
In addition to the risk of burglary, Greeks are risking their savings going up in smoke in the event of fire but continue to withdraw funds in fear of bank closures, the conversion of euros into drachmas, or a possible grab of savings by SYRIZA after newly elected MP Dimitris Stratoulis advised the party would use the funds in citizens bank accounts to prop up government expenditure.
Greeks have a long tradition of stashing cash in their homes and carrying large bundles of notes on their person. However stashing cash is now seen as an invitation to opportunistic thieves taking advantage of the crisis.
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