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Greek Economic Crisis a Boon to Private Security Industry

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The Greek manufacturing sector saw one of its sharpest declines in history last month. Auto sales in October were at their lowest point since 1985. And retail stores, according to the New York Times, are "closing by the day."

But private security firms?

Hiring spree.

Like Sakis Tsaoussis is the president and CEO of Athens-based Pyrsos Security. Like an investor who shorted the euro six or so months ago, Tsaoussis isn't complaining. He tells Der Spiegel that the company's "services for private clients have increased by up to 50 percent in recent months and he has responded to demand by adding 100 new employees to his 1,000-person firm in the past year."

Murders have doubled since 2006. Home break-ins are "on track to set new records."

From Der Spiegel's Paul Glader:

"People are more afraid," said Thomas Goumenos, 32, a PhD student who was robbed for the first time recently and claims to have heard a number of other accounts of friends and family encountering crime. He says he has noticed more bars on windows, high security doors and private-funded security services for the wealthy -- developments that all coincide with broader economic worries. "There is a general fear in Greek society," he explained. "We are not sure what will happen in the next two months."

One government report estimates drug use in the Attica region, which includes Athens and surrounding areas, jumped to 12,000 problem drug users in 2009 around the time the first wave of the global financial and economic crisis hit, up from 7,400 in 2008. Drug-related arrests have steadily risen during the past decade as users find lower street prices for heroin.

"Almost a quarter of the Athenian city center is now considered off-limits by night for those unwilling to risk their valuables and, in some cases, their personal security," wrote Ioannis Michaletos, in a report for, a site that provides research on Greece. "Athens has become arguably the worst city in the European Union (especially within the euro-zone countries) in terms of personal safety."

The surge in crime has been building for some time now.

"Now that budgets are becoming tighter on the part of the public sector, those people are employing private security guards instead," David Lea, an analyst at London-based consultancy Control Risks, told Bloomberg last year.

And Ioannis Makris, president of the Athens police union, told the Los Angeles Times that cops were "seeing a lot of rage as a result of the financial crisis, a lot of desperate people resorting to fistfights, not to mention gunfire and stabbings, for trite causes."

Who to blame? Fingers in Athens are firmly pointed at the country's leadership.

“We hate all politicians,” one boutique owner tells the Times' Landon Thomas Jr. “We think they are responsible for all this.” And one truck driver says, “I am impressed that the people have not yet stormed into Parliament and burned the politicians alive -- like a souvlaki.”

That's why Greek politicians "rarely venture out in public." And when they do make an appearance, writes Thomas, "even the most obscure member of Parliament is accompanied by at least one bodyguard."

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.