Police officers in Frankfurt on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Photo: DPA.
Two years since sexual assaults by immigrant men took place in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, cities across the country plan on amping up their security measures for Silvester 2017.
In the western German city of Cologne, the security area in which fireworks are forbidden has been extended to include the city’s Cathedral. It was in this square where numerous sexual assualts were reported in 2015.
“About 1,400 officers will be deployed,” said Cologne police commissioner Uwe Jacob. Authorities expect there to be as many visitors celebrating the New Year in the city as in previous years.
There will also be an increased number of video cameras and more well-lit areas.The police will focus as well on preventing large groups from forming around the central station – a short walk from the Cologne Cathedral.
In Düsseldorf, similar to last year, setting off fireworks in the Altstadt (old town) is banned.
Meanwhile police in Bielefeld have set up a “banger-free zone” around the Sparrenburg Castle in the city centre, with authorities stating this is due to the “partially reckless handling of fireworks.” Entrances and access points will be monitored from around 8 pm.
But many other cities in North Rhine-Westphalia do not consider it necessary to ban firecrackers. The authorities in Bochum, Bonn, Duisburg and Aachen, for instance, will rely instead on the heightened presence of law enforcement officers.
Pyrotechnics on sale in Freiburg on Thursday 28th December. Photo: DPA
Similar to Cologne, there were reports of sexual misconduct at New Year celebrations in Hamburg in 2015. According to the public prosecutor’s office, 410 women were reportedly assaulted at the time.
In 2016, around 530 officials were deployed at central areas in the Hanseatic city such as the well-known Reeperbahn district. This year near the Reeperbahn an additional guarded security area will be set up.
A new video surveillance system will moreover be in place at Junfernstieg – one of the city’s busy urban promenades. As well, dark areas of the city are to be lit up and barriers will be available.
Police in Frankfurt plan on utilizing a similar security concept from last year.
“Police officers in uniform and in civilian clothes will be present,” said a spokesperson, adding that the officers would concentrate on the banks of the river Main – especially around the Iron Bridge, the Altstadt (old town) and the Museum Riverbank.
In 2016 around 5,000 people celebrated around the river Main. The area was heavily controlled for security purposes as well, to prevent fireworks from being lit on the river banks.
After the capital city saw a truck plough into one of its Christmas markets in December last year, killing 12 people, Berlin police deployed 1,700 civilian police officers and private security guards at 2016 New Year’s celebrations. Armoured vehicles were clearly visible at Brandenburg Gate while police officers with machine guns were also present.
Similarly, this year at Brandenburg Gate – where a Silvester celebration takes place each year – there will be concrete bollards, barricades and other barriers such as police cars around the area. Visitors will also be strictly controlled and large bags or suitcases are prohibited.
There was a terror threat on New Year’s Eve last year in the Bavarian capital but the investigation was dropped in February due to a lack of clues.
In spite of this, police are still stepping up their operations this year. “There is no evidence of concrete dangers. However, as has been the case for many years, an increased abstract risk situation is still present,” said police headquarters in Munich.
According to a police spokesperson, central celebratory locations include Friedensengel, Olympiapark and Marienplatz. In urban areas, several units will be on hand to be deployed quickly if necessary.
The Munich police moreover state that a particular focus this year will be on crimes involving fireworks. “In recent years, we have increasingly been confronted with the phenomenon of people firing pyrotechnics at others. These are serious crimes that can cause serious injury,” they stated.
In Stuttgart, police will concentrate on the Schlossplatz square and around the central station.
Police in Karlsruhe plan on carrying out security operations with more officials than usual.
In Ulm, however, police presence will be similar to last year.
On New Year’s Eve in Erfurt, about 50 bollards will surround the central Cathedral Square. The large concrete blocks, which are reminiscent of over sized Lego bricks, have been used to protect the square at the city’s Oktoberfest festivities in autumn and at the city’s Christmas market in December.
Similar to many other German cities, Hanover, too, will see strengthened police presence with particular focus in its city centre. “The top priority of the New Year’s Eve operation is to prevent and consistently pursue potential crimes,” a police spokeswoman in the capital city of Lower Saxony said.
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