German police union chief slams NYE 'safe zone' for women

FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2016 file photo numerous visitors stand in front of the stage at the Brandenburg Gate where the New Year's Eve party is taking place in Berlin, Germany. The head of a German police union DpolG Rainer Wendt is criticizing Saturday, Dec. 31, 2017, the creation of a special safe zone for women at the annual New Year's Eve party in front of Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate. (Jens Kalaene/dpa via AP, file)
FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2016 file photo police officers surround a group of men in front of the Cologne, western Germany, main station, where a string of robberies and sexual assaults last year that were blamed largely on migrants from North Africa prompted nationwide outrage. In an interview with the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily, Rainer Wendt of the DpolG union was quoted Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, as saying the move appeared to ignore the "political dimension" in Germany, two years after hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted or robbed during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP, file)

BERLIN — A German police union boss has criticized organizers of Berlin's annual open-air New Year's Eve party for designating a special "safety area" for women, saying it suggests they aren't safe from assault elsewhere.

The comments by Rainer Wendt, who heads the right-leaning DpolG union, come amid an ongoing debate in Germany about how to tackle an increase in sexual assaults.

Wendt told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily in an interview published Saturday that establishing such a safe zone sends a "devastating message."

"By doing so one is saying there are safe zones and unsafe zones" for women that could result in "the end of equality, freedom of movement and self-determination," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Wendt said the move appeared to ignore the "political dimension" in Germany, two years after hundreds of women reported being assaulted or robbed during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne. The suspects in most of those assaults were migrants.

The number of rapes and sexual assaults recorded in Germany last year rose 12.8 percent compared to 2015, to 7,919 cases, an increase blamed on an influx of asylum-seekers, many young and male. Statistics for 2017 aren't yet available.

Experts note that migrants in general aren't more likely to commit crimes than German citizens, but the proportion of crimes they commit may increase as they start to make up a larger share of the population.

The Cologne incident prompted a bill that makes it easier to prosecute sexual assaults and can see foreigners deported more easily if they are convicted of such crimes.

In Berlin, organizers of the free event that draws hundreds of thousands of revelers to the iconic Brandenburg Gate each year said the "Women's Safety Area" was requested by Berlin police.

But a spokeswoman for the force said it merely suggested the safe zone following positive experiences at the Munich Oktoberfest, which has long been plagued by drink-fueled assaults.

"This is a good opportunity to offer women a place to retreat to if they feel harassed," Berlin police spokeswoman Valeska Jakubowski told The Associated Press. She stressed that the area won't be fenced off, as some media reports claimed, and that those seeking help will be assisted by Red Cross staff who always work at the event.

If women want to report a crime, officers would be available to take their statements, Jakubowski said. Last year, Berlin police recorded 14 sexual assaults at the event including two involving rape or "serious duress."

Authorities have stepped up public security measures across Germany for New Year's Eve, with Berlin alone putting an additional 1,600 officers on the streets. Celebrations are traditionally rowdy, with unsafe handling of fireworks causing the majority of incidents.

Other security measures in Berlin include concrete blocks to prevent vehicle attacks and bag searches at entrances to the party area.

You may also interested in

It's Carnival in Rio and Nishikori might take a...

Feb 20, 2017

Kei Nishikori and the Rio Open will be upstaged this week

Float crashes, injuring 20 people at Rio's...

Feb 27, 2017

A float crashes during Rio de Janeiro's world famous Carnival parade and injures eight people,...

Clown suits, slamming balls form of Brazil...

Feb 28, 2017

To see an alternative Carnival celebration called bate-bola, most likely you need to live in a poor...

Agent says former World Cup winner Ronaldinho has...

Jan 17, 2018

The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldinho says the former Brazil and Barcelona...

Rio Carnival evolves into low-cost street party...

Feb 9, 2018

Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival celebrations are shifting from heavy spending to bargain-hunting...

People also read these

Part of Rio Carnival float collapses, injuring 12

Feb 28, 2017

The top of a float has collapsed during Rio de Janeiro's world famous Carnival parade, injuring at...

Thousands celebrate in Rio's gay pride parade on...

Nov 19, 2017

Thousands of revelers have danced on Copacabana beach to celebrate Rio de Janeiro's annual gay...

AP PHOTOS: Celebrating Azorean culture in...

Dec 1, 2017

AP PHOTOS: Traditions of the Azores island chain are kept alive in southern Brazil at an annual...

Sao Paulo shuts parks as yellow fever outbreak...

Jan 23, 2018

Sao Paulo has closed its zoo and botanical gardens as a yellow fever outbreak that has led to 70...

Brazil owns Twitter as da Silva appeals court...

Jan 24, 2018

Brazil has dominated Twitter briefly as the nation of more than 200 million turned its attention to...

About Us

Kayak Away aims to bring the latest news, techniques, destinations, and stories that inspire you to get on the water. We are all here together to share all the awesome tips and tricks to kayak.

Contact us: sales@kayakaway.com

Subscribe Now!