• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Police fight rumours they hide truth on refugees
"Chinese Whispers is no game for adults." Source: Bavarian Police

Police fight rumours they hide truth on refugees

Jörg Luyken · 22 Jan 2016, 15:29

Published: 21 Jan 2016 16:03 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Jan 2016 15:29 GMT+01:00

In Berlin police have denied a story spread on social media that a 13-year-old girl was abducted and raped by refugees and that police subsequently tried to cover the incident up.

A Russian television channel reported that the girl was taken into sexual captivity for days and that police had tried to suppress it from going public. The report then spread quickly through German social media.

But in a press release published on Tuesday police in the capital said their investigations showed that, while the girl had gone missing for a short time, she was neither abducted nor raped.

Police in Bavaria, meanwhile, have started a social media campaign to discourage people from sharing rumours on social media without checking up on the truth of them first, after a post claiming a police-cover up of a sexual assault by a refugee went viral.

The original comment read: "Share, share, share… A refugee committed a rape in Traunstein… the police 'your friend and helper’ are staying quiet and aren’t telling the general public anything!!... Information from a trusted source!!!"

Local media brought the post to the police’s attention, leading to an investigation which took two days and involved eight interviews.

Eventually it turned out the rumour was related to a sexual assault which had taken place in a neighbouring town on New Year, and which had been fully reported by police.

“Chinese whispers [or telephone] is no game for adults”, police warn, saying that "a fact turns into a half truth and finally into unsustainable rumour".

"The same is true of us as always has been: we report neutrally, transparently and actively about criminality - that is, was, and will remain the case - no matter what some so-called 'trusted source' claims," the police wrote.

Growing sense of fear

Police warnings of this sort are nothing new. In October 2015 police in Saxony reported that “rumours have been spreading uncontrollably over the internet in the last few weeks.”

Without mentioning what specifically the rumours related to, police in the east German state warned that spreading hearsay over social media without checking the facts was creating hysteria, and “exactly that is what those who create the rumours want.”

German media have previously reported that right wing organizations such as Pegida or the Alternative for Germany (AfD) have been spreading stories on social media since the summer claiming a wave of sexual assaults by refugees that have little to no basis in fact.

But since police in Cologne were slow to report publicly that there had been a string of mass sexual assaults over New Year in the city centre, anxiety about public safety and a lack of faith in the police's ability to protect has entered the mainstream.

Former Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers. Photo: DPA

Seven in ten people believe that the Cologne police did a bad job during New Year and the following days, while there was even less trust in the work of their boss Wolfgang Albers, who was forced into retirement in the fallout.

This has led to a clear erosion of confidence in public safety.

Around a third of the public would rather now avoid large masses of people - for women the number was 37 percent - with 82 percent saying they wanted more CCTV in public spaces, a poll by public broadcaster ARD published on January 7th showed. 

Meanwhile nine in every ten Germans now want to see more police on the streets, a YouGov poll shows.

"It shows that a real fear exists at the moment. There is a huge amount of interest in seeing a greater police presence," Holger Geißler from YouGov told The Local.

Police still trusted

But despite all this, public trust in the law enforcement is staying surprisingly strong.

Story continues below…

The poll actually shows an improvement on 2015, with 69 percent of respondents saying they see the police as their 'friend and helper', as opposed to 54 percent last year.

"People still trust the police, but believe that there were not enough personnel in Cologne at New Year to deal with the problem," Geißler explains.

Police outside Cologne cathedral in early January. Photo: DPA

"One would expect to see a loss in trust, but there is no evidence for it in out data."

But the pollster also believes that there is a recognition among the authorities that trying to hide facts on crimes committed by immigrants is counter-productive

The the firing of Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers and his press secretary were a sign that massaging the facts is now seen as outdated, Geißler argues.

"We've probably reached the high point of political correctness," he concludes.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jörg Luyken (joerg.luyken@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Teacher overpaid quarter of a million euros. No one notices
Photo: DPA

The Düsseldorf teacher was paid a full-time salary for six years, despite only working part time.

Euro 2016
Germans react with glee to England’s Iceland humiliation
Distraught England players after Iceland defeat. photo: DPA

Still upset by their British brothers voting for Brexit, Germans expressed an overwhelming sense of Schadenfreude at England's Euro 2016 exit.

Cleaning spray triggers shock explosion in Frankfurt cafe
Photo: Frankfurt fire department.

Four people have been injured in an explosion at a cafe in a Frankfurt shopping district. The culprit: cleaning products.

Brexit vote
Merkel vows to create 'new impulse' for EU
Chancellor Angela Merkel with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy vowed on Monday "a new impulse" for the EU as it reels from Brexit.

Police investigate after 'Nazi knifeman' threatens President
Demonstrators protest against the visit of President Joachim Gauck. Photo: DPA.

German President Joachim Gauck was confronted by some aggressive right-wing extremists during an official weekend visit, including one man carrying a knife.

Telekom warns all users to change passwords after scam
Photo: DPA.

German giant Deutsche Telekom is warning customers to change their passwords after finding that up to 120,000 customers' data was being sold on the black market.

Brexit vote
How Brits can escape to Germany and still feel at home
The store Broken English in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Giving up on the UK post-Brexit? Come to Germany - it's not so different!

German MPs file war crimes suit against Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: DPA

A group of German politicians and public figures have filed a lawsuit against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing him of committing war crimes against his country's Kurdish minority.

Brexit vote
Merkel: no backroom deals with UK on Brexit
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out on Monday informal talks with the UK on the terms of a Brexit, but said the EU should be patient with London.

Sartorial slip-up leads police to pipe bomb
A sign reading FCK CPS. Photo: Jürgen Telkmann / Flickr Creative Commons.

Police stopped a man because he was wearing a FCK CPS shirt, only to discover he had been making a pipe bomb.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
7,830
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd