Pickpockets hitting rail passengers: police

Thieves are making a fortune in Germany's train stations, police have warned, as they launch a campaign to try and tackle the country's growing number of pickpocketing cases.

Pickpockets hitting rail passengers: police
Photo: DPA

In train stations across Germany, posters and floor displays catch travellers' eyes with their distinctive red, yellow and black graphics.

“Achten Sie auf Ihre Wertsachen,” they warn. And in English: “Look after your valuables.”

The messages are part of a campaign launched by police in association with Deutsche Bahn.

Aiming to remind passengers of the importance of looking after their possessions, the campaign hopes to tackle a growing problem in German's busiest train stations: pickpocketing.

'Professional and international criminals'

Figures for pickpocketing have risen sharply across Germany in recent years. Last year alone, police recorded some 35,760 incidents – a 19 per cent increase on 2013 figures.

The trend looks set to continue. In the first half of 2015, around 20,200 cases have already been recorded across the country – a 22 per cent increase compared with the same time period last year.

“In most cases, the thieves work in groups, and they often also operate in several European countries,” said a spokesperson for Potsdam police headquarters in a statement.

Pickpockets are often “professional and international criminals,” he added.

Last year, cases reported to police cost victims €6.1 million, including stolen cash, personal documents and bank cards.

Victims of this kind of crime are unlikely to get their valuables back – with most only realizing long after the theft itself that their items are gone.

Distracting their victims

Thieves often work in groups of between three and six, police explained.

“One member of the group keeps a lookout and another distracts the victim, while a third member carries out the robbery,” a spokesperson described.

Pickpockets often have a range of distraction maneuvers at their fingertips, police said.

One of these sees a group member “accidentally” spilling a drink on an intended victim. While the victim is distracted and being helped to clean up, another group member approaches and carries out the theft.

In other cases, a group member will feign drunkenness, and stagger towards a traveler. While the victim is distracted, they are robbed by an accomplice.

Police are warning travellers to avoid careless behaviour in pickpocketing hotspots – for example, leaving bags unattended, or carrying an open bag with phone and wallet clearly visible and accessible.


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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.