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CRIME

Berlin’s busiest square is hunting ground for criminals

For years, crooks and criminals have tormented tourists and travellers at Berlin Alexanderplatz. Police efforts to fight the scourge have so far failed.

Berlin's busiest square is hunting ground for criminals
Photo: DPA

Crime has been rife for years at Alexanderplatz, Berlin's busiest public space and home to the German capital's world-famous TV tower. And despite increased police presence, officers have been unable to get a grip on the situation.

Figures released to Berlin city representative Tom Schreiber of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) show that the number of violent offences at Alex – as it's fondly known to Berliners – remained stuck at around 600 per year between 2011 and 2015.

“Although there are more officers and they are probably working overtime, I think the staff are overwhelmed with the situation,” Schreiber told The Local.

Ever since 20-year-old Johnny K. was beaten to death by 6 men in October 2012, an extra police team has been in place to watch over the tourist, shopping and travel nexus in the former East of the city.

But the report from the city government's Interior department shows that while crime was relatively low in early 2015, there were a total of 597 acts of violence by the end of the year. 

The offences include criminal assault, armed robbery, threats and unlawful detention.

The department registered 481 cases of assault, 62 instances of coercion and threats, 51 cases of robbery and three counts of the most serious crimes: rape, murder and homicide, some of them attempted.

Cases of pick-pocketing also increased by 54% between 2014 and 2015.

“We need combined supervision at Alexanderplatz; a joint effort of the public order office [Ordnungsamt], federal police [responsible for policing transport infrastructure], and city police,” city representative Schreiber said.

“We don't want tourists to arrive in this city and then be welcomed by crime.”

The police department did not give a statement on why they haven't been able to curtail crime at the plaza when contacted by The Local.

by Max Bringmann

SEE ALSO: Germany's safest and most dangerous cities

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CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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