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Police mull helicopters, CCTV to fight New Year sex crimes

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Police mull helicopters, CCTV to fight New Year sex crimes
Police in Cologne. Photo: DPA
17:25 CET+01:00
As Cologne prepares for New Year's Eve a year after a spate of sexual assaults, officials are considering ramping up security with helicopters, video surveillance and restricted entry to certain places, according to a media report.

A group of experts from state and federal police have been analyzing the events of New Year's Eve last year under a project called “Silvester” - meaning New Year's Eve in German. Their final report is set to be discussed at a conference of interior ministries starting on Tuesday, and Cologne's Express newspaper obtained a copy of the police recommendations, the newspaper reported on Monday.

More than 1,000 women came forward after New Year's Eve to report robberies or sexual assaults in Cologne, while other cities had similar reports of groups of men surrounding and harassing women that night.

The attackers were normally described as being of North African appearance and the BKA reported that most suspects came from either Algeria, Morocco, or Iraq.

The new report offers numerous concrete recommendations as to how that New Year's Eve night could have been prevented, including limiting the number of people in certain areas during large events, as well as the use of helicopters and horse-mounted police.

The report also suggests deploying specially-trained officers for sexual assault victims, in particular women, “in order to carry out qualified questioning and secure objective evidence”. There should also be special security points for victims or those seeking protection.

One of the problems for investigating the crimes in Cologne was that the security cameras around the train station where most crimes were reported were poor quality, therefore making it hard to identify suspects. Thus the report further recommends having video surveillance and better light sources.

The report also recommends a better review and registration of refugees upon their arrival in the country as well as an improved exchange of information among states and with Europol.

Furthermore, the report argues that there must be more work done to integrate immigrants and “improve the basic conditions which result in social-structure disadvantages and frustrations as a result of lack of personal exchange, financial participation, recognition and barriers to getting to know women.”

The large number of crimes committed last New Year's Eve night raised questions about the competence of police, who were accused of covering up the refugee background of attackers and the details of the attacks, as well as not providing sufficient security.

Cologne's police chief was suspended from his position after the mayor said police had failed to inform her fully of the sexual assaults.
 
Across Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) recorded 881 sexual crimes within public places and 1,231 victims. Almost all the victims were young women between the ages of 18 and 24.
 
Of the sexual crimes committed, 239 also involved another offense such as theft.

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