Cologne officials on Monday released details of their security plan for the upcoming 2017 New Year’s festivities, including having a much larger force of police officers on patrol.
This year around 1,500 officers will be deployed, which is more than ten times the amount who were supposed to be on duty last year. There will also be 600 public order officers and “significantly more” private security workers, a city spokeswoman said without giving an exact number.
After more than 1,000 women reported being robbed or sexually assaulted or both on New Year’s Eve 2016, Cologne police came under fire for their handling of the events, accused of covering up the refugee background of attackers as well as the details of the attacks, and 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.
This year the main area where the celebrations and assaults occurred – between the famous Cologne Cathedral and the main train station – will have extra security. The area around the cathedral will be blocked off with control points and no fireworks will be allowed within this area.
The area around the train station will have more video surveillance. Within the station, trains will be scheduled to reduce the amount of people having to change platforms so often, with the aim of reducing some travel chaos.
Police said they will also be monitoring social media like Twitter and Facebook for topics related to New Year’s Eve.
“We want above all to know what the atmosphere is like,” a police spokesman said.
Police are also using the help of translators to understand social media posts in other languages, as well as to send out messages in other languages.
Signs posted in places like trains will inform visitors about security measures like the blocked-off areas, and a QR code will be posted that people can scan with their phone to get further information.
The big event planned for that night is a light show by artist Philipp Geist, involving words, shapes and colours projected onto the ground and building facades. Choirs will also be performing that night.
“The best answer to the fright of last year is to develop other imagery through a positive art event,” said Geist.