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Berlin park's 'drug dealing zones' spark outrage

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Berlin park's 'drug dealing zones' spark outrage
A pink line shows a demarcated area reserved for drug dealers. Image: DPA
15:28 CEST+02:00
The manager of Berlin’s notorious Görlitzer Park has come under fire after creating zones for drug dealers to conduct their business. Amid harsh political criticism, the dealers say they have few other options.

Berlin government authorities have strongly criticized the plan as an ‘open invitation to break the law’. 

Authorities have long considered drug dealing in Berlin’s Görlitzer Park to be a problem. Police raids are frequent but efforts to curb the sale of illicit substances have largely failed. 

Cengiz Demirci, the newly appointed park manager’s ‘solution’ to the issue has drawn criticism from the Berlin government, who argue that the move “supports organized drug trafficking”. 

Demirci - along with some of the dealers themselves - have argued that government policy means they have few other options to turn to. 

A practical safety issue? 

Demirci was recently appointed as the first ever manager of the central Berlin park.

He began sectioning off areas using pink paint earlier in the week, arguing that creating zones was a practical necessity so that visitors to the park would not be bothered while the dealers conducted their activities. 

Demirci said the demarcations would also keep greater distance between the dealers. Disagreements between different groups of dealers have led to violent confrontations in the past. 

A close up of the demarcated area. Image: DPA

Demirci told the RBB-Abendschau that the demarcations were a step towards improving order and safety in the park, although it was not the best available solution. 

He suggested allowing the dealers to work legally would tackle the issue. “Then 90 percent of the activity would stop here immediately,” he said. 

Many of the dealers in the park are of African, particularly West African, origin. While some are here illegally, others are in the process of having their asylum claims considered - during which they are denied permission to work. 

‘Nobody wants to work here’

The feeling on the ground in the park largely mirrors that of the park manager.

The Local visited Görlitzer Park on Thursday morning after the zones were created. Some men who self-identified as having previously dealt drugs in the park, suggested that the move was merely paying lip service to the actual problem. 

Moses told The Local that he wasn't allowed to work due to his visa, giving him few other options. 

“I don’t want to be here. But what do I do?" he said. "I’m waiting. Nobody here wants to be working here.”

One man from The Gambia who declined to provide his name said that allocating specific space for dealers to operate - and for park visitors to walk freely - would do little. 

“What will the paint do?" he said. "I can paint the ground. This week they (police) come (again) but next week there’s nothing here."

Another man, from Senegal, laughed at the CDU’s suggestions that the painted lines would turn Görli into a “drug market”. 

He suggested people could already get what they wanted from the park. 

“Görli is a Späti (kiosk)," he said. "Görli is already a supermarket. We can paint and put up the signs but it’s already a supermarket.”

‘An open invitation to break the law’

Burkard Dregger and Kurt Wansner, of the CDU party, strongly criticized the move to paint zones for drug dealers. 

Dregger, a spokesperson for the interior ministry, released a statement saying that the park manager was encouraging illegal activity. 

“The demarcations in Görli by the park manager are an open invitation to break the law and a betrayal of the (local) residents,” he said. 

“With the allocation practice, the district office is now officially converting Görlitzer Park into a drug market. It supports organized crime drug trafficking.”

The CDU's Burkard Dregger stands in Görlitzer Park. Image: DPA

Wansner, the member for Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, concurred. 

“It is completely absurd and unacceptable for the district to promote drug sales and consumption in Görlitzer Park with its park managers,” he said. 

“(The demarcations) torpedo all efforts to get the drug problem under control there.” 

‘The park manager must provide solutions’

The Local contacted the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, which employs the park manager, to shed some light on the demarcation. 

A spokesperson provided a statement to reaffirm that while the park manager is charged with finding solutions to any problems that may arise, he had not gained approval or coordinated with the office with regard to the markings. 

“It is the task of the park manager to find solutions to the conflicts in Görlitzer Park within the scope of his possibilities.” 

“The approach with the coloured markings on the sidewalks, however, is not coordinated with the district office and (the markings) will be well considered and discussed by the relevant committees.”

Police conducting a search and arrest in Görlitzer Park. Image: DPA

A decades-old problem

The news that drug dealers are operating in Görlitzer Park is nothing new. Recent efforts to tackle the problem have been largely ineffective. 

Police spokesman Benjamin Jendro said that the problem was one of political will. The only way to truly fix the issue was through political will and an increase in the police presence. 

“Unfortunately, we see in recent years that nobody really wants to get Görlitzer Park drug-free and thus crime-free."

 

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Rosser - 09 May 2019 20:01
By explicitly condoning drug sales, young people will see proof that drug use is not really a bad thing.
However, the police now know where, what, and who is selling drugs. Strict enforcement can drive the business somewhere it will be more difficult to monitor.
Mark - 10 May 2019 09:53
The comments represent sheer hypocrisy by the Berlin politicians. The fact is that Berlin's club business brings in around 1.5 billion euros per annum according to The Local, and the city needs places for club-goers to buy drugs to keep clubbing attractive here.
Hence the dealers are clustered in off-street places, like Hasenheide and Görli, with drugs available 24-hours. The activity is condoned.
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