Crime committed by clans plagues west German state: Police

So-called criminal family 'clans' have been operating in parts of Germany for decades. Now the scale of the problem has been revealed in one western state for the first time.

Crime committed by clans plagues west German state: Police
Police officers secure a shisha bar during a raid by customs and police in Bochum in January 2019. Photo: DPA

A total of 14,225 offences committed by crime gangs in North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) were logged between 2016 and 2018, according to new figures revealed on Wednesday.

It's the first time the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) and interior ministry have unveiled the scale of the problem of criminal clans in NRW.

The LKA said 104 gangs are active in the western German state, and that every third member is a German national, reported local paper the Rheinische Post.

Known in the German media as “clans”, whose founders fled war in Lebanon in the 1980s, members of these criminal gangs are said to be involved in several illegal activities, such as the drugs trade.

While other forms of organized crime, as well as homegrown German biker gangs, are also active, the clans are known to be especially visible, given many members' love of gangster bling and big cars.

According to security authorities, there are around 6,500 people who belong to clans in NRW. However Thomas Jungbluth, chief criminal director at the LKA, was keen to point out that not all members of families with links to crime were criminals.

A series of raids has taken place across the region in recent months, focusing on shisha bars, cafes and gambling venues.

SEE ALSO: How Berlin's crime clans are targeting refugees: Special report

36 percent are Germans

According to the 30-page report, a total of 6,449 people were identified as suspected clan members. The investigators believe, however, that this could be the tip of the iceberg because there is a high number of unreported cases.

Two clans account for about 20 per cent of all crimes. About a third of all crimes is carried out by so-called repeat offenders. Between 2016 and 2018 figures show they were 24 cases of attempted homicide, with two victims being killed.

Meanwhile, 20 percent of the suspected clan members are women. “That surprised us,” Jungbluth said.

It is also worth noting that 36 percent of the suspects are German citizens.

“This is the generation that was born here,” said Jungbluth. “They are much more aggressive, they show off on the streets.”

Around 31 percent of those suspected of being in gangs are Lebanese, and that’s followed by Turks (15 percent) and Syrians (13 percent). The remaining five percent of the suspects are either stateless or there is no information about where they’re from.

Essen has most criminal members

Clan crime continues to affect the Ruhr region in particular, investigators said. Essen is the city with the most criminal members, followed by other cities in the Ruhr area. But the Mettmann area (in between Düsseldorf and Wuppertal) is also affected.

According to the LKA, the clans engage in drug trafficking, gambling and social benefit fraud as well as legal business such as car dealership, security services (especially bouncers) and locksmiths.

SEE ALSO: Germany among mafia raid hits in huge police operation

But the state interior ministry said these business activities mostly serve the purpose for laundering money or disguising various criminal intentions.

“These are already mafias and parallel worlds in which disregard for law and order is passed on from one generation to the next,” NRW interior minister Herbert Reul, of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) said.

According to the findings of the LKA, the clans in NRW maintain contacts with other large criminal gangs in Bremen, Lower Saxony and Scandinavia (Sweden and Denmark) as well as with the notorious gangs in Berlin.

SEE ALSO: Berlin police confiscate 77 properties connected to crime family

Figures on the scale of the problem will be updated and checked regularly, the interior ministry said. Reul also vowed to continue the crack down on gangs.

“For years, citizens' comments on this problem were ignored,” said Reul. “This is finally over.”

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German police probe fatal knife attack on schoolgirl

Police were on Tuesday investigating a motive behind the fatal stabbing of a 14-year-old girl on her way to school in Baden-Württemberg in a case that made national headlines.

German police probe fatal knife attack on schoolgirl

According to police, a 27-year-old man attacked two girls on the street with a knife as they walked to school Monday morning in the small town of Illerkirchberg near Ulm.

The victim, a German girl with a Turkish family background, was revived at the scene but later died in hospital, police said.

A 13-year-old girl was also hurt in the incident but did not suffer
life-threatening injuries.

Police apprehended the suspect at “nearby asylum seekers’ accommodation”, they said.

The alleged aggressor was injured when he was stopped by police and was taken to receive medical treatment. He was currently being held in hospital under guard.

Google Maps shows the town of Illerkirchberg, which has a little over 5,000 residents, and sits on the border with Bavaria.

“We will fully investigate this terrible act,” announced Thomas Strobl, Baden-Württemberg’s Interior Minister on Monday. “We are deeply affected…when the life of an innocent child is so brutally taken.”

The crime has taken on a political dimension because the suspect is an asylum seeker from Eritrea. Several politicians from Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) used the crime to question the country’s immigration policies. 

In the statement, a police spokesperson asked people “not to harbour general suspicions against strangers, or asylum seekers in general, or to encourage or support such suspicions.”

She said she was aware “that events of this kind stir up fears and emotions.”

The Turkish ambassador to Germany, Ahmet Basar Sen, was set to visit the scene of the crime Tuesday with  Strobl, and the mayor of Illerkirchberg.

“I mourn the girl who was killed and sincerely hope that the injured girl will recover,” Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser posted on Twitter Monday.

“The police are urgently investigating the background” of the attack, she said.