‘Like ordering pizza’: How ‘cocaine taxis’ are on the rise in Berlin

Police are investigating a growing number of "cocaine taxis" – cars that deliver the drug to any location – in the German capital.

'Like ordering pizza': How 'cocaine taxis' are on the rise in Berlin
Photo: DPA

According to local Berlin broadcaster RBB, police opened 35 new probes involving cocaine delivery between the months of May and October alone this year.

In 2018, there were 11 police investigations in connection with “cocaine taxis” in Berlin.

It has prompted concerns over increased usage of the class A drug – and how easy it is to get a hold of it in the capital.

Customers who want to buy cocaine order a “taxi” by making a phone call or sending a text with the address they want it delivered to. They are then connected to an unofficial call centre.

After 15 to 30 minutes (or longer if it’s the weekend), a dealer sends a text message to say they have arrived at the address.

The customer then usually gets into the car to hand over the money for the drug.

Drug dealers spread the word by handing out business cards in clubs.

More people using cocaine

Drugs are nothing new in Berlin, a city known for hedonism and nightclubs. But cocaine use is steadily on the rise.

A study into Berlin wastewater published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction found the amount of cocaine residues detected in Berlin almost doubled between 2014 and 2018.

Berlin is thought to be the German city with the second highest cocaine usage after Dortmund. 

READ ALSO: Germany is Europe's drug capital, sewage system research reveals

Cocaine delivery services are one of the easiest ways for people to get their hands on the Class A drug. And the police are aware of that too. 

Olaf Schremm, head of the department for Drug Crime at the State Criminal Investigation Office, said investigations into cocaine delivery has played a major role in their office over the past two to three years.

“Right now we have such a burden in our department with these cocaine delivery service investigations that it occupies the entire police department. This wasn't the case in previous years,” Schremm said.

He said officers struggle to keep track of the number of services out there. 

“However, we know from investigation proceedings that such mobile phone numbers receive three-digit calls per day,” he added. 

After heroin, cocaine is the second most frequent cause of death among consumers of illegal drugs in Berlin.

And the numbers are rising. According to police figures shown to RBB, 21 people died in Berlin after using cocaine in 2016. In 2018 there were 35 deaths and in the current year alone, up to July 25th, a total of 25 people have died in connection with using the drug.

READ ALSO: Record 4.5 tonnes of cocaine worth €1 billion seized in Hamburg

'It was like ordering pizza, it was normal'

Cocaine may be associated with party-goers but it can quickly take over people's lives and become addictive.

RBB talked to one businessman called Michael (whose name has been changed to protect his identity). He said initially he only used cocaine on weekends.

“It went well for a year, but after about 10 or 12 months I completely lost control,” he said. “Then I consumed cocaine every day.”

As many people around him also used cocaine to cope with their everyday lives, this behaviour seemed normal to Michael. He used to order the substance from three different “coke taxis”.

“It was like ordering pizza, it was normal,” he said. “It made me feel like it wasn't wrong.”

However, Michael's life spiralled out of control and he thought about the drug constantly.

His fiancée then arranged for him to attend an outpatient therapy centre in Charlottenburg. He has now been in therapy for several months and is turning his life around.

There have also been high profile cases of cocaine delivery in Berlin.

In May, police arrested two men for delivering cocaine by car. In one vehicle they found a kilogram of cocaine valued at €40,000, along with two firearms.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Germany should make cannabis available at pharmacies not ‘coffee shops’, says FDP boss

Germany's possible new government could well relax the country's strict cannabis laws. But FDP leader Christian Lindner says he doesn't want to go down the Netherlands route.

A demonstrator smokes a joint at the pro-cannabis Hanfparade in Berlin in August 2021.
A demonstrator smokes a joint at the pro-cannabis Hanfparade in Berlin in August 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

The Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are set to engage in coalition talks in a bid to become the next German government.  And the future of cannabis will likely be one of the topics to be thrashed out.

In drug policy, the three parties are not too far apart in their positions. So it’s possible that the drug could be decriminalised.

However, nothing is set in stone and the parties still haven’t come to a common line on the question of where and to what extent cannabis could be accessed. 

The leader of the Liberal FDP, Christian Lindner, has now come out in favour of allowing cannabis products such as hashish to be sold in a controlled manner. 

Consumers should be allowed “to purchase a quantity for their own use, for example, in a pharmacy after health education,” Lindner told a live broadcast on German daily Bild on Sunday.

Lindner said he was sceptical about the sale in “coffee shops” according to the Dutch model. “I am in favour of controlled distribution, and therefore health education must be able to take place,” he said.

READ MORE: Patients in Germany still face hurdles accessing medical marijuana

People in the Netherlands can access cannabis products in coffee shops under the country’s tolerant drugs policy. However coffee shops have to follow certain strict conditions. For instance they are not allowed to sell large quantities to an individual. 

Lindner said his main aims were about “crime and health prevention” and not with “legalising a right to intoxication”.

It’s not clear if Lindner advocates for prescription-only cannabis for medical use, or an over-the-counter model. 

The FDP previously said that they they are in favour of the creation of licensed shops. Their manifesto highlights the health benefits, tax windfalls and reallocation of police resources that legalisation would create.

The Green party also want licensed shops, as well as a whole new approach to drug control starting with the controlled legalisation of marijuana. The Greens state that “strict youth and user protection” would be the centre point of their legislation and hope to “pull the rug from under the black market”.

The SPD also want a reform of Germany’s prohibition stance – but are more cautious than the smaller parties on the legalisation aspect. They would like to initially set up pilot projects. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany could be on the brink of legalising cannabis

Controversial topic

So far, the sale of cannabis is officially banned in Germany. Possession of cannabis is also currently illegal across the entire country. Those caught carrying the substance can face anything from a fine to five years in jail.

However, the justice system generally looks away if you are caught carry small quantities for personal use unless you have a previous conviction.

The definition of personal use differs from state to state, with Berlin having the most liberal rules and Bavaria the tightest.

It is estimated that around four million people regularly use cannabis in Germany.

Representatives of police unions in Germany have warned against legalisation. They argue that cannabis is an often trivialised drug that can lead to considerable health problems and social conflicts, especially among young people.

Oliver Malchow, from the GdP police union, said that “it doesn’t make any sense to legalise another dangerous drug on top of alcohol”.

The current Ministry of Health also continues to oppose the legalisation of cannabis, a spokesperson for Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) made clear. Cannabis is a dangerous substance and therefore legalisation is not advisable, the spokesman said.