A German police union boss has called out the organizers of Berlin's annual open-air New Year's Eve party for designating a special "safety area" for women.
Rainer Wendt is the police officer who made the comments and he says his problem with the "safety area" is that it implies that women aren't safe from assault anywhere else.
Wendt heads the right-leaning DpolG union which is in an ongoing debate in Germany about how to handle the sharp rise in sexual assaults. Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily interviewed Wendt who said that establishing such a safe zone sends a "devastating message."
Wendt told the paper, "By doing so one is saying there are safe zones and unsafe zones" for women could result in "the end of equality, freedom of movement and self-determination."
The police official also said the move appeared to ignore the "political dimension" in Germany. Two years ago, hundreds of women reported being assaulted or robbed during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne. The suspects in the majority of those assaults were immigrants.
Rapes and sexual assaults in Germany rose last year 12.8% compared to 2015. The increase is blamed on an influx of asylum-seekers, many of which are young males. So-called "experts" maintain that immigrants aren't more likely to commit crimes than German citizens and attempt to explain the increase by the fact that there are more immigrants.
Berlin police spokeswoman Valeska Jakubowski said, "This is a good opportunity to offer women a place to retreat to if they feel harassed." Jakubowski maintains that the safe area will not be fenced off as some media reports claimed. Police will be resent at the New Year's Eve party to take statements if women want to report a crime.
Last year, there were 14 sexual assaults at the event including two involving rape or "serious duress." In preparation for the party, Berlin police will put an additional 1,600 officers on the streets for the celebration. There will also be concrete blocks to help prevent vehicle attacks as well as bag searches at entrances to the party.
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