Germany braces for New Year's Eve celebrations with enhanced security presence

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-29 01:23:59|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BERLIN, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Several German cities have announced tight security measures in preparation for their respective New Year's Eve celebrations this weekend.

Police forces will show enhanced presence in nearly all of Germany's major urban centers, both in terms of the number of covert and uniformed officers deployed. Municipal authorities are hereby responding to a series of prominent incidents involving violent migrants in 2015, as well as what is generally perceived to be an increased terrorist threat during the winter holiday season.

Two years ago, hundreds of cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment and theft carried out against women by groups of asylum seekers around Cologne's famous cathedral made international headlines and caused a public outcry in Germany. As a consequence, the city has now expanded the security zone surrounding the cathedral and nearby central railway station.

"The police will deploy around 1,400 officers", Uwe Jacob, President of the Cologne Police Department, told press on Thursday. Local authorities expect a similarly large number of visitors to attend the festivities as has been the case for previous years.

Cologne Police announced that fireworks will be prohibited in the security zone and that officers will intervene to prevent the formation of large groups of people. More video cameras and better lighting will also be installed in a bid to prevent a recurrence of incidents such as those witnessed in 2015.

Hamburg is another German city that was rocked by the same wave of attacks that affected Cologne at the time, with 410 women reporting that they were assaulted and robbed by groups of young men whom they believed to be of Arab and North African origin. Although none of the 245 investigations subsequently launched by police lead to any convictions, security authorities will again draw on a resulting operational concept which they say proved successful in maintaining order throughout last year's celebrations.

Accordingly, around 530 officers are expected to be deployed at key locations in Hamburg's center. New measures will include video surveillance at the popular "Jungfernstieg" area and a second mobile guard patrolling the "Reeperbahn" red light and entertainment district.

By contrast, ongoing preparations in Munich are still overshadowed by an unrelated terror scare which occurred simultaneously to incidents involving asylum seekers in Cologne and Hamburg in 2015.

While there were no concrete evidence pointing towards a terrorist attack on the weekend, an "increased abstract level of danger, as has held true for several years, persists", a Munich Police spokesperson said.

Large numbers of officers would thus be needed to secure areas were large groups of people gathered to view the fireworks. Munich police further identified a new security threat in the use of pyro-technical devices as weapons, such as launching fireworks in the direction of people.

"These are no laughing matters, but serious crimes that can result in severe injuries", a police representative warned.

The largest New Year's Eve festivities in Germany will take place in Berlin. As a rule, police in the capital do not provide press with advance information about their security measures ahead of major events. Nevertheless, media reported that the largest single celebration at the Brandenburg Gate was once again likely to form a focal point for the related efforts of authorities.

Additionally, police announced that they would make heavy use of diverse barricades on key access routes. In light of the harrowing attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016, authorities will subject drivers of delivery vehicles to comprehensive checks and carefully vet civilian visitors upon entry into fenced-off party areas.