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Berlin's Battle With Illegal Drug Trade: Crusade to Clean Up One Park

Residents of the territories adjacent to the park have long complained to local politicians about drug traffickers, but the police "have done almost nothing in this regard," German politicians Karsten Woldeit and Marcel Luthe said in an interview with Sputnik Germany. Police representatives have refuted the allegations.

Görlitzer Park, one of Berlin's major recreational areas, has become a hotspot for dealing drugs, raising serious safety concerns in the area.
Several media reports wrote that drug dealing in the park is thriving.

"In the future, in Görlitzer Park in the heart of the Kreuzberg district, you'll again legally be able to deal marijuana and use it," German magazine Focus Online wrote in this regard earlier in November.

"Media Reports Are False"

Deputy Press Secretary of the Chief of Berlin Police, Thomas Neuendorf refuted media reports by saying that the drug trade remains illegal and "will further be prosecuted."

"I have to dispel this myth: possession and trade in narcotics will remain criminally punishable," he told Sputnik.

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The police constantly report such crimes, but whether the law enforcement agencies prosecute those who commit them, is another question, Neuendorf said.

"Görlitzer Park was and remains a place with an unfavorable criminal situation," the spokesman noted.

Giving Up "Zero Tolerance" Zone

In 2015, head of the Department of the Interior in the Berlin government of Frank Henkel (CDU), declared Görlitzer Park a "zero tolerance zone." The move implied tough actions by the city's authorities and police against any criminal manifestations in the park.

However, Henkel's successor, Andreas Geisel, abolished this regime in October 2016.

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According to media reports, the government of the federal state of Berlin (the Senate) decided to apply a new strategy. Since then, along with a special prosecutor, one of the managers of the park as well as the so-called "park runners" (specially trained people who must constantly move around the park and intervene in the event of any violations) are supposed to help solve any emerging problems.

"The Senate will now resort to another tactic, involving the special prosecutor," a representative of the Berlin Police Union, Benjamin Jendro, told Sputnik. "This prosecutor will investigate all offenses committed in Görlitzer Park. He is very much determined to do so and at the same time he is well trained in this area. For us, the police, almost nothing changes in this regard — we continue fighting against any drug-related offenses, and report crimes. Just like we did before, he stated, adding that "the media often covers the issue incorrectly."

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For his part, German politician Karsten Woldeit believes that the decision to give up the "zero tolerance" policy is a "big mistake."

This policy was quite successful, he said referring to statistics. In his opinion, a long-term solution to the problem of the drug trade can be found only if a new political strategy is developed and the police presence in the park is strengthened.

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FDP member and domestic policy expert Marcel Luthe supported his colleague's point of view.

"The abolition of the ‘zone of zero tolerance' by the Senate is, in fact, a scandal," he said.

"This will only lead to the emergence of a ‘zone of tolerance' for criminal offenses and give a false signal that in this place you can publicly violate the law," Woldeit echoed.

Reaction of the Locals

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Meanwhile, some local residents sympathized with the drug dealers.

Of course, it's "very unfortunate" and "bad" that drugs are traded in the park," a local resident told Sputnik on Friday. But she feels sorry for these people, because they do not have a job and are forced to be involved in illegal activities, the woman said, adding that this situation is the result of an improper refugee policy by the German government.

"At first I was struck by this situation," said a man, working in the park. "But dealers do not turn to me anymore, because they know me. And what should the police do? They catch one, take drugs from him, and the next day another comes to this place," he concluded.

Park Under Control of Organized Criminal Groups

Both politicians Marcel Luthe and Karsten Woldeit believe that there is certain pattern behind the whole drug trade system: drug trafficking in Görlitzer Park is mainly spread among Arab clans that have a mafia-type structure.

"They attract black Africans to their ranks, who then act as their pawns. Thus, the initiators themselves remain in the shadows."

The representative of the Berlin police Neuendorf said in this regard: "We observe only Africans in the park and do not have any information on the Arab clans supposedly operating the system."

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