Don’t park the Porsche in Kreuzberg: Berlin police chief

June 19th, 2008 - 11:33 am ICT by IANS  

By Rohan Minogue
Berlin, June 19 (DPA) Owners of luxury cars should avoid parking at night in the notorious Kreuzberg area of Berlin, for fear their vehicles could be set alight by leftists, the chief of police in the German capital believes. Dieter Glietsch’s remark, made to a journalist from the leftist Taz newspaper, provoked a storm of outrage from opposition conservative politicians.

“Tantamount to capitulation,” Frank Henkel, head of the Christian Democrats (CDU), the main opposition party, in the city-state’s legislature said.

Fellow CDU member Peter Trapp, who heads the interior affairs commission, was also quick to make political capital out of Glietsch’s apparently off-the-cuff comment.

“It shows that Berliners’ property is no longer being protected and that security can no longer be guaranteed,” he said.

The leftist extremists, who have for the past 20 years staged riots in Kreuzberg on the May Day holiday, had “achieved their goal”, Trapp said.

Members of the Berlin government - a coalition between Mayor Klaus Wowereit’s Social Democrats (SPD) and the socialist Left Party - backed the police chief.

And Glietsch’s department said their chief’s remark should be seen as “assisting crime prevention”. Motorists could park where they liked, but it was sensible to take the possible consequences into account.

After all, standard police advice to cyclists losing their bicycles to theft is: “Don’t park it on the street”.

Around 60 expensive cars have been set alight in Kreuzberg and neighbouring boroughs this year.

The preferred modus operandi is to ignite a chemical firelighter of the kind used to start a barbecue fire and place it at a strategic spot under the car.

The arsonist has plenty of time to make a relaxed getaway before the flames take hold.

Glietsch tells how police recently detained three people with disposable gloves, cigarette lighters and chemical barbecue lighters on their person, claiming they were merely out for a midnight stroll.

The officers had to let them go for lack of evidence, even though there was strong suspicion of intent.

Kreuzbergers, well aware of their borough’s reputation, were taking it all with a pinch of salt.

“A load of nonsense,” the proprietor of a Turkish restaurant said, adding that his car, an expensive SUV, had never been damaged.

Kreuzberg’s reputation is in fact undeserved. The Oranienstrasse that leads through the heart of the ostensibly rough area, is lined with pleasant cafes, offering food from all over the world.

Students, artists and those trying to live an alternative lifestyle have congregated here. The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain constituency returned a member of the Greens at the 2005 general elections.

Relations between the native German community and the large Turkish community which has congregated here are good. And, apart from a small hardcore of anarchists bent on violence, the leftwing extremists spend more time talking in the cafes than plotting revolution in their garrets.

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