Berlin & Bavaria on top

Open arrest warrants hit a 10-year high in Germany

Polizeikontrolle im Bus
Got him! Source: DPA

The number of open arrest warrants in Germany rose 7.5 percent last year as extra policing of special events overburdened the country’s law enforcement officers, according to Zeit Online. Police are currently looking for 175,397 crooks, the most since 2009, when 178,875 open warrants were on the books. Reportedly, the figures resulted from a parliamentary inquiry by the Green Party.

The news is surprising, given the publicity Germany’s falling crime rate sparked after false assertions from a certain US president on Twitter. But they are just another indicator that the country’s justice systems are being stretched. Earlier this year authorities in Berlin admitted 55,290 investigations of serious crime had stalled because of a lack of resources. Courts have also confessed to dropping cases because of too much work.

For courts, dealing with an onslaught of cases related to the refugee crisis has distracted prosecutors and investigators. But for police, extra work providing security for the G20 summit in Hamburg last year, as well as federal election events, distracted officers from their traditional duties, meaning the number of open warrants increased. The summit itself witnessed an extraordinary number of warrants, helping bump up the statistics, according to Die Zeit.

Physician, heal thyself

Per capita, the most open warrants are in Berlin and Bavaria, which surprised Green politician Irene Mihalic, a former police officer. “(Interior Minister Horst) Seehofer didn’t practice serious domestic policy in Bavaria, even though he likes to present himself as a security policy hawk but ends up second-to-last in Germany,” Ms. Mihalic told Die Zeit. Only North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state, has more outstanding warrants than Bavaria.

To be fair, Bavaria borders Austria and police officers quoted in the article said mules who help illegal immigrants cross into Germany account for a significant amount of the open warrants. Also, 80 percent of the warrants are for minor infractions, or for not appearing in court on another matter. Still, at least 18 suspected murderers are among those not accounted for.

“We have to be sure that we are putting in strong effort to bring, especially the most dangerous and violent of the suspects, into custody,” Ms. Mihalic said.

Andrew Bulkeley is an editor in Berlin for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: a.bulkeley@handelsblattgroup.com

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