German police have arrested 10 people in connection with a spate of alleged sexual assaults against women on New Year’s Eve in Berlin and Cologne, according to German media.
The incidents took place during a New Year’s Eve festival at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate area, which drew hundreds of thousands of spectators, accordingto the event’s organizers.
“Cases of sexual assaults were unfortunately reported during Welcome2018 events in Berlin. We do not tolerate such acts. Suspects were arrested,” Berlin police tweeted on Monday morning.
In most cases, women were “groped between their legs or their buttocks,” Thomas Neuendorf from the Berlin police press office told Ruptly. “The suspects were predominantly young men from Syria or Afghanistan,” he said.
Bei den Veranstaltungen zu #Welcome2018 in #Berlin wurden bislang leider vereinzelt sexuelle Übergriffe gemeldet. Solche Taten dulden wir nicht!
Es wurden Tatverdächtige festgenommen. Wir haben zivile Kolleg. auf der #Festmeile, die gegen diese Taten vorgehen.
— Polizei Berlin Einsatz (@PolizeiBerlin_E) December 31, 2017
In Cologne, nine women claimed to have been touched inappropriately during the celebrations, a police spokesman said on Monday, adding that three suspects were identified. German media reported that these three suspects were later arrested. The spokesman, however, noted that there were no incidents like those of the notorious New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne two years ago.
Germany has witnessed an increase in sexual assaults during mass public events in recent years. On New Year’s Eve in 2015, a wave of sexual assaults, as well as thefts and robberies targeting women, swept through a number of German cities, including Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.
One of the largest incidents was reported in Cologne, where men of “Arab or North African” origin allegedly attacked hundreds of local women in the city centre on New Year’s Eve. Investigators gathered evidence to prove there were over 1,500 criminal cases on New Year’s Eve, with more than 1,200 victims across the country, German media reported. Subsequent probes, however, have since stalled, as CCTV footage from the scene turned out to be of low quality, while the victims failed to identify their attackers.
In an attempt to curb sexually-motivated crimes, ‘safety areas’ for women were introduced in Berlin this year. Women subjected to sexual offences or who otherwise felt harassed during the celebrations were able to seek shelter in tents by the Brandenburg Gate set up by the German Red Cross and report potential crimes there.