Berlin-Kreuzberg: Social Democrats want to set up police station in left-wing scene district

Against the opposition of their own party, the Berlin SPD interior senate wants to station police permanently at Berlin’s „Kotti“. However, the senate fears a „partly anti-police scene“. Therefore, the new building will be protected by permanent patrols and more video surveillance.

The interior senate led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Berlin wants to set up a new police station at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg that will operate 24/7. It is to „significantly increase the presence and visibility of the police in the left-wing scene district“, explained Interior Senator Iris Spranger on Monday after a closed meeting of the Berlin Senate. This would also strengthen a „sense of security“. The entire square has been considered a „crime-ridden area“ (kbO) since 1996. Police are allowed to check identity papers and search people and things there without suspicion of a crime.

The „Kotti“ is a large street intersection with an underground transfer station in the middle of the former postal delivery area „36“. All around, restaurants and shops have settled, the blocks of houses built in the 1970s by „Deutsche Wohnen AG“ were only recently bought up by the state-owned Gewobag Wohnungsbau-Aktiengesellschaft after successful struggles by the „I love Kotti“ campaign. With about 70 per cent, the Kotti has the highest percentage of people with a migration history in Berlin.

Arrests already quadrupled

The establishment of a „Kotti precinct“ is an election campaign promise of the governing mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey (SPD). The politician had repeatedly polemicised against the fact that the green-ruled district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg tolerates tents of homeless people on the square. The underground station is also a contact point for outreach drug help. „The area is filthy and littered. There are spaces of fear and dark corners that encourage crime. We must do everything in our power to counteract this,“ Giffey told the Springer newspaper „BZ“ in the spring.

SPD-Senator Spranger is now looking for suitable areas for the new „Kotti precinct“. The „permanent police station“ installed at Alexanderplatz in 2018, which is an approximately 70-square-metre container with security glazing and video surveillance, is considered a model. The station at Kottbusser Tor, on the other hand, is to be erected as a permanent building. If the police union (GdP) in the German Federation of Trade Unions has its way, the new building could even be multi-storey; at least 65 officers should be on duty there on 300 square metres.

The senate wants to draw up a concept for the operation. It remains to be seen whether the station will be equipped with detention cells or whether arrestees will continue to be taken to neighbouring Kreuzberg police stations. Last year, the police almost quadrupled the number of arrests at the „Kotti“ to 198, writes the „Berliner Zeitung“.

More video surveillance

The demand for more police at the Kotti is not only controversial among the partners of the „red-red-green“ coalition with the Greens and the Left Party. The left wing of the SPD also spoke out against it. Interior Senator Spranger is well aware of this when she announces in her press release that she wants to push through the „idea“ even against „difficulties and resistance“.

The senate also expects protest from the population. „In parts of Kreuzberg“ live a „very left-wing and partly anti-police scene that could react aggressively“. In order to avoid constant „incidents and attacks“, the „Kotti precinct“ will be heavily staffed. Permanent patrols „in the surrounding area“ are to support the security concept.

The Senator also wants to expand police video surveillance at Kottbusser Tor. Since 2018, the Berlin police have already regularly set up their „video trailers“ on the square, which were purchased for a total of 180,000 euros, and now permanent cameras are to be installed there. Meanwhile, new all-round cameras have also been installed at the underground station, the responsibility for which lies with the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG). However, the concept of a „model station“ for intelligent video surveillance with movable cameras and biometric facial recognition, which was pursued at the „Kotti“ in the decade, was never implemented by the BVG.

For 180,000 euros, the Berlin police had procured two mobile video trailers for „crime-ridden locations“ like Kottbusser Tor (Matthias Monroy, CC-BY-SA 4.0 ).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.