Bonn public order office working non-stop City council and police file 1030 complaints for Corona rules violations

Bonn · In this GA interview, the head of the Citizens' Services and the head of the City Planning Service talk about the lack of understanding of some citizens in Corona times.

 With rising temperatures, many Bonn residents enjoy the sun on the banks of the Rhine. The public order office carries out controls there, again and again.  Photo: Benjamin Westhoff

With rising temperatures, many Bonn residents enjoy the sun on the banks of the Rhine. The public order office carries out controls there, again and again. Photo: Benjamin Westhoff

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

Ensuring that the measures against the spread of Covid-19 are complied with, the public order office is under the direction of the head of the citizens' service, Günter Dick, and Carsten Sperling, head of department of the city order service. They talked to Lisa Inhoffen and Ayla Jacob about how the employees have experienced the past weeks, how many operations they have to cope with and whether they are prepared for everything that is still to come.

Seven weeks in lockdown and the Public Order Office had to keep everything under control. Where do you see yourself and your team today?

Günter Dick: Looking back, I can say that the office was and is well positioned, also thanks to additional staff from the administration who support the city ordinance service. We have had a tough time indeed, and I can still remember when it all started. That was on 29 February, when I was informed at 3 o'clock in the morning that the first corona case had occurred in Bonn.

It was the employee of the OGS of the Poppelsdorf Clemens-August-School, wasn't it?

Dick: Right. I was then told to report to the health department at 4 o'clock for the crisis committee meeting. On that day the first, correct steps were taken, which probably prevented a bad development in Bonn. Nine weeks have passed since then. For us, time flew by, because we are dealing with this crisis in many ways.

Has the strategy remained the same over all these weeks?

Dick: No, after the first case the dynamics increased, so we had to look at what we can achieve and what we still have to do. We had to create other structures, that's why the diagnostic center in Bad Godesberg was established.

Did you have any more sleepless nights during these corona times?

Dick: I can sleep at night, but I take certain thoughts and worries with me to bed. For example, when on April 1, the news of the bomb found on the grounds of the university hospitals came. That was a worst case scenario for me. Looking back, I can say that there was a fruitful cooperation with everyone, including the city planning service, the university hospital, the fire department, emergency services and the police.

What were the biggest hurdles that the Public Order Office had to overcome since the lockdown?

Carsten Sperling: In addition to the discovery of the bomb, the cherry blossom in the old town kept us busy, and with it the question of whether we should lock down the old town. We didn't make this decision easily, because we were aware that we were massively interfering with freedom of movement and basic rights. But the number of visitors had shown us that it was necessary.

Were there things that did not work?

Dick (laughs): As far as I can tell, the city's crisis management is working well. I would like to offer you something on this question, but I can't.

Sperling: Yes, I must also say that everything has really gone well and is going well. Of course there was also criticism of us, after all we are in the public eye. Why do you yourselves walk so close together, was such a question. Or why we are gathering in larger groups? Sometimes there is no other way, as for example during the evacuations in connection with the bomb find at the university hospital, sometimes it comes out of the zeal of the employees. But we always rework that.

How many employees have been on duty since Corona and where do they come from?

Sperling: Normally there are 50 to 60 employees on duty, currently up to 80 a week under the direction of the city ordinance service. We are supported by the training department, the municipal building management and by areas of the city that are or were closed, such as the municipal library. The employees also use newly established telephone hotlines, as we receive many enquiries, for example about trade law or concerts. On the days when we cordoned off the old town, another 45 employees were added. At the moment we have up to twelve more than usual. If we continue to relax the restrictions, we will see whether we need to in- or decrease the number again.

Have there been confirmed Corona cases among city ordinance employees?

Sperling: No, fortunately not yet. There was a quarantine case with the guard Gabi, the employee had contact with an infected emergency doctor, but was later tested negative.

How many reports have the security forces written so far, how much fines did they incur?

Sperling: So far there have been about 1030 reports from the city planning department and the police, and about 600 fines have been imposed in connection with Corona. Approximately ten of the 1030 cases are related to the opening of shops or that a prostitute has still offered her services. At least 1000 are classic violations of the ban on contact. If we take everything together, we get to about 215,000 Euro (as of 6 May).

How much has already been collected?

Sperling: This is the total amount to be expected based on the 1030 filed complaints received so far. The 600 fine notices issued so far have resulted in a total of approximately 120,000 Euro.

What were the most blatant cases your employees have experienced so far?

Sperling: That was the eviction of the Frankenbad forecourt. There were so many people there so close together that we had to have the square cleared with the help of the police. The reactions were not very pleasant. There was little understanding, it went so far that somebody urinated in front of our feet.

Have you had other cases of unreasonableness?

Sperling: We have had discussions, some of them lengthy, with citizens who did not want to see the closure of the old town during the cherry blossom. We also had to issue a few expulsions. And there was someone who did not want to comply with the quarantine regulations in the refugee accommodation on Ermekeilstraße. He was not infected and wanted to leave the premises, although he was not allowed to. The police had to take him into custody for one night. This was the only time he was in custody. Apart from that, and we can really say that as a conclusion so far, we are very happy that the majority of the people of Bonn are following the rules as best they can.

Where were or are the so-called hotspots in Bonn, where there are particularly many missions?

Dick: One hotspot is still the Frankenbad forecourt. But also the banks of the Rhine and many municipal parks and sports facilities. It strikes us again and again that mainly young people meet there, who on top of that are often very unreasonable. We don't enjoy this, but if they stubbornly refuse to abide by the rules, complaints must be filed. It is nonsense to claim that we only want to generate more income. Incidentally, these are out of all proportion to the extra expenditure the city has in this Corona crisis.

When you say young people, you mean young men?

Dick: Yes. That is the vast majority of people who don't want to follow the rules. Many of them lack understanding. I think the need to meet in a group is particularly strong among this age group. This then leads to such problems.

In connection with Corona, do you currently receive more calls from citizens about others who are allegedly misbehaving?

Sperling: Definitely. We have also increased the staff in the control centre, with at least one additional line. There are many concerned citizens who are calling in. We will follow up on that.

What is their motive?

Sperling: There is an overriding concern that infection rates will rise if people do not follow the rules. But of course, there is also the anger that arises when you notice that others do not care.

What do you tell a person who walks through a hardware store and then complains that it is too crowded?

Sperling: I had a few who I told that they were one of the many. But we'll follow up on that anyway.

How many Corona-related assignments do you have every day?

Sperling: 60 to 70 a day.

Is it true, on the other hand, that the number of calls for parking violations has decreased?

Sperling: That is correct. There is less traffic, parking offences are decreasing. But the parking offenders have not completely disappeared. This is a balancing act for us. We understand that many do home office and that parking space is tight. We try to handle this with a sense of proportion. However, we still use the same amount of inspections as before. We have noticed that more drivers are currently driving too fast. This is certainly due to the fact that there is less traffic. In some places, such as on Reuterstraße, the number of speeding motorists has risen from 4.5 to a good 9 percent in recent weeks.

Are there any callers who contact you daily?

Sperling: We had them before the Corona crisis, and they still exist now. But we take everyone seriously and follow up the clues.

Have there been any complaints because the employees of the public order department have been too strict?

Sperling: There is an individual case. There was a check in the evening on the banks of the Rhine and the citizens said that we had acted too strongly. The case is currently being investigated.

Have you given your employees special training with regard to corona controls?

Dick: Appropriate discussions have been held with all employees, and their questions are answered regularly. Even those staff members who are not part of the Office have been trained accordingly and have been informed about the relevant new legislation, which is regularly updated and amended.

Is there a general code of conduct for your employees?

Dick: De-escalation should always play a role in employee behaviour.

Sperling: The aim was and is never to impose a fine. If, for example, a grandmother has been in a playground with her grandchild, which was forbidden until Thursday, we have already explained that this is a violation. If the grandmother has left the playground with the grandson, which is usually what happened, we have already explained that this is an offence.

How is the cooperation with the police going?

Sperling: The cooperation with the police is, as usual, very good in Bonn.

Dick: I would like to add something: What I personally like very much is how creative and innovative many people are on the road in these times. I particularly like the idea of the drive-in cinema and the car concerts. We in the administration department made every effort to quickly check the concepts so that we could give the green light as quickly as possible.

Original text: Lisa Inhoffen and Ayla Jacob. Translation: Mareike Graepel

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