Bonn Residents who live in the vicinity of the Hofgarten and Kaiserplatz have written an open letter to Mayor Katja Dörner because they believe the situation is becoming increasingly dire. The mayor has contacted the heads of the relevant city departments.
More and more trash, noise and crime: In an open letter to Mayor Katja Dörner, numerous residents and businesses complained about the situation at the Hofgarten and Kaiserplatz. Recently, police reported an increase in street crime in this area. The city responded to the concerned citizens and businesses in a letter but had not yet provided any concrete solutions.
It was a letter that sounded like a farewell to a neighborhood in which people had lived for many years, some of them decades. It was signed by more than 20 people. "Back then, it was just a few unpleasant incidents involving used syringes on the Hofgarten playground, but for some years now we no longer feel comfortable in our neighborhood. A steep decline," it says on behalf of residents, doctors, lawyers and business owners. The sidewalk is "extremely dirty," no matter what day, no matter what time. Broken bottles, vomit, paper, pizza boxes, urine - everything "right outside our own front door."
But also the general condition of the area is an affront to the residents. “When you get to Kaiserplatz, you find a broken fountain and natural stone paving repaired carelessly with patches of tar. Waiting and stinking buses in front of the Kreuz Church. The view of the main university building, which used to be good for a photo op for tourists, is now spoiled by the trash on and around the Hofgarten park area." The city center is "perceived to be taken over" by a clientele that leaves its trash everywhere and is allowed to party "loudly at night on the grassy lawn area in front of the University of Excellence until the wee hours of the morning."
Hofgarten resident: Breaking point was a dead rat on the sidewalk
"The breaking point was when a dead rat was lying in the middle of the sidewalk at 11 a.m. the other day while I was out getting bread rolls," says Matthias Schweizer, who is one of those who signed the letter. For him, this was a line that had been crossed. "In recent years, there has been a marked deterioration that I would not associate with the coronavirus pandemic alone." Exactly what has caused the decline and how it could be countered was not something he wanted to weigh in on. "It is the task of local government to find this out. The open letter is simply a description of what is happening." But he knows that it can be diffferent. "In Münster, where my son studies, it doesn't look like that. And even at the Viktualienmarkt, which is a tourist magnet, you don't see overflowing trash cans." Bonnorange, on the other hand, has difficulties in getting the trash cans emptied: In the summer, for example, they were unable to pick up the large amount of refuse left by partiers on weekends.
The letter is not only about how residents are feeling about the situation, it also includes the perspectives of business owners in the area. "Lucky for those of us who have chosen to just rent, rather than buy residential and commercial space in this location," it says. Those who have built up a base of customers, clients or patients can't just move, they say. "We depend on our municipal taxes and fees to be used in such a way that we can continue to offer and pursue our business activities in a clean, and also safe environment."
According to Markus Schmitz from the city press office, Mayor Katja Dörner thanked those who sent the letter and said she had contacted the heads of those city departments which were relevant, asking them to work with each other and send her a proposal on how to proceed. After that, Dörner wants to personally contact those who sent the letter.
Police record more crime at the Hofgarten in Bonn
Minor offenses such as urinating in public spaces are not an issue for the Bonn police, but crime is. And from a police perspective, this has been on the rise along with the drug dealing that has been going on for years. "We're seeing an increase in street crime, which includes assault and theft," says police spokesman Michael Beyer. In mid-September, there were three robberies within one weekend in which teenagers were the victims. That's why they increased patrol presence, especially on weekends, and set up the video surveillance tower, he said. "The video surveillance is a temporary measure, initially approved for September and October." The tower is to be set up in hot spots. But it does not provide total security: many corners are so poorly lit that the cameras are not sufficient.
There are also residents who don’t think the situation is so bad at the Hofgarten. "It's a nice, quiet place," two young people said on Thursday. In the evening, it does get more unruly, for example because of people partying during the corona restrictions, "but then you look for another place." Vahid Soleymani describes his feeling of safety like this: "I feel 80 percent safe and don't find it problematic here." A young couple spending their lunch break in the Hofgarten share a more nuanced view. "There is a difference between Kaiserplatz and the Hofgarten." They find it difficult to find the right words for the situation at Kaiserplatz. "It's just where a certain clientele hangs out."
Orig. text: Nicolas Ottersbach, Benjamin Westhoff