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Interview with the head of the Godesberg Police Station: "There are no gangs in the Kurpark"

Interview with the head of the Godesberg Police Station : "There are no gangs in the Kurpark"

The head of the Bad Godesberg Police Station, Ralf Rheidt, talks about the operational concept for the facility, the increasing number of burglaries in the district and his impending retirement.

The subject of security plays a major role in Bad Godesberg. The citizens are particularly sensitive to the issue of youth crime. Many are still concerned about the tragic death of 17-year-old Niklas Pöhler after a beating attack. Last year there were again complaints about dark places in the district where young people meet. Axel Vogel talked to Ralf Rheidt, head of the Godesberg Police Station, about how the past year had turned out for the police.

Mr Rheidt, would you walk privately through the Kurpark at night?

Ralf Rheidt: A few years ago I could have shared such fears. Today that would no longer be a problem for me. My assessment can also be supported by facts: Last year - apart from a few isolated cases - we hardly had to go to the Kurpark at all.

What has changed?

Rheidt: The positive development is mainly due to the fact that all those responsible have achieved a lot. The city provided better light and greenery, Bonnorange improved the cleanliness. In addition, we have, among other things, the Kurpark on the clock as part of our presence and intervention concept.

What is the concept about?

Rheidt: We introduced this model in the spring of 2016 as a reaction to increased confrontations between youth groups. It was clear to us that we needed more forces for such interventions. That's why we are now carrying out year-round checks at sensitive locations with the city's police forces, riot police and service dog teams. The focus is of course on the warm season and on evening and night hours on weekends.

Was the new concept a reaction to the shocking beating attack on Niklas Pöhler?

Rheidt: No. It was already clear to us much earlier, more precisely after a series of robberies in the Kurpark in 2015, that we had to do something. Then, in spring 2016, there was a serious clash between young people in the Rheinaue, where a lot of manpower was needed to bring peace. Thereupon we launched the presence and intervention concept. Tragically, on May 12, 2016, Niklas Pöhler was killed. After that case, all those responsible bodies sat down at one table and, in addition to the presence and intervention concept, set a process in motion that has so far worked perfectly and had an effect.

What figures are we talking about?

Rheidt: Last year alone, we carried out around 100 of these intervention missions, checked several hundred people and vehicles and filed 130 reports. But let me also emphasise that: We still can't be present 24 hours a day in places like the Kurpark.

Nevertheless, the park remains attractive, especially for youth groups. A reason for concern?

Rheidt: No. There is no doubt that the Kurpark is still popular with many citizens because of its spaciousness and proximity to the city. For youth groups, the park is an ideal place to "chill out". We continue to keep an eye on what's happening. So we know from our regular checks that the same groups stay there again and again. Of course, there are also people who are already known to the police but who have not been convicted of a criminal offence.

Can one speak of gangs?

Rheidt: No, they are not gangs in the classical sense with solidified structures and command hierarchies.

In the summer, the so-called "snake path" to Godesburg was criticised. Young people meet there as well, who obviously use drugs and cause a lot of damage. Can one speak of a scene?

Rheidt: Yes, there is no denying drug consumption at this point, especially in spring and summer, nor vandalism and rubbish. However, whether one can speak of a fixed scene, I doubt it. The fact is that this place is rather inconspicuous with regard to the crime situation. As far as rubbish and vandalism are concerned, I have to tell you that, in my view, this has become a problem for society as a whole, which unfortunately is by no means limited to individual places in Bad Godesberg. Nevertheless, we are constantly keeping an eye on the rise.

How did juvenile delinquency develop in 2019?

Rheidt: I don't want to anticipate the new crime statistics that will be presented in March, but it can be said that in 2019 things were no more conspicuous in the Godesberg district than in the rest of Bonn. The proportion of suspects under 21 years of age has also remained more or less the same: 25 per cent of suspects in 2018 belonged to this age group - as in the previous year. However, it must also be taken into account that Godesberg has a disproportionately high proportion of children and adolescents due to its many schools.

Experience has shown that the topic of burglary also moves citizens.

Rheidt: In 2018 we unfortunately had to register an increase in numbers against the national trend. This also had to do with a local group from Mehlem, which we were able to prove had a considerable number of burglaries. The perpetrators were arrested and some of the main offenders were sentenced to longer prison terms. As a result, the figures were down last year.

In 2019, "fake policemen", who used trick calls to swindle large sums of money from senior citizens, were among the issues that were on your mind.

Rheidt: Yes, that was and is a big problem throughout Germany. In the area of responsibility of the Bonn police, there have been well over 2000 calls from these scammers, of which Bad Godesberg accounts for about a third. Even if the perpetrators are successful in less than one percent and people are now aware of the perfidious actions of the telephone scammers, the calls are not diminishing. This probably has something to do with the fact that a great many senior citizens live here.

Are you already looking forward to your office in the new police station that is currently being built on the former Haribo site?

Rheidt: (laughs) I won't be able to move into a new office there anymore because I will have retired. We are expected to move in 2022. Until then, I will help with the detailed planning. After all, the current guardhouse on Zeppelinstrasse is getting on in years. A spatial change is absolutely necessary here.

Original text: Axel Vogel. Translation: Mareike Graepel