Cologne is on alert before the western German city’s huge carnival celebrations as authorities mobilize to prevent a repeat of a shocking string of sexual assaults that occurred during this year’s New Year’s festivities.
The carnival festivities kick off on Thursday with street parties, a week-long binge of beer, song and dance by revelers in fancy dress. The carnival runs until Ash Wednesday on February 10.
German authorities are determined to be out in force.
Police have doubled the number of officers on hand compared with last year to more than 2,000, and are also bringing in 350 cadets.
Police have been struggling to restore public confidence after allegations that hundreds of women were groped and robbed in a mob of mostly North African and Arab men as the city rang in 2016.
Around 1,000 complaints have been filed over the crime spree that has also ignited an intense debate about Germany’s ability to integrate the 1.1 million asylum seekers it took in last year.
In preparation for the carnival, local police are coordinating closely with federal counterparts, fire and rescue units and others.
Closed-circuit television cameras have been installed and bans imposed on known petty thieves, including suspected pickpockets who took part in the crime spree on New Year’s Eve.
A “security point” for women will also be set up, to be staffed by social workers and psychologists and the local judicial system geared up to accelerate the processing of any potential offenders during the festivities.