As night-time car arsons in Berlin continue unabated, some citizens are calling for neighbourhood groups to prowl the streets looking for culprits, an idea that appears to be gaining ground.
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The idea for citizen patrols has gained support during the week-long spate of arson in the German capital, which have left dozens of cars, mostly expensive models, burned out.
More than 300 vehicles have now been set alight since the beginning of the year, including five overnight Sunday.
Police have struggled to deal with the crisis, but the city actually assigns more people to give out traffic tickets than track down the car arsonists, according to the daily newspaper Die Welt.
Many people told the newspaper they were ready to join citizens’ groups to combat the attacks, because the government isn’t doing enough.
Some have suggested that neighbours begin carrying weapons and go on the hunt for perpetrators. Others have suggested a less vigilante-style response with simple unarmed neighbourhood patrols.
One 72-year-old who lives with his wife in the Berlin’s Westend district told Die Welt that residents have been debating what to do over the last few days. His idea is for a citizens’ patrol to go out for about an hour per night per night. It would alert police if it sees anything suspicious.
“Some residents here want to arm themselves,” he said. “What we need here is a kind of militia.”
Some people appear to be looking to London as a model, where many community groups lost confidence in police and formed successful vigilante groups to combat recent riots.
In Berlin, Burkhard Dregger, a politician with the centre-right Christian Democratic Union has long called for a special auxiliary police made up of volunteers that would have uniforms, batons and handcuffs.
But others have raised concerns about the idea, even as they acknowledge that police are struggling.
Klaus Eisenreich of the GdP police union said the local government has “failed” to find a solution. But, he said, bringing an end to the burnings should still be the responsibility of the police.