Strategic searches allowed

Police increase pressure on burglars

Zwei Polizisten nehmen an der Ludwig-Erhard-Allee die Ladefläche eines Kleinlasters genauer unter die Lupe.

Two police officers are inspecting the load inside a white delivery van.

Bonn. Police inspections near the Rheinaue on Thursday were part of a strategic plan to crack down on burglaries.  A new tool for police is being able to stop persons or vehicles for controls without a concrete reason. 

Bonn police are increasing pressure on potential burglars with a new instrument - the strategic search. The new police law stipulates that officers may check persons or vehicles without concrete reason for suspicion, but only on a local and temporary basis. Police commissioner Ursula Brohl-Sowa has ordered the measures for 14 days, and by the end of February the police investigators will be on the road more frequently in some parts of the city. This is also the case in Godesberg-Hochkreuz, where 15 officers were deployed on Thursday.

The officers had set up their control post at Ludwig-Erhard-Allee, near the Rheinaue. They checked a total of 19 vehicles and 27 persons, wrote a report, handed out fines, and filed four complaints of persons using cell phones while driving.

Theoretically, the officers could check every passer-by and inspect every car trunk as part of the strategic search. But they don't, says police chief commissioner Martin Ophees. "Police experience plays a role", says the 36-year-old as he describes how the officers select those who are stopped. Much is revealed by the behavior, the fine motor skills and the facial expression of those observed. "I know how a perpetrator behaves when caught red-handed." And this is often evident after just a few seconds. This is what police have to go by when they wave vehicles out of line. That's why the officers often trust their gut feeling.

The vehicle type also plays a role. It might be more difficult to determine the contents of a white enclosed delivery van rather than a car so such a van might be more prone to inspection; a foreign license plate is also more likely to catch attention in Bonn's residential area than a local license plate.

There are no critical voices on the part of motorists. "Anyone who has nothing to hide doesn't care about the controls," said plumber José de la Iglesia. He himself knows someone who recently was the victim of a break-in, shares the 36-year-old. Another van driver who was interviewed felt "that there could be more checks”.

Criminologist Uli Sievers does not believe that the police are abusing their newly won powers. "The prerequisites for the strategic searches are very high." One has to give solid reasons why there is an increased risk of burglary in an area, the authorities have to order the operation, and it is limited in time (to a maximum of 28 days) and in place (to districts).  Further, the controls are not new, nor are they more than before. The only difference is that checks may be carried out without cause.

The State Criminal Police Bureau informs each local district on a weekly basis of current findings and the prognosis when it comes to criminality.  They convey information about areas in which there is an increased risk of home burglaries based on statistics. These findings are fed into the Skala program (crime analysis and situation anticipation system) and enhanced with local evaluations.

Orig. text: Ayla Jacob
Translation: ck