According to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of so-called tumult situations in North Rhine-Westphalia has drastically reduced. At the beginning of 2018 there were still 179 such police operations caused by aggressive groups of people, by 2022 there were only 37. "Yes, 37 are too many, I don't want to downplay that at all, but something has changed," said NRW- Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) in an interview with the German Press Agency. Riots have been systematically recorded in NRW since the beginning of 2018.
Reul sees the strong decline as a result of his "zero tolerance strategy" with increased police presence at critical points. A few weeks ago, mass brawls between members of Turkish-Lebanese and Syrian clans in the Ruhr area made headlines. In Essen, a separate organizational unit will in future be specifically responsible for clan crime by Syrians. The city has been a clan scene hotspot for years.
"We've taken a few steps forward, but we're not finished," is the interior minister's interim assessment of the fight against clans. What has developed over decades cannot be completely wiped out in a few years in office. Reul has been Minister of the Interior in the most populous federal state since 2017.
The Association of German Criminal Investigators (BDK) recently accused the black-green state government of not having a serious strategy against clan crime and doing nothing to strengthen the criminal police. Clan crime must be curbed to such an extent that "these people don't step on our noses with their parallel justice system," state chairman Oliver Huth told the "Neue Westfälische".
"I hope that there will be less and less parallel justice, but I would not dare to say that there is none at all," admitted Reul.
Investigators collect clan status symbols
In NRW, sensitive asset skimmings are also being used against clan criminals. "We have secured a total of around 20 million euros in assets since 2017 - not a bad number," said Reul. These included luxury cars, watches and real estate as well as cash.
"We're doing what we can," said Reul. However, there are limits. If Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann wants to expand this, "he should come around the corner with concrete proposals instead of presenting what the NRW police have been doing since 2017".
The FDP politician had suggested also "fighting clan crime in an unconventional way" by confiscating the status symbols acquired after crimes. Reul countered that the "follow-the-money" principle, i.e. consistently depriving criminals of their assets, has long been the core of the combat strategy in NRW.
Clan crime not as a campaign hit
The minister warned against campaigning on the subject of clan crime and thus playing into the hands of the AfD. With promises of supposedly simple deportations that cannot be implemented, voters are driven into the arms of the right-wing populists.
Reul was referring to a discussion paper by the Federal Ministry of the Interior. According to this, expulsion should already be possible if facts justify the conclusion that someone was or is part of a criminal organization. A spokesman had explained that such a deportation requires a clear connection to criminal activities. A family membership in the clan alone is not enough.
If Interior Minister Nancy Faeser herself was convinced of this proposal, "then she would have drafted a law," said Reul. The initiative by the SPD politician, who is currently also the top candidate for the state elections in Hesse, was "campaign roar".
Especially when it comes to the highly sensitive issue of repatriation, promises that cannot be kept are "extremely dangerous," Reul warned. "We all demand it and we don't deliver much - because it doesn't work either." The resulting disappointment among citizens led to the AfD's high popularity ratings. Deportation alone will not solve the problem anyway.
Too few suitable applicants for the police
NRW is continuously working on increasing the number of police officers, Reul assured. The police in NRW currently have around 40,000 police officers - together with the employees there are a total of 50,000 forces. 3000 police candidates should be added every year. However, many of the more than 11,000 applicants each year did not meet the requirements.
Above all, the criminal police must be made more attractive as a professional field, said Reul. "After their three-year training, the young officers are basically used in the police force - and most of them stay there."
Recruitment also has to be achieved through the opening of training for Realschule students introduced in the 2022/23 school year and through the targeted approach of professionals from other fields. The first secondary school graduates will be finished with their police training next year.
"We do a lot in the area of personnel recruitment, but always under one heading: not at any price," said Reul. "If the quality goes down - we can't afford that. That's why it's a special job." Just as with physical and intellectual requirements, there should be no doubt about the social attitude of the applicants.
Current regulation on detention pending departure Draft discussion