For years economic refugees from Bulgaria caused problems for Dortmund's police. Now Bulgarian police helps Dortmund to solve the problems.
"I recognized some faces," said Atanas Georgiev from Plovdiv's police directorate. For two weeks he and Dimitar Dimitrov, his colleague from Sofia, have been visiting Dortmund. For 15 years the superintendent has been working on petty crime in Bulgaria, mostly in the streets of Stolipinovo, the Roma quarter of Plovdiv. In Dortmund he finds many similarities to his work in Plovdiv. "There are differences in the surroundings but the situation is nearly the same as in Plovdiv's Roma quarters," said Georgiev.
For the second time Bulgarian police officers are in Dortmund. They came for the first time in May 2011, when there were huge problems with street prostitution. The city was forced to close it down. It had been mainly Bulgarian prostitutes who worked the streets. Therefore the city asked the Bulgarian police for support. This time the fight is against burglary, pickpocketing and metal theft are in the focus.
Since Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 more and more people from Bulgaria come to Dortmund. They are mostly economic refugees from Plovdiv and its Roma quarter, Stolipinovo. Hence Dortmund's police falls back on the support from the Bulgarian police. They know the language, the mentality and the structures of the Bulgarian crime milieu.
Preparation for the free labor market
The Bulgarians patrol the streets with their colleagues from Dortmund – in plain clothes and unarmed. They do not need weapons, their knowledge of people and criminal structures is important and could be very useful for Dortmund's police. At least that is what Detlef Rath, superintendant of the police station Nord, hopes. Around 1700 Bulgarians are officially registered in Dortmund of which 300 to 350 are suspected to have ties to criminal groups.
Most of the Bulgarians live in the northern part of Dortmund. And in this area are the biggest problems, says Dortmund's police chief Norbert Wesseler. He expects that the cooperation with the Bulgarian police eases the preparation for the coming year. From January 1 on Bulgarians have free access to the labor market in EU member states. "We do not know how many more Bulgarians will come here. But we want to be prepared."
Norbert Wesseler hopes that the cooperation with the Bulgarian police eases the preparation for next year
Are crime rates on the increase?
The idea for the cooperation came from the Bulgarian police. The authorities did not want to face the accusation that they are impassive about the problems caused by Bulgarian economic refugees in Germany. Social workers – so called integration guides – will follow the police officers. Most of the Bulgarian immigrants do not speak German and therefore are not able to handle formalities.
This is one of the reasons why people become victims of the organized crime, says Marita Hetmeier, former member of the city council. "On the one hand there is an official way to get to Germany – you can take the bus from Plovdiv to Dortmund or you can travel by plane. On the other hand there are many unofficial ways. That means that someone from Dortmund organises a mini van, drives there, picks up the passengers and brings them to Dortmund. Here he places them in several apartments and tells them where to go and what to do. And all that costs money. The people who come here have to pay every single step." Often the refugees cannot find work and therefore cannot pay the service. Nevertheless the organizers of these tours come and ask for the money, according to Hetmeier.
Dortmund wants to improve the situation of the refugees
The city council of Dortmund also hopes that the involvement of the Bulgarian police will help. "We need to take care of the people living here," said Diana Jägers, Dortmund's legal Councillor. The biggest problems are the lack of language skills, unemployment and the fear of authorities. Jäger says that these barriers must be eliminated.
The Bulgarian government wants to support more German cities and not only with police but also with social workers. Georgi Nenov, representative of interior ministry at the Bulgarian embassy, said that in the next month social workers will be sent to Mannheim, Duisburg, Berlin and Hannover. "We want to show that we are a trustworthy partner. We also hope to improve Bulgaria's image."