A 16-year-old ran amok at the opening of Berlin's new central station Saturday, sparking new doubts about safety during the imminent World Cup and prompting politicians to call for a stricter response to youth crime.
Just one act of violence can create mayhem
Just weeks ahead of the World Cup, a teenager's injuring of 28 people at the opening celebrations for the capital's new station Saturday provided a chilling demonstration of just how easy it is to create havoc at public gatherings.
But unlike the upcoming soccer bonanza, the event at the weekend took place without police controls -- an omission described with hindsight by the weekly Die Welt newspaper as "foolish."
Speaking in Berlin, CDU parliamentarian Frank Henkel stressed that the violent attack perpetrated was an isolated incident carried out by just one troubled individual, but conceded that 100 percent security simply cannot be guaranteed.
"Even the most efficient security system cannot prevent incidents like these," he said, and warned against any over-hasty changes to existing security plans for the soccer games. Nonetheless, he proposed stepping up public controls in certain hotspots during major events such as the World Cup, such as the "fan mile" which runs between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, and will be open every day from midday to midnight.
"I believe it may well be necessary to rethink these areas to see if there might be other ways of intensifying our controls other than the random spot checks," he said. "We will never be able to prevent these incidents, but we need to raise the bar for potential copycat occurrences."
Experts worry the fan mile migth be a troublespot
According to current plans, the fan mile will be fenced in and monitored by surveillance cameras. The entrances will be guarded by private security teams stopping anyone from taking bottles or potential weapons such as baseball bats onto the premises. They will also be allowed -- but not required -- to search bags.
Safety will be even tighter over at the Adidas arena in front of the Reichstag and at the Olympic Stadium, with even sales-people, paramedics and sponsor representatives obliged to submit to Criminal Police Office data checks.
Further safety concerns include excessive alcohol consumption, which Berlin's senator for the interior, Social Democrat Ehrhart Körting has proposed tackling with a formal restriction, and the risk of radical Muslim terrorism, which has been described by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble as the most serious threat.
Getting tough with juvenile offenders
Juvenile violence is on the rise
But with experts agreeing that draconian safety precautions cannot be maintained at all public events across the city, many believe the solution is deterrent measures such as the introduction of stricter sentencing for juvenile offenders -- especially in the light of the recent increased incidence of youth crime and gang activities.
"The minimum age for youth detention should be reduced (from 14) to 12," argued Martin Linder from the liberal FDP. "That does not mean that the priority is locking up young offenders but rather to take a remedial approach before they hit that slippery slope. It's about getting them back on the straight and narrow as early as possible."
Ultimately, the real and present danger during the World Cup is unlikely to originate with teenagers who've had too much to drink or with terrorism. Recent weeks have seen rumors proliferate that hooligans are planning riots in areas such as the Tiergarten park in central Berlin. Police say they are taking information like this very seriously, and have emphasized they are well-prepared to deal with hooligan violence.