Video Surveillance Leads to Arrest in Rape-Murder Case

Police have finally arrested a suspect in the case of a student at the University of Freiburg who was raped, murdered, and thrown into the Dreisam river (g) on the 16th of October. News reports say that the clue came from a video surveillance camera which caught a man with an "unusual haircut and hair color" near the crime scene. Unconfirmed reports say that plainclothes cops rode the #1 streetcar looking for the haircut, and found it. More details to follow at an afternoon press conference. 

Strange haircut and color, riding a purple women's bicycle? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Sascha_Lobo

Relax, it's a joke. But seriously, folks, it's obviously far too early to speculate. However, that's never stopped me before. I think the unusual haircut could be the shaved-sides long-on-top popular among certain spirited young lads, such as the ones on the left side of this picture:

Silvester-koeln-107-_v-videowebl

Also, it seems a bit odd for a man to be riding a purple women's bicycle such as the one found at the crime scene. Unless, of course, he had no choice because the bicycle was donated (g).

From a policy perspective, this is another argument for video cameras. The typical Green argument against them is that even if they may help solve some crimes, they don't prevent crimes (g). This is the sort of argument they repeat like a shibboleth in front of like-minded audiences who nod in eager assent, but which withers when subjected to any scrutiny.

First and most obviously, why exactly is their role in helping solve crimes only mentioned in passing? People prefer living in societies where cops are able to solve crimes, and video surveillance is a reliable tool. The number of mistaken identity cases involving video surveillance is tiny, and vastly outweighed by the number of cases in which camera footage caught the right person. Cameras are certainly much more reliable than eyewitnesses.

Also, video cameras do prevent crime, as many studies have shown. Otherwise, insurance companies, generally not composed of idiots, would not encourage their use and advise on proper placement. The fact that we don't know exactly how much crime they prevent is the case of the impossible negative counterfactual: it's impossible to precisely measure things which do not occur. We know about how many cases of lung cancer were avoided by reductions in the smoking rate but will never know precisely how many for the same reason.

Second, video cameras prevent crime not only by deterring would-be offenders but by incapacitating the people who get caught. If the Freiburg Rapist turns out to be a serial killer, it is almost certain he will strike again. If he is caught and imprisoned for the rest of his life, he will never be able to do so. That means there will undoubtedly be several women who, unbeknownst to them, will owe their lives to this video recording and the police who found the killer with its help.

This is not an argument for cameras on every street corner, as you find in London. But it is an argument for evaluating the usefulness of cameras based not on abstract principle, but based on pragmatic, case-by-case evaluation.


Freiburg Rape-Murders Still Unsolved

In October and November, two young women were attacked, one in Freiburg, one nearby. They were apparently seized at random, raped, and murdered. It is possible both attacks were committed by the same rapist/murderer. So far, despite cash rewards, the use of scent hounds, and comparisons with volunteer DNA samples, there are no solid clues.

The police have male DNA from one of the crime scenes with which they could construct an accurate visual profile of the suspect and precisely define which ethnic group he comes from. But Section 81(e) of the German Criminal Procedure code outlaws this, although it is common in other countries. The contains no exception for extreme situations, such as the possibility of active serial killers.

The police took hundreds of DNA samples from men who attended a medicine faculty college party with one of the victims just before she was killed. Let's assume 90% of the men where white. If the DNA sample could have been tested for ethnicity, and it showed the suspect was black, the police would not have had to waste thousands of man-hours on this fruitless search. The police will probably broaden their search to other ethnic communities. But if the DNA sample showed someone of Northern European ancestry, these searches would also be superfluous -- or at least could be targeted much more precisely.

There should be a national debate about changing this law, but the only commentary I have seen so far about this questionable law has been in the conservative Junge Freiheit. And, of course, here on German Joys.

If another young woman is dragged into the bushes, raped, and murdered -- and it turns out a DNA profile could have helped solve the crime before her death -- maybe the mainstream press will notice this issue. But it shouldn't have to come to that, should it? 


The New German Illegal Immigration Policy: Discourage, Detain, Deport

A prominent CDU politician has just advocated (g):
  • Actually deporting the 500,000 migrants currently in Germany whose asylum claims have been denied and who have no legal right to be here.
  • Turning back illegal migrants at the border.
  • Turning back migrant boats launching from Africa and establishing a detention center in Egypt.
  • Sanctioning and then deporting people who "lost" their identity papers and refuse to cooperate in getting new ones.
  • Disallowing illness as a reason to prevent deportation (an extremely common tactic, enabled by sympathetic doctors) if the person migrated to Germany with the illness.

In other words, adopting the sort of immigration policies the rest of the developed world has always had. Any one of these proposals would have been -- and was -- denounced as tantamount to fascism in 2015. It's unlikely all of these proposals will be enacted, but the reaction will be a lot more muted, and many of them will have a chance at passage.

We're a long way from the heady days of 2015, when seemingly every German was entranced by the moistly sentimental dream of proving Germany's enduring moral superiority by throwing open its borders to anyone. A year of dealing with the resulting increased crime; soaring expense; dismal integration results; visible decay and danger in lower-class neighborhoods; abuse of the asylum system; child marriages; honor killings; street stabbings, terror scares and terror attacks; and conflicts over resources, cultural differences, and funding priorities has taken its toll.

Turns out there was no magic pixie dust.

Of course nobody could have predicted the problems or the backlash. Except, of course, me, and millions of other observers. Who were mocked, insulted, and even threatened for the crime of clinging to our common sense in a period of national self-delusion.

We're a long way from Willkommenskultur.

  


Working Sort of Hard to Find a Serial Rapist/Murderer

Freiburg, Germany, is an idyllic university town located at the edge of the Black Forest. It is the sunniest spot in Germany. And the site of 4 brutal crimes in the past 6 weeks. One man was beaten to death near the main train station. One 13-year-old girl gang-raped by four young men.

And most disturbingly, two young women, one 19 and on 27 years old, were raped and murdered in apparent random attacks -- one just behind the main football stadium, one in a small community 30 kilometers from Freiburg. Police think it's possible the same man might be behind both attacks. So, there may well be a serial rapist/murderer currently active in Freiburg now. Or perhaps two. I would say this kind of thing is almost unknown in Germany, but we all know that's no longer the case. Still, it's got all of Freiburg on edge. 

And as the video below from the conservative weekly Junge Freiheit shows, the police are being hampered by German law from pursuing the killer. They found a DNA sample which they believe is from the killer at one of the rape/murder crime scenes. Using modern DNA technology, it's possible to determine the eye color, hair color, and ethnicity of someone from a good DNA sample. In fact, it's possible to generate a fairly good likeness of their face, as this photo accompanying a New York Times article shows:

24faces_otherpeople-master1050

As you can see, the images aren't perfect, but they are certainly a far cry better than the recollection of a traumatized witness or someone who saw a man run past them in a dark alley. In particular, DNA is extremely good at predicting ethnicity and skin tone, which can allow investigators to immediately cross huge pools of suspects off their list and focus only on a narrow subset. Another article looks at the use of this technology in an American criminal case.

But not in Germany.

According to Section 81(e) of the Criminal Procedure Code, DNA can be used only comparison to potential suspects, determining family relationships, and determining gender. Every analysis going beyond these is expressly forbidden. Here is the provision in English:

(1) Material obtained by measures pursuant to Section 81a subsection (1) may also be subjected to molecular and genetic examinations, insofar as such measures are necessary to establish descent or to ascertain whether traces found originate from the accused or the aggrieved person; in so doing the gender of the person may also be determined by examination. Examinations pursuant to the first sentence shall also be admissible to obtain similar findings on material obtained by measures pursuant to Section 81c. Findings on facts other than those referred to in the first sentence shall not be made; examinations designed to establish such facts shall be inadmissible.

The prohibition, like so many others in German law, is based on the idea of data protection -- in a society in which mass surveillance caused so much harm last century, there must be strict limits on the amount of data the state can gather on its citizens. As I've pointed out before, this idea trumps many other legitimate public concerns, such as preserving historical monuments. And here, it trumps public safety. Here's a video from the conservative website Junge Freiheit featuring an interview in which the Freiburg policy confirm that they are obeying this restriction. The head of the German police union complains about it, and citizens interviewed in Freiburg are dumbfounded that the law prevents police from using a reliable, proven strategy which could lead to the apprehension of a possible serial killer in their midst. 

This is yet another cultural mismatch between the USA and Germany. I have explained restrictions such as this to many colleagues in the USA. These colleagues are mostly criminal defense lawyers and civil libertarians. That is, they spend each day defending the rights of criminals, and forcing the state to uphold its case. To say they don't have an authoritarian bone in their body is an understatement -- they don't have an authoritarian cell in their body.

Yet when I describe things like this, many of them register, to their own shock and amazement, disapproval and consternation. Sure, DNA isn't miraculous, it has to be handled carefully, it's not a panacea. But it is an extremely powerful tool which, used properly, can help ensure the guilty are imprisoned, and which has been used now hundreds of times to free the innocent from unjust confinement. Building a profile from DNA, as long as it's done responsibly according to the best scientific protocols, is definitely a legitimate means of law enforcement. Especially since it is likely to be much more reliable than eyewitness testimony.

Yet in Germany, only the right-wing website Junge Freiheit considers this an important policy issue. I have never seen it addressed by the more left-liberal press.

So there you have it: DNA profiling is so mainstream in the USA that even most civil libertarians approve of it. In Germany, apparently, only the right-wing does.


Merkel's Superfluous and Irritating Election Statement

Merkel's statement scolding congratulating Donald Trump for his election victory is getting a lot of press:

Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.

The statement's being met with mixed reviews even in the German press, with center-right commentators like Alexander Kissler (g) denouncing it for its self-righteous sanctimoniousness.

I tend to side with Kissler on this one. America neither needs nor wants lectures from Germans on protections of minority rights. One thing most Germans will never understand is that even when interpreted by conservative Republican judges and officials, the US constitution and laws offer more protection for religious and racial minorities than German law does. Let's look at a few highlights:

  • Gays can marry in the United States, but cannot in Germany.
  • Women have just as many opportunities in the USA as in Germany. They participate in the labor force at a slightly higher rate in the USA than in Germany, and they have a higher median income in the USA than in Germany.
  • The US has banned racial and religious discrimination in private contracts since 1964, Germany only since 2006.
  • German anti-discrimination laws are toothless. Discrimination lawsuits are notoriously hard to win, and the penalties for discrimination are much too weak to have any deterrent effect. Verified accounts of blatant discrimination in housing and employment are easy to find in Germany.
  • American class-action discrimination lawsuits regularly result in damages verdicts of tens of millions of dollars. This is impossible under German law.
  • The US has an official federal government agency, the EEOC, which sues American companies who engage in racial, gender, or other forms of illegal discrimination. This agency forces the companies to pay massive damages judgments, accept public responsibility for their action, and remedy their policies. This level of accountability is unknown in Germany. The only thing Germany has is a federal agency that publishes reports and non-binding guidelines.
  • Foreigners and people not born in Germany are over-represented in Germany prisons at a rate comparable to blacks in American prisons. And for the same reasons -- crime is more common in these populations.
  • American laws do not discriminate among religious faiths; German laws do, giving massive privileges to the two established churches -- including a € 460 million yearly subsidy (g) based on obscure 19th century state contracts. Scientologists and members of other odd religious groups can operate freely in the US, while in Germany they are spied upon and harassed by officials who consider them dangerous cults.

This is not to say that Germany is backward or oppressive. All societies make different policy choices and have different levels of protection for minorities. All societies have failings when it comes to providing equal opportunity. But the USA is, objectively, ahead of Germany in many ways. Disputes about voter registration or transgender bathroom use are side issue. America's core protections for minority rights are firmly entrenched in powerful, popular laws and institutions which transcend partisan politics and which are fully accepted by all mainstream political actors. 

A Trump presidency will do absolutely nothing to change that, just as two Bush presidencies didn't. Merkel's condescending warning is as superfluous as it is irritating.


Germans Ignore Dying Man in Bank Despite Law Telling them to Help

Inore

The police in Essen reported (g) on a case in which an 82-year-old man collapsed to the floor of a branch bank in Essen, Germany in early October. At least four people were seen on security cam footage simply walking over his body without offering help or calling an ambulance. The man was eventually taken to a hospital, where he later died. The police are now investigating these persons for failure to render assistance, which is a crime under German law. Section 323c of the Penal Code:

Whosoever does not render assistance during accidents or a common danger or emergency although it is necessary and can be expected of him under the circumstances, particularly if it is possible without substantial danger to himself and without violation of other important duties shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine.

In common-law countries such as the United States, the law imposes no duty to rescue strangers. As long as you didn't cause the emergency and the bear no special duty to the victim (as a guest or relative, etc.), the law will not punish you for ignoring him. There are a number of justifications for this doctrine, both theoretical (you can't be held responsible for injuries you didn't cause), and moral (the state should trust its citizens to do the right thing uncoerced).

This is one of the most obvious differences between common-law systems and civil-law systems such as the ones in most European countries. When I was teaching, many of my German students professed to find the common-law doctrine shocking or cold-hearted. It's not hard to detect the attitude behind this: the still, small voice in every German's head which whispers: "Despite the recent unpleasantness, Germany is a more decent, moral, caring and sensitive society than all others in the world, except maybe Sweden, but at any rate definitely more caring and 'social' than the selfish, dog-eat-dog United States."

Am deutschen Wesen...*

The students assumed that the existence of a law requiring help made Germany a more caring place, and that it affected Germans' behavior toward one another. This is another typical German attitude -- the notion that once a law has been passed to address a problem, the problem no longer exists.

Alas, I had to shatter their precious smugness idealism.

Studies show that 'duty to rescue' laws have no effect on whether people rescue their fellow humans in need. In the United States, where the law says you don't have to try to rescue people, a huge majority does exactly that, often risking their own lives:

As Table 3 reflects, there are approximately 1003 non-risky rescues (cell 2) and 263 risky rescues (cell 4) per year in the United States. Thus, verifiable rescues outnumber non-rescues by almost 800:1. If one loosens the standard for rescue only slightly, to encompass instances of rescue that were reported in a newspaper but did not pass initial screening by the Carnegie Hero Trust Commission, the ratio increases to approximately 1400:1.

Approximately 100 Americans lose their lives every year as a result of attempting to rescue someone else. Thus, even in the absence of a duty to rescue, deaths among rescuers outnumber deaths attributable to non-rescue by approximately 60:1 every year. Stated differently, there are six times as many rescuer deaths every year as there are deaths attributable to non-rescue in the past ten years combined.

Finally, injury is common among rescuers. Aggregate figures are unavailable, since most of the data sources did not separately track injury, but in those that did and as detailed below, a substantial percentage of risky-rescuers and a significant number of non-risky rescuers were injured – sometimes quite severely.

This isn't to say that Germans are more cold-hearted than Americans. Why, just five days ago, a staff member on a German Rhine cruise ship jumped into the cold water to rescue a woman who had fallen off a bridge into the Rhine (g).

The point is first, that law on the books, as usual, has little to do with what happens in the real world. Second, that laws drafted by tiny commissions staffed by elites (such as law professors) and then passed word-for-word by the national legislature do not necessarily reflect "the values of our civilization".

Points worth remembering!

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43% of Criminals in Hamburg...; or Why Germans Are So Ignorant About Crime in Their Country

Much debate in Germany revolves around the question of whether foreigners commit more crimes than Germans. Whenever this subject comes in mainstream German television talk shows, the responses fall into four predictable categories:

  • Those on the center-left (and everyone to the left of them) get up on their hind legs and immediately start lobbing rhetorical smoke-bombs about "over-generalizations" and "stoking prejudice" and "doing a disservice to the millions of hard-working...", etc.
  • Those on the far right consider all immigrants potential criminals, but hardly care, since they would oppose even the most law-abiding immigrants because they want to keep Germany Deutsch. However, their views don't really matter, since people this far right are never given a chance to air their views on mass media.
  • Those on the center-right do occasionally mention statistics, but are too afraid of being labeled xenophobic to say anything specific. They quickly revert to waffle about "criminal structures", "inadequate integration", "challenging and supporting", etc.
  • Those on the right (including the AfD, which contrary to common belief does not (g, pdf) oppose all immigration) say what the numbers show: that foreigners are over-represented in crime statistics. Representatives of this political tendency were almost never invited onto German talk shows until the rise of the AfD made this inevitable. Aside from the AfD, the only other talk-show guests who mention this are are representatives of the Hungarian or Polish or Czech governments who are invited to be the ceremonial punching bag of everyone else on the show, including the moderator.

These programmed responses and euphemisms make informed debate on this issue nearly impossible. One by-product is that most Germans have no idea that foreigners are vastly over-represented in German crime statistics. Dozens of times, I pointed this fact out in class, only to be challenged by students who didn't believe the numbers, some accusing me of "peddling right-wing propaganda". Needless to say, all of the students were keenly aware that blacks are over-represented in American prisons relative to their numbers in the population. Yet they had no idea the same thing was happening in their own country.

So now, in the service of just plain information, a story that appeared in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper a few weeks ago, then quickly fell down the memory hole. The report was based on a confidential police report leaked to the newspaper. The story appears to be pay-walled, but a confidential source furnished me with the paper originals at a 4 AM meeting in an abandoned parking garage, in return for guarantees of confidentiality and a substantial cash payment. I can now reveal the following statistics:

  • In the first half of 2106, Hamburg police investigated 38,000 criminal suspects.
  • Of these, 16,600, or 43%, did not have German nationality.
  • 3882 suspects, or 9.5% of the total, were "refugees" (that is, recent migrants)
  • These numbers do not reflect offenses merely against immigration laws, those were removed from the calculation to avoid distortion.
  • In all of 2015, Hamburg authorities investigated 68,868 criminal suspects, of which 28,400 (41 percent) were foreigners.
  • The crimes most often committed by refugees were assault (1014 cases). Refugees were also responsible for 30.6% of all thefts and 27.5% of all drug smuggling and distribution offenses.
  • Refugees also committed 18.2% of all cases of "sexual insult" and 18.9% of all more serious sexual offenses. A majority of these cases resulted from New Years' Eve in Hamburg.

There are currently about 25,000 refugees in Hamburg, out of a population of 1,814,597 (g) million. So refugees are 1.37% of the population. But it sure looks like they are committing crimes way out of proportion to the raw numbers.

We can't say exactly how over-represented refugees are among criminals in Hamburg, since it's entirely possible a single refugee enriched the crime stats with 7 pickpocketings, 3 simple assaults, and one sexual assault. This is known to police and criminologists as the 80/20 rule of thumb: 80 percent of all crimes are committed by 20% of the people; 80% of all police calls are to the most unruly 20% of the city, etc.

Without a detailed breakdown of the identity of the offenders, we can't know for certain just how disproportionate the rate of crime among refugees is. And of course cops and politicians will use this gap in the knowledge -- which they themselves created -- to constantly muddle the issue: "This doesn't necessarily mean refugees are more criminal, because it just might be a small number of refugees committing most of these crimes." Kind of like the boy who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. This also raises the question of why Germany imported these one-man crime waves and allows them to stay, but those are questions for another post.

It should also be remembered that there is some unknown number of people who have German citizenship, and are thus accounted for as German nationals, but were not born in Germany. German authorities intentionally fail to keep records on these numbers, but they're probably at least another 15-20% of criminals.

So, to sum up, here are a few : Most immigrants aren't criminals, but most criminals are immigrants, or were not born in Germany. Most immigrants are law-abiding, but immigrants as a whole commit crimes at a much higher rate than Germans.

See, now you know the truth. Let it set you free!


Xenophobia and Racism Overcrowding Germany's Prisons

Welcome to the next installment of an occasional series I like to call Sartor Resartus, in which I report about Germany the way Germans report about the USA:

Xenophobic and Racist Judicial System Leads to Foreigners Overcrowding German Prisons

By Sartor Resartus

STUTTGART (SR Press Agency) -- According to a recent study released by the Justice Ministry of Germany's third-most-populous state, Baden-Württemberg, almost half of the prisoners in its jails are now foreigners, even though foreigners make up just over 10% of the population of that state.

A recent report in the newspaper Die Welt provides the numbers: "Conditions are particularly cramped in prisons: there, 6170 prisoners live in a system designed to hold only 6087 people as of June 2016.... The share of foreigners was 37 percent in 2014, 39 percent in 2015, and 44.6% in March of this year among the 6948 prisoners then in the system." Justice Minister Guido Wolf, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, described the increased in foreign prisoners as a result of the "refugee influx".

Andrew Hammel, a self-proclaimed expert on Germany's legal system whose opinions I will quote extensively without challenge and without seeking an opposing view, said: "Although the number of foreigners living in Baden-Württemberg is only 12%, they make up nearly half of the prison population. This clearly shows a pattern of discriminatory and disproportionate enforcement targeting 'the other'. I've spoken to numerous foreigners who report a pattern of police harassment for trivial or non-existent offenses. German judges, prosecutors, and police are also overwhelmingly ethnic German, and persons of foreign ancestry are under-represented in these positions. This means that they single out foreigners, whether consciously or not, for harsher treatment. This highlights Germany's dark historical legacy, and makes a mockery of the equality proclaimed in the German Basic Law."

What is particularly appalling, Hammel continued, is that "many are refugees. They came to Germany fleeing war and poverty, and now they find themselves mistreated by a justice system that sees them only as a problem and a threat."

In the company of a local activist from the Grey Wolves Turkish social movement, I visited a German prison and talked to some of the inmates. Here, in their own words, unedited and unverified, are their accounts of bias and abuse. The fact that these accounts are unconfirmed, sometimes outlandish, and come from people who have a motive to lie doesn't change the fact that they highlight the grave problems...

 


German Police Can Seize Your Phone and Arrest You If You Film Them

Via Udo Vetter's excellent lawblog, this police report (g) from Bamberg, Germany:

Early Saturday morning, a person on the Schönleinplatz was halted by police for a check. The 29-year-old student refuse to tell police his personal information and began filming the policeman. He was informed that this was not allowed and constitutes a criminal offense, but the man nevertheless continued. 

As his mobile telephone was being seized, the man resisted officers and was arrested.

He has been charged with resistance against peace officers.

Vetter believes the charges should be dropped, since the police officer's claim that filming him was illegal was incorrect, and citizens are permitted to resist illegal police actions. However, the comments reflect a wide variety of views about whether filming the cop was in fact legal or not, and if not, whether it could be a criminal or civil offense.

The upshot: if you attempt to record police officers in Germany, they may seize your phone and arrest you, and you will only find out your actions were justified after a long and expensive legal proceeding. This is practically the definition of 'chilling effect'.

It's long past time for Germany to pass a law making it absolutely clear that any citizen has the right to film and broadcast any police officer in the performance of his or her duties, no matter what, under any circumstances, as long as the filming does not interfere with performance of the officers' duties.


You Think X is a Human-Rights Violation. You're Wrong.

A quick note to Germans: Stop calling every policy you disagree with a 'human-rights violation'. There's a solid consensus on what human rights are. They only cover the big things, not every aspect of government policy.

The requirement to send your children to school (g), to pick one of 10,567 examples, is not a human-rights violation. In fact, it's precisely the opposite. Nor is deporting illegal immigrants.

When you claim some government action is a human-rights violation, you're wrong 90% of the time. I can and will prove it.

Stop chuntering about human rights this, human rights that. If you disagree with a policy, just tell us why.

I hope this has been helpful!