Hamburg: many sexual offenses are not prosecuted

A woman is raped, but the investigation against the perpetrator does not progress because the responsible department in the police is overworked. Cases like this are reported by counseling centers, but also by the Association of German Criminal Police Officers in Hamburg. For the victims, this is hard to bear.

At the "Dolle Deerns" counseling center In Hamburg-Niendorf, girls and young women who have experienced sexualized violence seek help. The staff tell of a woman we call Anna. She was raped by her neighbor. When the young woman and counselor Susana Pietsch approached the police, Anna was questioned, but the perpetrator was not for a long time.

"For weeks, for months it was clear: He was not confronted by the police. That was totally tragic for this girl", reports Pietsch. "She said: "I’ve had to testify so many times and he won’t be questioned once. Why do they not stand with him before the door?" According to the counselor, many of those affected were left hanging in the air.

More and more sexualized violence

And this despite the fact that at the same time there is more and more sexualized violence in Hamburg. In particularly serious cases – such as rape and coercion – the most recent crime statistics for 2020 show an increase of almost 36 percent. So there is a lot to do for LKA 42, the special department for sexual offenses at the Hamburg State Criminal Police Office. But there the investigations remained partly for months, insiders report to the NDR.

Jan Reinecke of the Association of German Detectives complains that the department is understaffed and overtaxed. He speaks of untenable conditions: "We are dealing with severely traumatized persons. One has great demands on oneself and especially in this area it cannot be that there is such a pressure from the procedural mass that weighs on one." In other words: the investigators are not making any progress because of all the cases that have been left unresolved.

115 investigations on hold

The press office of the Hamburg police refused an interview request from NDR. In a written statement, however, a spokesman openly admits: "Currently, the number of incoming investigation cases exceeds the processing capacities of the employees."

According to the report, 44 police officers are working on more than 650 cases at the LKA 42. In purely mathematical terms, this would mean that each individual police officer would be responsible for more than 14 sexual offenses. In addition, ten employees work part-time or are on parental leave. Eight others are career starters. Thus 115 investigations are at present on ice due to the strained personnel situation, write the police press office itself. Colleagues who work in completely different areas have to help out.

Trained personnel needed

"There is simply no one else there", reports police unionist Reinecke. "So these cases are being dealt with by the permanent service, but also by other LKA-4 departments such as the homicide department or the department that is otherwise responsible for vehicle theft."

But that is precisely the wrong way to go about it, says social education worker Urte Paulsmeier of the "Dolle Deerns" counseling center. For the questioning of traumatized people, trained personnel are needed – and above all a sure instinct. "Just such a chronological sequence of what happened when, how and where – that often doesn’t work with traumatizing experiences.", explains Paulsmeier. "The brain mixes it up. This must be taken into account in the questioning and not interpreted to the detriment of the person concerned."

Three new positions created

After all, three new positions are to be created at LKA 42 starting in April. The authority hopes that the situation relaxes thereby. The police unionist Reinecke remains skeptical. He demands strategic personnel planning from politicians. "Many areas work around the clock seven days a week. But more and more staff are not available. And we still don’t see any solutions, but the problem is getting worse and worse."

"This is tragic for those affected"

Victims of sexualized violence such as Anna suffer from this in particular. Their counselors Susana Pietsch and Urte Paulsmeier hope that the situation will improve soon, because their case, they say, clearly shows the effects of the shortage of police personnel. "That is of course tragic for victims of sexualized violence, where something actually has to happen promptly.", according to Paulsmeier. "So that evidence can also be secured. So that a sign is also set for accused who have been assaulted. It’s clear that this is not okay, that it’s not right, and that something is happening and the police are at the door."

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