We are approaching the one-year point of the Koln New Year's Eve episode and the harsh reality that occurred that night. I've probably read at least three-hundred news pieces and watched a dozen hours of coverage over the last year. I've come to seven basic observations.
1. The 'bad boys' who are at the center of this story....simply are young males....mostly from Northern Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia). The rest are oddball migrants who simply got caught up in the frenzy of the night. Alcohol in some way helped to fuel the behavior.
2. Cop placement from that night? There was one contingent of reserve cops that could have been added but they were in Bavaria because of the ongoing crisis that existed at the time. Even if those cops had been there.....I don't think it would have mattered. If you read through everything....there were probably around a hundred cops in a 300 meter by 300 meter area. They worked in pairs or groups so....they never had a chance to establish authority. The over-reaction now? There will be a total of 2,000 cops, firemen, private security folks....put into this same area. The same area will be mostly blocked off and you have to enter via a gate (meaning a security review). NO fireworks will be allowed into that center area.
3. The odds of half of the public that commonly comes out....staying home? Most women who were out last year in Koln....will refuse to celebrate downtown, and it'll be noticed. I would bet on the crowd being at midnight around the Dom and railway station being less than 10,000 people.
4. The real insult? Even with 600 police reports and various folks detained who were found with no passports or visas...nothing much has seemed to happen. The cops stand there....knowing that they've done all that they can. The legal system is shaken. Trust in the legal system within the NRW state is not what it was a year ago. All of this will have political implications for the spring state election.
5. Blame? Here's the thing after you examine the whole episode. They were prepared to handle a regular New Year's Eve celebration, with normal expectations. Behind that....for months (more than a year), there were little things going on that should have been noticed. The crime syndicate that exists now around the railway station....for drugs or pick-pocket activity....the snatch-and-go crimes for cellphones....the increase in robbery....etc. The state authorities and cops won't call this area of town a "no-go" area...mostly because it's the heart and soul of the city and half-a-million people will transit the area daily. But it's become some zone where you have to watch everything going on and view people around you as a 'threat'. If you were looking for a place where you need to dump 300 cops upon for an entire month and ramp-up judicial behavior control....this would be the place to do it.
6. Why Koln? A lot of Germans didn't understand this part of the story. There is a "key" (an index) used to establish where refugees and asylum seekers are "assigned" upon entry. Sixteen states....so NRW ranks near the top and gets more assigned immigrants than any other state. The incoming crowd considers Koln, Essen, and Dusseldorf as key points to live around as an urban magnet for jobs.
7. Repeat potential? I think with all the rules and security put into this upcoming New Year's Eve....it'll be so tightly controlled that most Germans will just say 'no', and skip any celebration downtown. It might go as low as one-third of the normal crowd showing up. Some may stay home....some may take a local train up to Munster instead.
Here's the thing....this one single event changed the perception of probably half of German society. Suddenly, the Merkel open-door vision was not very charming or acceptable. The view of state-run or public TV....ARD and ZDF....went down a notch because of their delayed reporting on what occurred. The cops and legal authority have suffered some serious trust issues.
Life goes on but it's a harsh reality that was laid out in Koln for that one evening.