The last control points on Germany’s eastern borders closed on December 21, 2007 as part of the 1995 Schengen agreement to gradually abolish checks along internal EU borders between the signatory countries. There are now 13 European nations belonging to the Schengen area.
But increased freedom of movement has brought more crime, particularly auto theft and vandalism, town mayors told told the paper on Tuesday.
Stefan Holthaus, mayor of the German town Görlitz in the state of Saxony, and just across the border from Poland, told the paper that 42 cars were stolen in December – 10 times more than the previous year. While he takes residents’ crime fears seriously, he said that it’s “the price of freedom,” adding that all parties need to continue working together calmly to curb the recent upswing in crime.
Just two hours north of Görlitz lie the twin German-Polish towns of Guben and Gubin. Mayor of the 20,000-strong town Guben, Klaus-Dieter Hübner, said vandalism has been more frequent, telling Der Tagesspiegel that lighting on a popular new footbridge between the two towns has been destroyed twice in the last few months.
Both sides have plans to work more closely soon, though, he said. Both the Polish and German police will begin dual patrols of effected areas, the paper reports.
Police from the Czech Republic and Poland, both of which border the German town of Zittau, are also working together to fight an increase in robberies. Zittau mayor Arnd Voigt told Der Tagesspiegel that though he can’t blame the increase on the border countries, “the sentiment exists” in town.
The German police are reorganizing personnel now that officers are no longer needed to secure borders. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said a quarter of Saxony’s police officers will be restationed in Poland, a move which the paper says Polish residents will welcome, though some German politicians have said the presence will be too large.