How did skateboarding reduce crime?

The construction of 'dangerous places'. A problematization with examples from Berlin and Leipzig

Peter Ullrich, Marco Tullney

0 Introduction [1]

The official designation of a place as a focus of crime or “dangerous place” enables police measures in the Federal Republic of Germany against persons without a concrete suspicion. The marking of the place already generates suspicion across all persons and justifies police interventions. This significantly reduces the hurdles for interventions in other locations. Staying in the appropriate places is anchored in the police laws of the German federal states as a reason for identity determination and a search. Corresponding regulations were introduced or specified in more concrete terms in the 1990s and 2000s, even if some of them already existed in some federal states. In general, the technical and legal options for control and monitoring measures in public spaces have expanded in recent years; Video surveillance in particular has become a widely used police tool. The use of such measures represents a significant interference with existing rights and must be justified to data protection authorities and, last but not least, to public opinion. Here again, the seemingly objective property of places is referred to as being particularly dangerous. The designation of a place as a 'crime hotspot', for example in Saxony, also represented a concrete legal requirement (authorization basis) for the introduction of cameras [2] in connection with other measures (increased patrols and personal checks) (Müller 1997; 2000; 2003) .

The socio-spatial design options on the basis of this legal construction are now used to achieve various urban planning, regulatory and criminal policy goals: from the redesign and in particular the upgrading of urban spaces to migration management or the pacification of political dissidence to the implementation of hegemonic notions of order. This legal construction and its now extensive establishment represent a spatial component of the preventive turnaround in policing (cf. Funk and Werkentin 1985; Feeley and Simon 1992; Ericson and Haggerty 2001). “Dangerous places” are, however, as will be shown below, not necessarily objectively dangerous, but the product of complex processes of visualization, thematization and thus ultimately the social construction of threat.

So far there have only been brief, overview or primarily theoretical topics (Eick 2001; Stolle and Hefendehl 2002; Belina 2005; Wehrheim 2005; Ullrich 2009) as well as representations from the police point of view (e.g. Müller 1997; 2000) and only one work that is known to us has extensively and systematically adopted this legal construction and its consequences (Belina and Wehrheim 2011). Belina / Wehrheim emphasize how successes in the fight against racist (and class-related) discrimination practices by the police ('policing race') are indirectly making their way back through spatial access ('policing space'). They see the achievements of growing spatial orientations in: firstly, the objectification of 'dangerous' spaces, secondly, the legitimation of proactive and selective police practices, thirdly, a double increase in the police's power of definition, and fourthly, the reproduction of social structures of inequality. The authors differentiate between two basic types of the relationship between normativity and normality, from which they derive two basic types of 'dangerous spaces'. In the first type, the normality of the people who are usually staying in one place is suspicious and guiding action (e.g. city districts with great poverty or migrant population). In the second type, it is precisely the reaction to deviations from spatial normality that becomes the reason for action (acting against deviants / strangers, e.g. poor and homeless in 'good areas'). An informative heuristic of criminalization and spatial theory has thus been developed, which, however, is not sufficient to describe the variety of purposes of the legal construction “dangerous place”. The authors limit their empirical analysis to the example of Hamburg, which does not do justice to the legal and practical heterogeneity in the field.

For this reason, a more general approach to the topic that basically introduces the problem should be chosen here. The first section explains the legal and practical implementation requirements in police law. Then, based on examples from Leipzig and Berlin, various areas of application and functional areas of this policy of constructing “dangerous places” in the context of urban problem areas are exemplified. The basis for this is not extensive empirical research (see Chapter 4 for the identified research gaps), but rather long-term observation of relevant developments, thus occasionally also more anecdotal evidence and, as a result, an exploration of dimensions of the topic on the basis of various interpretive and usage conflicts that appear particularly relevant, different police and political practices and problem constructions, provided that they could be reconstructed using publicly accessible documents and press reports. A third part looks at how the politics of 'dangerous places' is culturally embedded and discursively legitimized. Section four summarizes the desiderata that become apparent, before the final fifth part asks what conclusions can be drawn from the examples and findings for social work and a critical socio-spatial practice.

1 Legal bases and expulsion practice

The legal construction of the 'dangerous place' can be found in the paragraphs for the identification of most state police laws, even if this term is only used in Saxony-Anhalt (§16, SOG LSA). In different countries or police departments there are different complementary designations, some of which come from the respective police laws and some of the respective local implementation practice, for example "places prone to crime" (Berlin, here until 2002 still "dangerous places"), "danger areas" (Hamburg ), "Crime hotspots" or "disreputable places" (Leipzig / Saxony), "dangerous places" (Saxony-Anhalt), "dangerous places" (Bremen) or, the most important function, "control area". In essence, this legal structure authorizes the determination of identity without suspicion or cause in certain rooms that are associated with criminal offenses or are subject to a special control interest for other reasons. [3]

Police law in the Federal Republic of Germany is subject to the legislative competence of the federal states. Therefore, despite efforts to harmonize, various provisions differ from one another in this area, which is why only the Saxon and Berlin situation relevant to our examples is presented here as an example.

Leipzig / Saxony


Police Act of the Free State of Saxony (SächsPolG), § 19 Identity Determination

General Security and Ordinance Act (ASOG), Section 21 Determination of Identity

(1) The police can determine the identity of a person

             1. (…)

2. if she is in a place where experience has shown that criminals hide, people arrange, prepare or commit crimes, meet without a required residence permit or engage in prostitution

(2) The police can also determine the identity of a person

1. if the person is in a place

a) the facts justify the assumption that

aa) there persons arrange, prepare or commit criminal offenses of considerable importance,

bb) people meet there who violate the penal provisions of residence law,

cc) wanted criminals are hiding there,

b) on the person engaged in prostitution

The incidents referred to are similar: preparation of criminal offenses, concealment of offenders, violations of residence regulations and prostitution (which is not prohibited). With the exception of “committing criminal offenses”, they do not represent any real danger in the sense of the everyday meaning of the word. To a large extent, the dangerousness of the places is derived from the people who (could) be there. Despite similar regulations in both federal states, there are differences. While in Saxony it is sufficient that “criminal offenses” are planned, the Berlin ASOG requires “criminal offenses of considerable importance”. [4] And while factual indications must be available in Berlin, general “experiences” (which do not require concrete facts) are the basis for authorization in Saxony. With regard to violations of legal residence regulations, the Saxon law also applies to administrative offenses, whereas the ASOG only applies to criminal offenses related to residence law. Similar differences with generally the same tendency are revealed in the following passages about objects that are also “at risk”:

SächsPolG, § 19 Identity Determination

ASOG, § 21 Identity Determination

(1) The police can determine the identity of a person

            1. (…)

            2. (…)

3. if they are in a traffic or supply system or facility, public transport, official building or another particularly endangered object or in the immediate vicinity thereof and facts justify the assumption that criminal offenses are to be committed in or on objects of this type,

(2) The police can also determine the identity of a person

             1. (…)

             2. (…)

3. if they are in or in the immediate vicinity of a traffic or supply facility, public transport, official building or other particularly endangered object and facts justify the assumption that criminal offenses are to be committed in or on an object of this type , by which persons or this object are endangered, and the identification is necessary due to the risk situation or personal clues

The designation of 'dangerous places' initially makes it easier for the police to establish identity. However, it also lowers the hurdles for further interventions. For the Leipzig example examined, it is relevant that the German pilot project of police video surveillance of public places was not only supported by discourse because of its interference with informational self-determination, but also secured against legal concerns. [5] Furthermore, “dangerous places” enable searches of people that are not easily possible elsewhere. [6]

SächsPolG § 23, Search of persons

ASOG § 34, Search of Persons

(1) The police can search a person if

1. (...)

2. (...)

3. (...)

4. they are staying at one of the places specified in Section 19 (1) No. 2 or

5. they are in an object within the meaning of Section 19 (1) No. 3 or in its immediate vicinity and facts justify the assumption that criminal offenses are to be committed in or on objects of this type.

(2) The police can search a person whose identity is to be determined in accordance with Section 9 or other legal provisions for weapons, other dangerous tools and explosives if this is necessary for the protection of a police officer or a third party against danger to life or limb appears necessary.

(2) The police may search a person except in the cases of Section 21 (3) sentence 4 if

1. (...)

2. they are staying at one of the places named in Section 21 (2) No. 1,

3. They are in or in the immediate vicinity of an object within the meaning of Section 21 Paragraph 2 No. 3 and facts justify the assumption that criminal offenses are to be committed in or on an object of this type, endangering persons or this object are,

4. (…)

§ 24. Search of property.

Section 35 Search of property

The police can search a thing, though

1. it is carried by a person who may be searched in accordance with Section 23 (1) or (2),

2. (...)

3. (...)

4. it is located at one of the locations specified in Section 19 (1) No. 2,

5. it is located in an object within the meaning of Section 19 Paragraph 1 No. 3 or in its immediate vicinity and facts justify the assumption that criminal offenses are to be committed in or on objects of this type,

6. it is a land, water or air vehicle in which there is a person whose identity may be determined in accordance with Section 19 Paragraph 1 No. 4, 5 or 6; ...

(2) Except in the cases of Section 21 (3) sentence 4, the police may search a matter if

1. (...)

2. it is located at one of the places mentioned in Section 21 (2) No. 1,

3. it is located in an object within the meaning of Section 21 (2) No. 3 or in its immediate vicinity and facts justify the assumption that criminal offenses are to be committed in or on an object of this type which endanger persons or this object are,

Police law only regulates abstractly which rooms can be affected. An identification must be provided in the application more concrete Places take place. This is often done by the respective police departments, for example on the basis of their own crime statistics (see below). Ministerial bureaucracies can also be involved. The expulsion takes place partly with and partly without a time limit. The time limit, in turn, can relate to the period of an event or permanently to certain times of the day. Under certain circumstances, as for example the practice of the Bremen police show, there is even an explicit limitation to certain groups of people, such as "adolescents", "BTM consumers from 15 years of age" [7], "members of the BTM scene". [8] There are obviously no uniform procedures and also no uniform understanding of whether and to what extent the public is informed of such expulsions. The practices can also change over time, i.e. the police may temporarily provide lists of `` dangerous places '' and keep a low profile at other times. [9] Under certain circumstances, parliamentary inquiries lead to the publication of the special zones against the explicit will of the police. [10] The creation of overviews of which specific places are classified as “dangerous” and how this changes over time is correspondingly difficult not only for the entire Federal Republic, but also for smaller units.

In particular, the prerequisites for intervention that are not subject to a reservation of fact contain an arbitrary component. This is all the more true when the 'dangerous places' are not known to the public. The general recourse to experience as a basis for action ("on which criminal offenders hide themselves", § 19 SächsPolG) also enables an ad-hoc classification, and the police power of definition allows the police to actively construct their own prerequisites for intervention in the sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy or the Lüchow- Dannenberg syndrome (Belina and Wehrheim 2011). [11]

It can also be assumed that in the run-up to the official designation of `` dangerous places' ', other actors, e.g. the media, municipal authorities and administrations, local residents' initiatives or social movements, will contribute their share to the construction process of a `` problem situation' 'in a more complex negotiation process. [12] This is done on the one hand through public campaigns and agenda setting by political actors and their media communication, on the other hand through specific institutions such as crime prevention councils and other security governance institutions in which local policy scenarios are negotiated. The establishment of control areas is also accompanied by various measures provided by local police or hazard prevention regulations. These include instruments such as the ban on storage in green spaces, begging bans and restrictions, or alcohol consumption bans (Krasmann and de Marinis 1997; Krause 2001; Kant and Roggan 2005).

2 The politics of 'dangerous places' in the city

From the legal provisions it is already possible to clearly derive concrete socio-spatial areas of application that go beyond the abstract defense against 'danger' or 'criminal offenses'. In particular, the control of migration, prostitution and (for example in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) gambling results from the explicit use as defining criteria for 'dangerous places'. However, the range of uses is more diverse.Precisely because of its openness to use as a legal construction that is against whatever threatening When threats and crime are used, the actual fields of application as indicators of their social function must be examined more closely. If one takes a closer look at the social functions of the use of this legal construction, it becomes clear that, in addition to general police prevention, a large number of the actual areas of application also involve a clearly specified and spatially limited design of urban spaces with regard to their uses and user groups. To dimension the field, we will use the intended modes of action of the urban politics of 'dangerous places' On the basis of known places of use, assign this legal construction three categories, which explain typical cases of application and at the same time the variety of applications: Firstly, actual or alleged crime at local concentration points is to be contained by means of spatial measures. Second, it serves as a means of upgrading central and particularly prestigious urban zones or so-called 'visiting cards'. Thirdly, it is a means of enforcing anti-liberal notions of order and of containing political dissidence or subcultural and other deviations from 'normality'. This rough order serves to distinguish between diverging scenarios, which in practice often overlap and can certainly be supplemented by other types.

2.1 "Against crime, drugs, dirt in German cities" [13]

The trafficking in illicit drugs is a major factor in identifying 'dangerous places' in both cities. In Berlin, for example, the Volkspark Hasenheide (on the border between Neukölln and Kreuzberg) or the U8 subway line (which runs mainly between Wedding and Neukölln) are categorized as crime-prone locations and thus branded at the same time.

The Hasenheide plays a prominent role. This is certainly also due to the fact that ambivalent impressions of the risk situation and a strong coexistence of different types of use and user groups of the park come together - and that the border area between Kreuzberg and Neukölln repeatedly came into focus in the course of popular considerations of the "problem district" Neukölln. The designation of the Hasenheide as a 'dangerous place' is about drug trafficking. For many years, the responsible police department was relatively relaxed about the threat situation (Schemmel 2010; Buntrock 2008). On the one hand, visitors to the park (meaning: the 'normal' visitors) are not particularly at risk, since any violent conflicts are 'internal' disputes among dealers, on the other hand, due to the park location, the situation and the people concerned are relative good to control. For some time, the police did not seem to have a great interest in driving the drug sellers out of the park and into the vicinity, where they would then be more difficult to control. [14] In addition, reference is made to the fact that hashish is mainly traded in the Hasenheide, which is obviously classified as less dangerous. But it is precisely in this setting that the instrument of the suspicious raid made possible by the construct of the 'crime-laden place' is of particular importance. It is enough to go to the park or to rearrange the park and check people without suspicious activity being observed.

Real dangers for park visitors have been reported, for example, in connection with violent and armed confrontations between suspected dealer groups (cf. Buntrock 2008). On the other hand, it is also reported that the dealers in the park take on an orderly function because they have no interest in conflicts in the park, which in turn would result in a greater police presence. [15] Various press reports [16] then do not focus on the dangers that directly threatened park visitors, but on the loss of state authority and control if drug trafficking could take place for years under the eyes of the public and the police. The unagitated attitude of the police was criticized by the CDU during opposition times. The then parliamentary group leader and today's Senator for the Interior, Frank Henkel, called for the introduction of video surveillance in the park in the summer of 2008 and wrapped this formulation in a very basic regulatory concept: "Dealers should never feel unobserved, then they would not deal," said Henkel, according to the BZ . [17]

But the police view of a problem does not necessarily have to correspond to the interests of local politics. According to Mayor Heinz Buschkowsky, the Neukölln district office would like to displace the dealers, e.g. by other park users (Buschkowsky specifically mentions the construction of a Hindu temple in the park). [18] In contrast to the Berlin Volkspark Weinbergsweg, for example, the Hasenheide not only focused on a major redesign of the park (cutting back of the plants to remove hiding spots), but also on strengthening other, more “legitimate” user groups: “The playgrounds should to be renewed soon. The district office hopes that it will be more peaceful in the Hasenheide when many families with children come and dispute the area with the dealers. ”(Deckwerth 2006). In summer 2012 there was an expansion of the zones with special authorizations, when the area around the Hasenheide was declared a 'crime-prone place'. [19] The district office's appeal to the police seems to be more effective than past resident protests, which were expressed, for example, by posting slogans such as "Knigge instead of coke" and "Kebab instead of dealers" on the paved paths in the park (Buntrock 2008). The expansion means in particular that people who do not even enter the park will now be checked and searched. The police regularly conduct raids in Volkspark Hasenheide and Görlitzer Park, which is also a focus of drug trafficking. [20]

The situation in Leipzig offers a certain contrast to this. In the case of Leipzig Central Station, the Federal Republic of Germany's pilot project for video surveillance of public places, drug trafficking and consumption, along with a high number of vehicle break-ins, played a central role in the definition of the problem. In Leipzig, however, the focus was increasingly on repression, with the aim of displacing the scene, making it unstable and smashing meeting places (Stadt Leipzig 1999, 5), which in some cases actually led to unwanted migration to surrounding residential areas and constant relocation the scene had to be recorded across different parts of the city (ibid.) [21], which posed great challenges to both police control and social work access to their field, as the addiction report states: “The negative side effect of these actions was that already installed offers of outreach work were significantly blocked. ”(Stadt Leipzig 1999, 5). This quote from the addiction report of the City of Leipzig (1999) is informative, also in the diction of “cleansing”, for the narrow spatial and thus discriminatory design practice for the displacement of users of the station area for particular interests: “In the region Neustadt / Neuschönefeld and Volkmarsdorf established a brisk trade in illegal addictive substances, which, according to the employees, has increased with the 'cleaning' of the station forecourt. "

Another Berliner Platz classified as a 'crime-laden place' is the Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg. Drug offenses are also given here as a reason. The area has also been under discussion lately because there have been protests by tenants who have lived there for many years (often former guest workers of Turkish origin) against the effects of upgrading and displacement, which have now also reached such a place, which was previously named primarily as a symbol of poverty and crime . [22] As with the Leipzig station forecourt - see below - not only the appearance or the discussion of crime is the starting point of the police measures described, but they also take place in the context of large valuation projects. More on this in the following.

2.2 Urban business cards: upgrading

The fact that by no means only crime and actual or assumed dangers to body and property, but also deviant behavior or so-called incivilities (i.e. behavior that is often perceived as unpleasant or disturbing, but not illegalized) became the subject of politics in dangerous places has a different motivational background although under this aspect the same places were often declared dangerous as under the crime aspect. In some places, this policy seems to not only follow the end in itself of preserving state sovereignty, but also specific interests in the target group-oriented design of central residential or inner-city locations, be it due to the intended upgrading of objects and city quarters for real estate exploitation interests, be it as business cards that Visitors to the city (tourists as well as possible investors) should give a good impression. Because, according to the perspective of the “entrepreneurial city” (cf. Harvey 1989): “Security, order and cleanliness in a city act as location factors for the development of a city. [...] You have a decisive influence on whether and how the economy and the quality of life of the citizens develop. The attractiveness of the city as a living space, business location and tourist magnet is shaped by it ”(City of Leipzig, Ordnungsamt et al. 2003, 6).

In view of such a model, in addition to the BTM crime discussed above as an example (and the car break-in problem, which is not pursued here for reasons of space), the rebuilding of Leipzig Central Station, which was carried out in parallel in the 1990s, must also be taken into account as the central context of the regulatory practices there. The start of increased control measures, including video surveillance, went hand in hand with the conversion of Leipzig Central Station from a gray stone colossus with primarily infrastructural importance for mobility (which was also the scene of many urban problems such as poverty and drug addiction) to a 'shopping mall with a siding'. The investor ECE now operates a multi-storey car park there with several hundred parking spaces and, above all, two floors with around 140 shops. In this context, investors, the city, the railways and the police took various measures to control or drive out unattractive groups of people. In the overall arrangement, the possibilities of the police law, the city police ordinance and the purely private law regulations inside the train station (where the house rules prohibit "improper lingering", begging and political expression of opinion, and the 3-S headquarters with a large number of video cameras forbid a large part of the building) and offer a multitude of possibilities to displace spatially delimited groups (punks, drug users, homeless, young people, migrants) who disrupt the consumer climate. [23]

In Berlin, Alexanderplatz, as a central hub for public transport, is the focus of police control. It is true that press reports refer primarily to criminal offenses: "Robbery [], shell games, pocket and bicycle theft and business break-ins []". [24] "Aggressive begging" is also named as a problem for Alexanderplatz. But for the rhetorical construction of 'dangerous places' in Berlin, too, the combination of criminal offenses with inconvenience, violations of the notions of order and 'inappropriate' behavior is used. One of the best-known 'dangerous places' in Berlin is Breitscheidplatz (where, for example, the Europacenter and Memorial Church can be found), here the following is quoted from the risk assessment: "The police regularly register robbery and pickpocketing there. In addition, prostitutes, prostitutes and people from the drinking and homeless scene can be found there and also on the nearby Hardenbergplatz. "[25]

Alexanderplatz and Breitscheidplatz are Berlin hubs and represent the centers of East and West Berlin, respectively. The people staying here meet commuters and tourists, and retail is the main use. In this context, the easier police control of these places also aims to maintain this usage regulation and to minimize the deterrent potential of criminal offenses, but also of simple annoyances, be it by expelling the undesired users to other areas. Similar efforts in Leipzig even lead to laudatory and at the same time unmasking formulations in a Dumont travel guide, which praises the successful redesign of the station area as follows: “Pure capitalism rages on inside the cross-platform hall until 10 pm, seven days a week. ... From above you watch the business goings-on, security personnel keep intruding tramps in check, and you can buy here until 10 p.m. ”(Arzt / Ullrich 2004b).

2.3 Creating order against political & subcultural dissidence

The conflicts associated with the postulated 'danger' are therefore also disputes about legitimate behavior in public space, and by no means only when investor interests are affected, but also when different ideas about (un) desirable and (un) useful Behavior. In this context, inner-city meeting places for young people, subcultures or marginalized people in particular were subject to stricter control regimes. In addition to legal measures, structural measures are also repeatedly used to create incentives for changing the use of space. Pars pro toto stands for the replacement of benches with seat shells that are not suitable for lying down. There are examples of this from all regions of the Federal Republic. The problem diagnoses are often similar. The danger described is a mixture of actual crime and the existence of young people and / or maginalized or excluded groups and behaviors that are perceived as improper, occurring, for example, as 'loitering' young people and alcohol-related disputes such as at Magdeburg's Hasselbachplatz [26] or simply the mere existence that is perceived as disturbing of punks in Regensburg. As a decisive success of the local inner-city video surveillance it was reported that the "punk nuisance" could be reduced to zero (Belina 2010, 124; cf. also Stolle and Hefendehl 2002, 266 ff.).

The problem diagnosis of the 'problem case' Marktfrisch-Kaufhalle at Leipzig's "Connewitzer Kreuz" is similar: "In front of the Marktfrisch-Kaufhalle at Connewitzer Kreuz, young people hang around day after day with dangerous-looking dogs and drink their cans of beer until late in the evening" ( Leipziger Volkszeitung, 09/10/1999). The forecourt of the local supermarket has long been a meeting place for various, often - but not exclusively - socially marginalized people, including punks and drinkers. The conservative media opinion leader in Leipzig has often interpreted this as a serious problem. Various measures have been taken by the city and businesspeople, including patrols by private security guards. In this question, too, the police video surveillance installed at the Connewitzer Kreuz was relied on. However, the cameras and accompanying measures [27] were aimed at other unpopular groups. If you look at the coverage of the Leipziger Volkszeitung, the camera also targets political conflicts as well as marginalized groups. The Connewitz district is traditionally a center of left-wing and alternative subculture in Leipzig. It was the scene of many years of clashes over occupied houses, occasionally the target of attacks by neo-Nazis and repeatedly the location of subcultural events as well as the starting point for demonstrations and, in this context, also confrontations between demonstrators and police. There, the regulatory impulse is also combined with political conflicts. The person in charge at the time, Rolf Müller, made the dual aim explicit. This place is about crime and Political disputes: "In the south part of the city, and there in particular at Connewitzer Kreuz, in the past - in addition to a large number of criminal offenses - left-wing people repeatedly clashed with the police." (Müller 2003, 4).Belina / Wehrheim (Belina and Wehrheim 2011) report similar problem definitions from places in Hamburg where left-wing demonstrations take place.

The police classification, which differs from other Leipzig control areas, also proves their own statistics. While the first three police camera locations could be established with well over 1000 offenses recorded annually, the number of offenses at the Connewitzer Kreuz is a comparatively low 328. In particular, however, the type of offenses differs. Car thefts and break-ins, robbery, pickpockets and drug offenses play a comparatively minor role. Instead, almost two thirds of the number of offenses is due to property damage, and there are also three breaches of the peace. Neither type of crime is recorded for the other locations (see Table 1).

Location / reference year

Motor vehicle offenses

Bag theft

Predatory extortion



Property damage

Breach of peace


R.-Wagner-Str./Bahnhof (1996)









Rossplatz (1997)









M. Luther Ring (1997)









Connewitz Cross (2002)









Table 1: PKS offenses before the introduction of the respective video surveillance measure (* violations of the Narcotics Act), source: Müller (2003: 8).

The police assessment of the situation laments the recurring "clashes of left-wing people with the police" (Müller 2003, 4) as well as an impaired feeling of security among the population in this "fearful dream" (Müller 2003, 4). The prerequisites for the categorization of these 'dangerous places' and thus also the permanent monitoring of all passers-by are thus essentially reduced to about twice a year confrontations between the police and parts of the autonomous subculture and punk scene, whose conflict-dynamic backgrounds up to the time of the conflict the hard line of the city of Leipzig against squatting at the beginning of the nineties is enough. [28]

That the legal construction of the 'dangerous place' is also suitable for the direct Policing suitable for protest, was also conspicuous when the Leipzig left-wing alternative cultural project Conne Island, located near the Connewitz Cross, was temporarily declared a "disreputable place" in 2002. With exactly this wording, which, according to the police, had been used in this case by the riot police who had arrived in Hesse (who, however, had taken it from the Hessian commentary on identity determination), the operator association of Conne Island was allowed to set up a control zone - albeit only after consulting a lawyer Prevention of criminal offenses according to § 27 VersG confirmed. The occasion was a right-wing radical demonstration in Leipzig and the accompanying counter-activities. The classification as a “notorious place” gave the police the opportunity to carry out extensive identifications, which on the one hand affected political activists, on the other hand also concert-goers and even random passers-by. [29] A related reason is behind the extensive video surveillance of demonstrations, which has become common practice in recent years and which has thus become a temporarily dangerous place (Ullrich and Wollinger 2011; Ullrich 2012).

3 strategies of legitimation: The illusion of knowledge and the never-ending danger

Despite a certain independence of the police, their actions, as the examples discussed so far show, cannot be separated from the discursive environment. Obviously, it is not just the logics of everyday police work, the police and police officer culture (Behr 2000; 2006), or the criteria of the security politicians that guide action. [30] Police work is also subject to public pressure to legitimize it and it has to respond to the needs of urban society. This pressure is increased when the media prominently places the alleged dangers and makes them a tabloid topic. At the same time, the police crime statistics (PKS) are a self-legitimation tool. Regarding the last two aspects mentioned below.

3.1 Discourses of danger in the media

The tabloid press in particular repeatedly picks up on the 'dangerous places', occasionally simplifying the complex social contexts into horror scenarios, often mixed with racist and classicist undertones - and thus reacts on the one hand to police classifications and, on the other hand, intensifies the associated discourses of danger. [31]

For example, the Berlin daily BZ (April 29, 2006, pp. 6-9) claimed in a four-page and richly illustrated listing of the “18 most dangerous places in Berlin” that the U-Bahn lines 8 and 9 were “now firmly in the grip of the drug scene ". Dramatic descriptions arouse resentments that sometimes update mere stereotypes of threats from the context of the presentation without even being able to refer to actual dangers, as in the following description under the heading “Illegals”: ​​“The traffic light shows green. People frantically push themselves across the street. Women with headscarves and full shopping bags scurry past. An African just manages to make it before the black Mercedes pulls away. Angry honking. A group of girls disappears into the subway entrance ”. Other marginalized population groups are also threatened ("Jebensstrasse: Homeless people with bottles", or: "At the Zoo underground station there are a dozen dubious figures with beer and schnapps bottles in their hands. Two men keep disappearing in the direction of Jebensstrasse").

The Leipziger Volkszeitung (LVZ) positions itself similarly in its reporting on the Connewitzer Kreuz. Their dichotomization into legitimate and illegitimate interest groups in the public debate about the introduction of video surveillance is revealing. A typical case for the reporting of the newspaper is an article in the LVZ of January 28, 2001, which reports: “The city is therefore sticking to the camera surveillance at the sensitive Connewitz Cross against the resistance of some autonomous groups. 'We are very well received by business people and local residents'. This is instructive in several ways. The surveillance opponents are reduced to "autonomous"; the involvement of the New forum and the PDS (today THE LEFT.) is only mentioned en passant in the reporting of this newspaper. [32] At the same time, the camera opponents are excluded from the residents in the chosen formulation.

The demand for tough crackdowns against the 'dangers' of such places is again and again a topic of election campaigns. It is hardly surprising when conservatives present themselves as law-and-order politicians and take up existing uncertainties in order to use them for their election campaign, such as the Leipzig mayor candidate Uwe Albrecht, who under the heading “Leipzig - a decent one Stadt ”wrote in its election manifesto:“ Leipzig must therefore counteract tendencies of vandalism and anarchism more purposefully than before. [...] A comprehensive control pressure [...] must be exercised ... Connewitz must not become a synonym for chaos, we owe that to the citizens living there. [...] The city must do everything possible to ensure that autonomous and other criminals who are prepared to use violence do not find any communal areas of refuge [...]. "

But the left political camp is not free from this kind of populist mood either. The then spokesman for the Leipziger AG Junge Comrades in the PDS, Sören Pellmann, wrote in the context of the dispute over the Connewitz police camera: “But aren't we also in favor of order and security? Or should we have sympathy with stone throwers who want nothing more than to destroy someone else's property ”[33] - and thus use the same dichotomous patterns of good and bad, which completely ignore the social conflict context.

3.2 Police crime statistics - figures for self-legitimation

The police's most important self-legitimation instrument for their special spatial powers is the police crime statistics, or PKS for short (Busch 2004). The extensive possibilities for checking people in 'dangerous places' generate - as they might do in every place - a certain number of crimes, search successes, etc., which are reflected in these statistics. The 'success' of such measures thus provides a justification for creating the control options. A particular problem lies in the fact that, in case of doubt, the police are significantly involved in both phases: The naming of the special locations is based on the reasons given by the police, and the police actions at these locations with now lowered control barriers create a renewed justification. Belina / Wehrheim speak here of a 'Self Fulfilling Prophecy': "The 'dangerousness' is confirmed by the control, and the exposure figures increase precisely due to the definition of danger areas and the subsequent control actions." (Belina and Wehrheim 2011, 225) Among other things, the BTM offenses, which are the central motivation for the establishment of danger zones (by far the most important reason in Berlin), are also control offenses: They are only visible through the police controls. The spatial approach thus discriminates in that only those crimes that can be made visible through personal controls come into focus (as opposed to tax evasion, for example). Staying in such places increases the likelihood of criminalization. The discrimination against marginalized population groups is also intensified by the guiding police stereotypes and classification schemes of suspects (Willems et al. 1988, 22; Waddington et al. 1989, 102; Norris and Armstrong 1999; Winter 1998, 7).

But even if there were an objectively higher crime rate in these places, this still cannot be equated with actually increased risk. Drug trafficking and even more violations of legal residence regulations are so-called victimless crime; Left-wing political demonstrations are neither a crime nor do they have “victims” as such (Belina and Wehrheim 2011, 219). However, the terms “dangerous place” or “dangerous place” suggest exactly that - actual dangers that do not threaten in other places or to a much lesser extent - also with the possible effect of consolidating stigmatizing spatial “images and, as a result, expectations with regard to people and actions in these socially produced spaces ”(Belina and Wehrheim 2011, 219).

4 A little explored field

The 'dangerous places' analyzed here exemplarily and exploratively show the diversity of the phenomenon and that the question of a comprehensible danger for users of these places is less clear than the name suggests. But the examples and the literature study also show that very important questions are still far from being adequately researched. Although there is a very extensive literature on urban upgrading and displacement processes, police video surveillance and criminal policy strategies against poverty, incivilities, illegal drugs and other forms of crime, except for those mentioned above, none that refer to this central construction dealt with here and related Focus on implementation practices.

There is no systematic regional and diachronic comparison of the respective legal situations in the federal states and municipalities or the specific implementation practices on site. This also includes different cultures of surveillance, crime control and prevention and social / civic engagement. Reliable, i.e. not based on police statistics, quantitative empirical surveys at `` dangerous places '' on the development of the number of offenses depending on the respective legal situation and practice (especially control density), compared to places not classified in this way, on possible displacement effects, etc., are also missing .

Statements about the actual police action are often little more than speculation or are subject to a tendency to colportage of isolated, often dramatized experience reports. The information from police tours or information from individual police officers reproduced in the press or found in Internet forums are not meaningful enough and, given the strong institutional closure of the research field, adequate information is not easy to obtain. The 'dangerous place' construct initially only creates a space that allows police officers to exercise special powers. A sociological investigation of the forms of knowledge, decisions and options for action of police officers could provide valuable insights here (Reichertz 2003). And this by no means only applies to the police.

Basically, in the discussions about 'dangerous places' and the presumed practices there, conflicts of use are negotiated: Actual use, desired use, planned use of different groups collide and are taken up in the construction of such places. This concerns user groups such as trade, buyers, families / children, homeless people, tourists, prostitutes, drug dealers and users, people with unsecured residence status or 'criminals'. The 'normal population', which is often used as a yardstick and guideline for urban planning and police purposes, is also less homogeneous than assumed. There are different ideas about what makes places uncomfortable, which rules (should) apply, which symbols are assigned to places. Such conflicts around `` dangerous places '', `` fearful places '', spatial displacement and exclusivity should be examined qualitatively accordingly, without the corresponding surveys being directly embedded in local political measures of the neighborhood management or similar and thus being obliged to be immediately realpolitical usability. Ultimately, there is a lack of more precise information about the forms of knowledge and practice of all those involved in these fields of action.

For this it is advisable to use ethnographic methods more intensively in this research field and also to break away from the focus on discourses and changes in the legal situation. Unfortunately the research - this generally applies to a large part of the critical research in the area of ​​'internal security' / surveillance / control and also has systematic reasons - consists largely of the analysis of spaces of possibility and the extrapolation of scenarios that are due to - and appear problematic from a human rights perspective. Reducing the discussion about dangerous places to (city) use and the construction of spaces [34] could, however, be more fruitful for a social discussion of questions of coexistence in cities than a concentration on legal-formal questions and a criticism of the security discourses and the police. Discriminatory police measures do not rely on the construction of dangerous places - they may make it easier, but that is only one factor.

5 conclusion

The space-focused control regime in so-called 'dangerous places', in which the orientation towards the offender and the perpetrator is partly replaced by a spatial orientation (Belina 2005) and where the suspected offense is spatially limited and replaced by a general suspicion, fit seamlessly into general trends in legal developments and in particular the criminal policy in the “security society” (Stolle and Singelnstein 2008) and the “culture of control” (Garland 2008). Following a managerial model of dealing with social problems (social problems are accepted as inevitable, only have to be managed appropriately and spatially and according to case-related interests), spatially-oriented special law is applied in places for which there is a separate control interest. The discursive and police-practical establishment of criminal and criminogenic spaces serves as legitimation for special powers and at the same time the self-legitimization of their driving actors. This practice represents a gateway for the discrimination of the users of such places and even more marginalized population groups (Belina 2005). Their position vis-à-vis the regulatory authorities is significantly weakened in these places, which makes it easier for authoritarian regulatory policies, repressive handling of social problems and the enforcement of restrictive migration controls.

A look at practice shows that real danger In contrast to other (implicitly 'not [so] dangerous') places, this is partly conceptualized and only suggested or only constructed by the police measures, which is based on the high importance of control offenses and victimless crime, the self-legitimization spiral and particular interests such places becomes clear.

Instead it takes place de facto a regulatory allocation of places for certain actions and groups and thus a strengthening of the selectivity of state access to individuals and groups. The highly problematic practice of self-legitimation further increases the importance of police Prevention, which implies the removal of alternatives, for example acceptance or social and health policy prevention of the phenomena problematized in such places.

The spiral of stigmatization and criminalization of places that emanates from this practice is therefore a great challenge, not least for social work, because it represents a transparent and deconstructable attack on its legitimizing basis. Spatial prevention is in direct contrast to supportive help. The discursive labeling of such places as associated with danger and crime also suggests certain modes of reaction, namely police / repressive ones. Alternative strategies, including social work strategies, are subject to increased pressure to justify themselves.

The differences that can be heard in the examples from Berlin and Leipzig also show the leeway that local politicians and the police have at their disposal. Controlling the focus of crime more closely does not have to aim exclusively at repression and marginalization. When titled as 'dangerous place', dangers for people who want to use these places are implied - although it is often not about a high probability of victimization or justified fear, but about the interests of order and law enforcement (insofar the Berlin term is "crime-laden place") more realistic than alternative terms). Urban 'fearful spaces' and spatial conflicts of use are certainly not sustainable through spatial concentration and appropriate methods such as raids and controls of people depending on their appearance, integrating measures and the open naming and expression of divergent ideas about the use of public space are missing here . The volume of 'residents protests', the activities of which can represent quite different proportions of the affected population, together with scandalous reporting drowns out the existence of alternative interpretations of the question of whether a specific place is livable, tidy, usable, frightening or neglected .

But the policy of 'dangerous places' is also relevant on an even more fundamental level and is also a typical phenomenon of neoliberal or neosocial (Lessenich 2008) social policy. In its preventive character, it is also a general, activating appeal to self-control (Ullrich 2012) and increased individual consideration of the consequences of actions at the - as far as known - affected locations, and - in the event that this appeal fails - the prerequisite for repressive solution strategies. On the other hand, where the locations are not known or the expulsion is kept vague, there are fundamental rights problems. A fundamental understanding of the police-practical and discursive processes of creating “dangerous places” is therefore an indispensable prerequisite for the critical classification and thus also the self-assertion of social help systems.


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[1] Thanks for information, ideas and sources are due to the Leipzig camera initiative against surveillance, Isabel Erdem and Jan Wehrheim.

[2] However, this does not apply equally to all federal states. The Berlin General Safety and Order Act (ASOG, §24a, Paragraph 1) does not generally allow video surveillance by the police in public spaces, but only for endangered objects and if there are actual indications of the possibility of serious crimes being committed.

[3] In some federal states, for example, this also applies to a strip along the federal borders. However, due to our focus on urban processes, this application case should not be pursued further here. There is certainly a connection, since migration control is one of the application scenarios even in inner-city applications.

[4] This is defined in the police laws. Section 17 of the ASOG focuses in particular on offenses with the threat of at least one year imprisonment and on organized crime (similar to Section 35 of the SächsPolG).

[5] The police were of the opinion that video surveillance in general, as long as there is no active identification of individuals, does not constitute an encroachment on fundamental rights, but rather surreptitious sovereign action. But even the encroachment on fundamental rights is permitted (§ 38 SächsPolG) if it is a question of 'dangerous places', i.e. places where “a crime situation as described in § 19 (1) 3 SächsPolG exists” (Müller 1997, 78) - what for which were then monitored from the police point of view. This strategy of double legal protection was also strengthened through the involvement of the Saxon data protection officer.

[6] Related legal constructions such as the 'symbolic places', which represent an interesting parallel development that also serve to establish spatially delimited control regimes, but are more likely to be used in the regulation of assemblies (rallies, demonstrations), will not be discussed here are subject to the scope of the respective assembly laws (Lehmann 2009; 2012).

[7] BTM = narcotics.

[8] "Response of the Senate to the minor question from the DIE LINKE parliamentary group of January 10, 2012," Identifying personal details and searches in so-called dangerous locations ""; [2012-09-20].

[9] In Berlin, the lists of the places in question were secret for a long time, but were regularly in the press. In this way, individual circumstances can be reconstructed from various reports. Occasionally, the classifications of individual places were confirmed if they had already become known. In 2012, the Berlin police announced that they no longer wanted to disclose the 'crime-laden places' in order to avoid stigmatization. The crime atlas published in summer 2012 (Der Polizeipäsident in Berlin 2012a; 2012b) contains extensive statistics on the rough spatial distribution of offenses (see the explanations on the PKS below). Individual 'crime-prone locations' are named, including the Hasenheide Volkspark discussed here as an example. In general, the informative value of the crime atlas is very limited.

[10] [2012-09-20].

[11] It should be pointed out, however, that in everyday police action, apart from the “dangerous places” associated with special powers, individual assessments and perceptions are the (necessary) basis for police interventions. At this point, however, it is more about the possibility of systematically influencing the prerequisites for intervention, e.g. by recording offenses (which then documents the necessary "experiences").

[12] A more recent and very instructive example outside of the places we examined was provided by the 'Open Letter' from a group “Bahnhofsviertel Frankfurt” ( related-der-drug-problematics-im-bahnhofsviertel /) in the summer of 2012. The signatories first refer to their many years of living around the main train station in Frankfurt am Main, in order to use this position to identify the changes they have rejected in the district on the basis of personal experiences portray and call for strong political changes. The displeasure was primarily directed against drug users, who would bring insecurity; A departure from the liberal Frankfurt drug policy was called for. The aggressive campaign against drug users was attacked in a counter-petition entitled “Not in our name” ( There have also been protests like this at 'dangerous places' in Berlin such as the Weinbergsweg and Hasenheide parks, each of which influenced the actions of the authorities.

[13] So was the headline of the Spiegel (28/1997): "Against crime, drugs and dirt in German cities - clean up like in New York?".

[14] Cf. Will the police also give up the Hasenheide ?, BZ, December 15, 2006, html [2012-10-03].

[15] In addition, impressions of alleged dealers are also presented, which are directly linked to questions of cleanliness and order: "Blacks are friendly and peaceful, say park visitors. Sometimes they would even help with the garbage collection. Nobody has to be afraid of them. ”(Deckwerth 2006).

[16] See Asmus Heß: Where the dealer goes to work, Die Welt, June 10, 2008, geht.html [2012-10-03], Sidney Gennies: Police want to crack down on the Hasenheide, Der Tagesspiegel, March 29, 2012, haerter-durchgreifen / 6449194.html [2012-10-03], "We won't get the Hasenheide clean ...", BZ, January 23, 2008, -hasenheide-nicht-clean-article309021.html [2012-10-03].

[17] BZ: CDU politician Frank Henkel calls for video surveillance against dealers in the Hasenheide, sucht-video-ueberendung-gegen- dealer-in-der-hasenheide-article306717.html (October 03, 2012).

[18] Asmus Heß: Where the dealer goes to work, Die Welt, 10.06.2008, geht.html [2012- 10-03]

[19] Sidney Gennies: Police want to crack down on the Hasenheide, Der Tagesspiegel, March 29, 2012, .html [2012-10-03]. This was preceded by reports that drug trafficking and accompanying phenomena such as drug consumption had spread beyond the park and led to pollution in the area, see Our house is the headquarters of the Hasenheide dealers, BZ, November 26, 2011, http: // www. [2012-10-03].

[20] Cf. Marcus Böttcher: “Touri” raid against Dealer in Görli and the Hasenheide, Berliner Kurier, July 30, 2012,,16757258.html [2012-10- 03], Peter Oldenburger / Steffen Pletl: Berlin police are looking for drugs at train stations and in parks, July 30, 2012, [2012-10-03], Berliner Zeitung: Police go against drug dealers before - raid in Görlitzer Park, August 23, 2012,,16952168.html [2012-10-03].

[21] The city's drug reports, which appear annually and are available on the Internet, allow the relocation to be traced across different parts of the city.

[22] The underground station there served the Berlin transport company as a pilot project for expanding and upgrading video surveillance at train stations (swiveling cameras, zoom function). Originally, the use of biometric software was also planned (in order to visually recognize behavior), but due to negative tests by the federal police, this was not done for the time being. See Peter Neumann: BVG verprobt zoom cameras, Berliner Zeitung, February 26, 2011,,10810590,10773850.html [2012-10-03].

[23] For more details, doctor / Ullrich (2004a).

[24] Michael Behrendt: 19 hot spots keep the police on their toes, Die Welt, 13.06.2005, [ 2012-10-03].

[25] Michael Behrendt: 19 hotspots keep the police on their toes, Die Welt, 13.06.2005, [ 2012-10-03].

[26] Marcus Werning: "Brennpunkt Hasselbachplatz", Leipziger Volkszeitung, 2./3. February 2008, p. 3 .: "Groups of young people meet in the evening on Hasselbachplatz, bring crates of beer with them, hang around".

[27] The police pursued a “spatial preventive package of measures” (Rolf Müller 2003: 4) consisting of increased police presence, public relations, coordination with the city administration and video surveillance.

[28] For the background to this specific dynamic of interaction between “demonstrators and police officers” (Willems et al. 1988) in Leipzig, see the study by Krause (2001).

[29] Information from the CI manager, statement from PD Leipzig [archive of the authors].

In this context, changes of government are exciting, such as the change in position of the Berlin CDU parliamentary group leader and police critic Henkel to Senator Henkel, which has led to a defusing of the law-and-order rhetoric and the allegations against the police. Cf. on the different positions before and after the election Werner van Bebber / Jörn Hasselmann: There is certainly a dispute, Der Tagesspiegel, October 14, 2011, -es-streit / 4761090.html [2012-10-05].

[31] References to the high importance of control crimes and victimless crime in “dangerous places” are searched in vain in such reports.

[32] Stöckemann (2008) examines the media image of the Leipzig camera discussion in detail. Typical of the dominant LVZ is a language that is rich in metaphors and uses excessive threats and exaggerations. Supporters of surveillance would primarily have their say. The sections in their articles for which journalists are responsible were often difficult to distinguish from the cited voices from the police and administration. Stöckemann sees a statistic and business-related announcement journalism at work here.

[33] Sören Pellmann “Are the demonstrations against the total surveillance state expression of lack of concept? ”, PDS-Mitteilungsblatt, 20.3.2000.

[34] See for example Läpple (1991), Sturm (2000), Löw (2001).

Suggested citation

Peter Ullrich, Marco Tullney: The construction of 'dangerous places'. . In: (4) issue 2/2012. URL: construction-gefaehrlicher-orte.php, date of access: 23.05.2021