A planned police station at Kottbusser Tor – in the center of Berlin’s alternative district of Kreuzberg – is intended to provide more security. But there is also resistance. What do the people from the neighborhood say?
It’s cold and windy in Berlin-Kreuzberg, an early evening in January. Hasan has sunk his hands in his jacket pockets as he walks under the future police station on Adalbertstraße in the direction of Kottbusser Tor. “I think a police station is better than the betting shop here,” he says, “we’ve had enough of those.” Hasan, in his early 30s, wears a dark winter jacket and a well-groomed five-day beard. “There’s a little boy over there,” he says, nodding towards a youth at the subway station. “They come into contact with drugs early on here.” More police could certainly help.
Not everyone sees it that way at the Kottbusser Tor, a square with skyscrapers and old buildings and at the same time the central transfer station in Kreuzberg. The subways from Mitte, Neukölln, Friedrichshain and Schöneberg meet here. But the “Kotti”, as police officers and senators are now saying, has also been a symbol for decades. For the old Kreuzberg of squatters, demonstrations and long nights in the pub. For failed city politics of the past and the renewal of the capital with expensive rents, tourists and parties. And for crime and drug trafficking.
In mid-February, after long debates, a small police station opens at Kottbusser Tor, the “Kotti” station, as the media call the project. A prominent spot was chosen as the location: the 1st floor of a high-rise directly above Adalbertstrasse with its snack bars and pubs, right next to the popular Café Kotti.
The police station divides neighborhood, business community and visitors. Some hope for more safety and fewer addicts, garbage and dirt in the hallways. Residents say women and young people in particular are afraid to go downstairs in the evening.
Another part is against a lot of police on site. “Everyone wants more security, but not on the way,” says a social worker in her early 60s about the plans. “And certainly not from above.”
She talked a lot with neighbors, she says, pointing to the high-rise that rises monumentally over the street. “A few years ago, a police car was regularly parked here over the weekend. And that was a great solution that everyone got along with. They were always available.” She fears that the police officers in the new station hardly ever leave their desks to go out on the street. “They take ads there if you slouch up.”
Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) says that despite an intensive search and the participation of local residents, no other place for the guard was found. Spranger wants to increase the visible presence of the police in the city. The 3.5 million euro guard with a few police officers, modern technology and windows made of safety glass should be a symbol of this.
In addition to the drug trade at the “Kotti”, there are also many thefts and minor attacks, drunks hit each other, one or the other tourist is robbed, sexual assaults occur.
It is the usual everyday crime at large transfer stations, social hotspots and in areas with many pubs. All three come together at the Kottbusser Tor, the police classify the area as a “crime-prone place”. Here police officers are allowed to check people without special reasons.
There is already a room for drug addicts, social workers and, more recently, toilets. However, initiatives call for more social measures against the problems. In fact, the drug scene stretches from Friedrichshain and Neukölln via Kreuzberg to Mitte – the Kottbusser Tor is a hub. The fact that more drug rooms, toilets and care could attract more junkies and crime is something that politicians in Kreuzberg only secretly say.
The radical left-wing scene, which sees Kreuzberg as its territory, has also been mobilizing against the police station for a long time, although most members no longer live there. Also in Café Kotti next to the future guard, a young waitress finds the plans “shit”. That takes people’s “safe space,” she said – and probably doesn’t mean the families with children in the neighborhood. Her solution: Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable at the Kottbusser Tor “doesn’t have to come here”.
Ercan Yasaroglu, long, graying hair and long-time owner of Café Kotti, is a sought-after interview partner in the debate. He always had tables and chairs in the gallery in front of his café on the first floor. In the summer you could watch the hustle and bustle on the street from there. Suddenly the building authorities are now demanding that the balcony be kept clear as an escape route, he complains. He fears for his guests and continued existence. “If the old police show up here with their potential for violence,” he says calmly, “that’s death for Café Kotti.”
Yasaroglu warns that a new police station would also further increase real estate prices. “After one guard comes Adidas, then Nike, and then comes what’s the name of this cafe…”. He meant an internationally known café chain, which he sees as a symbol of gentrification. “Indigenous people like me then lose their homes,” he says. “I’m really afraid that the Kottbusser Tor will no longer be the Kottbusser Tor.”
A few meters further down on the ground floor, Zarean (32) is standing at the checkout in the doner kebab shop. He thinks the new police station is “very, very good”. “It works well for everyone who isn’t here for drugs,” he says. “Anyone who lives here also has children.”
The rooms of the “Kotti” guard will soon be presented to the public. There will also be high-ranking politicians such as the Senator for the Interior. Shortly thereafter, on February 12, there will be another election in Berlin.
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