German authorities seek to smoke out car torchers

 

Berlin

Berlin and Hamburg are being hit by a worsening epidemic of random "car-torching" attacks in which more than 600 privately owned vehicles have been set ablaze this year in apparently motiveless attacks, which are baffling police, politicians and the public.

In Berlin, which faces a city government election next month, the problem has prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party to launch a poster campaign with disturbing images of burnt-out cars and the slogan "Berlin must not turn into London".

On Monday, a dozen cars parked in the streets of the normally quiet and respectable west Berlin boroughs of Charlottenburg and Rudow were set ablaze and burnt out in late-night arson attacks. Three more cars followed on Tuesday.

Fears about buildings catching fire have caused Ms Merkel to warn the mystery arsonists that they were "gambling cold-bloodedly with people's lives". Yet in nearly all the cases, the perpetrators have managed to escape undetected.

In most attacks, cars are torched during the small hours with the kind of firelighters normally used for garden barbecues. They are left to burn slowly under a car's tyre, leaving the culprit plenty of time to get away.

The German capital has seen 364 arson attacks on cars this year alone, while the port city of Hamburg is not far behind. In both cities an estimated 2,000 cars have been set alight and destroyed over the past seven years, yet police now admit that the problem has suddenly dramatically worsened.

Previous car-torching incidents have been confined to run-down east Berlin. In most cases police have attributed the attacks to radical left-wing and anarchist groups violently opposed to such inner-city areas being developed by "big business".

However, police and politicians admit that they are largely baffled by the latest trend. "We assume that around half of the arsonists are politically motivated, but we think there are more lone perpetrators who are not organised by groups," Ehrhart Körting, Berlin's Interior minister, said.

In their latest attempt to catch the mystery arsonists, police have deployed helicopters with heat-seeking cameras. In Berlin police have also drafted in some 350 extra officers from outside the city to help. Yet so far their efforts have proven fruitless.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower