A popular park in Berlin has taken the unusual step of introducing dedicated spaces for local drug dealers to sell their products.
Gorlitzer Park – a trendy destination in the German capital with its own sports fields, a petting zoo and a lake – has long had a problem with criminal gangs and authorities have struggled to cope.
Now, in a bid to help visitors feel less intimidated by their presence, park manager Cengiz Demirci has introduced special zones specifically for drug dealers to do business.
By creating the dedicated areas, outlined in pink spray paint, Mr Demirci hopes the rest of the park will become free from the trade and ease the concerns of families.
He told local radio station RBB: “This method has purely practical reasoning behind it. It’s not that we’re legalising the selling of drugs. When we create systems, we can solve the problem.”
Mr Demirci, who has been the manager for two-and-a-half years, also encouraged authorities to give the dealers work permits, as many are asylum seekers who enter the trade as they wait for claims to be processed.
He said most of them “would stop what they are doing immediately” if they were allowed to take up a job.
The introduction of the pink zones has been criticised by police and politicians alike, but Mr Demirci has said he had to do something to try and help visitors feel more at ease when in the park.
It was unclear what drugs were being sold in the zones, although German media reports said gangs were offering marijuana to people.
Gorlitzer has developed a reputation for its abundance of drug dealers, with numerous reviews on TripAdvisor citing them as the reason for giving it a poor rating.
One review from February reads: “Too many drug dealers. There are much better places and parks in Berlin. You will not be safe there, period.”
Another comment, posted by a woman from Finland, said she and her boyfriend were “immediately harassed by sketchy looking loitering people” upon entering the park.
She added: “We took the next exit to get out of the park as quickly as possible. I would not recommend going there alone, in the dark or in a female group.”
And a two-star review by someone from Kingston-upon-Thames said the park was home to “a phenomenal array of loitering drug dealers” who “will offer you marijuana”.
Previous pledges by Berlin politicians to adopt a “no tolerance” attitude towards drug dealing in Gorlitzer Park have failed, but the controversial policy adopted by the manager may hasten attempts to come up with a different solution to the issue.
Benjamin Jendro, of the police trade union GdP, told Bild : “What is needed to ensure that the park is drug and crime free, is a constant police presence and judicial resolve.”
Timur Husein, a local member of the Christian Democratic Union party, told the newspaper: “Our state co-operates with drug dealers. This is capitulation to the criminals.”