More than 500 criminal cases were committed on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, with 40 percent involving sexual assault.

A significant increase from the 379 cases on record Saturday, BBC News reports that “the crime spree led to criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door immigration policy.” Most suspects, police note, are “asylum-seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa.”

German authorities now seek to determine whether these crimes are linked to others committed elsewhere, and if they were in some way coordinated. From BBC News:

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“Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild newspaper on Sunday that he was convinced the attacks were pre-arranged.

‘If such a horde gathers in order to commit crimes, that appears in some form to be planned,’ he said. ‘Nobody can tell me that this was not co-ordinated or prepared.’

Authorities and witnesses say the attackers were among about 1,000 people, mostly men, who congregated at Cologne’s central train station before breaking off into small groups that molested and robbed women.

Police investigating the attacks say they are concentrating their inquiries mainly on suspects of North African origin.”

Thus far, the police have been met with harsh critique for the way they have handled these investigations. The attacks seemed to yield little immediate response from authorities, and the chief of police for North Rhine-Westphalia, Wolfgang Albers, has been suspended for allegedly concealing information, including the suspects’ origins.

On New Year’s Eve, Germany saw attacks of a similar kind in both Hamburg and Stuttgart.


Contact the author at rachel.vorona.cote@jezebel.com.

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Image via AP.