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Youth crime debate divides Germany's ruling parties ahead of state polls

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Youth crime debate divides Germany's ruling parties ahead of state polls


Juvenile crime is making headlines ahead of German state elections. Events at a Munich metro station have left the nation in shock. Surveillance cameras captured the brutal beating of a pensioner over the Christmas holidays. Two youths have been detained, one Greek, the other Turkish.

In the wake of the attack, Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced support for boot camps and other new penalties. Her conservatives unveiled plans, including measures that would make it easier to expel foreign offenders.

The German leader was backing senior Christian Democrat colleague Roland Koch. He had already caused a stir by suggesting youths from abroad were fuelling a violent crime wave. He told reporters that if the state made itself look ridiculous because it can’t draw the line, it is no wonder that criminals are getting out of control.

But members of the centre-left Social Democrats have condemned Koch for feeding anti-foreigner sentiment in a bid to secure re-election as premier in the western state of Hesse.

The SPD candidate there, Andrea Ypsilanti, said: “His back is against the wall. He did not have an election theme. He looked for one and thinks he has found one with this.”

The youth crime debate is creating friction between the two parties who share power nationally in an uneasy “grand coalition.” The Social Democrats say stricter laws are not necessary.

But Merkel’s party has seized on statistics, showing that 43 percent of violent crimes in Germany are committed by people under 21 years of age and nearly half of those by foreign youths. Other data however shows crimes by non-Germans have declined for nine straight years.

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