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‘You could have prevented it’: Austrian politician to police chiefs on Innsbruck sex attacks
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‘You could have prevented it’: Austrian politician to police chiefs on Innsbruck sex attacks

Police chiefs could have thwarted sexual attacks on women in Innsbruck on the New Year’s Eve night, Markus Abwerzger, an Austrian politician from the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO), said. Police insists they were prepared in “the best way possible.”

Abwerzger, who is the FPO chief in the state of Tirol where Innsbruck is located, voiced his unease about the police action in a statement published on the party’s website.

“Police chiefs could have prevented sexual assaults on women, as reported by the media, since the suspected perpetrators were acting like on New Year's Eve 2015/2016 in Cologne,” the politician stated.

“You cannot just go over to the daily agenda and pretend one has done everything possible anyway.” 

The critique did not sit well with police though, who claimed they were in fact adequately prepared for the celebrations.

“We were prepared the best way possible and have done everything necessary according to our estimations,” Innsbruck Police Chief Martin Kirchler told Tiroler Tageszeiting on Wednesday. He though added that police “regretted” the escalation of the situation during the celebrations and called for “zero tolerance” to any sexual harassment.

According to Tiroler Tageszeiting, citing police, 90 officers were deployed to guard the celebrations this year, compared to around 60 in 2016.

“We are currently evaluating the operation... looking into what can be done in a better way,” Kirchler told TT on Thursday.

At least 18 women were sexually assaulted by “a larger group of people” during the New Year’s celebration in central Innsbruck, chief investigator, Ernst Kranebitter confirmed to the newspaper.

“The attackers are between 20 and 41 years old,” Kranebitter said, adding that descriptions of the alleged perpetrators differ greatly.

According information obtained by police, the suspected assailants might be of “Asian” origin, while earlier media reports citing police said that people of “north African” appearance cannot be excluded.

Police obtained several photos and are showing them at “foreigners’ accommodations,” the chief investigator said. Police have also asked for any available video or photo evidence of the incident to be sent to the authorities.

Special police unit to search Austrian refugee camps for Innsbruck sexual attackers

A special Austrian police unit has been established to help track the young men suspected of sexual assaults on women in Innsbruck's main square during the New Year celebrations.

The unit has been tasked with searching all shelters holding asylum seekers in Innsbruck and nearby areas in the Tyrol state in western Austria to locate the offenders, Euronews reported on Friday citing Innsbruck police commander, Martin Kirchler.

The officers will also collect and analyze video footage of the incidents, the official said, adding that while the police already have some amateur video of the attacks, they have appealed to the public who were at the square on New Year's eve to provide more video material to help the investigation.

Six perpetrators are believed to have attacked at least 18 women in Innsbruck's main square, despite the presence of some 90 security personnel.

The assailants, who surrounded and forcefully kissed and groped their victims, were reportedly to be in their late teens and have been described as being of Asian or North-African descent.

Meanwhile, most people in the streets of Innsbruck said they didn't feel a threat. Others noted that a threatening atmosphere, especially for women, was widespread across Europe and not only in Austria.

"I don't live in Innsbruck, I don't live in Austria, but in general in Europe I don't feel as safe as a woman going around, especially in the night, in the dark hours," a woman told RT, adding that she thought "the police should have been more effective and controlling" at the times of mass gatherings and celebrations.

On Thursday, it was reported that Austrian Defense Minister, Hans Peter Doskozil had proposed tougher measures aimed at migrants and refugees in Europe. The minister called for a pan-European cap on migration, external refuge application centers in "third countries" and "protective zones" to hold and deport all those arriving illegal to the continent, according to Germany's Bild newspaper.


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