Hamburg car burnings hit close to home

A wave of car torchings that started in Berlin a couple of years ago and spilled over to Hamburg hit close to home over the weekend.  This burned out lump of charred Mercedes was sitting just around the corner from our place when I came across it this past Sunday afternoon.

There have been well over 300 car burnings in Hamburg so far this year.  It’s even worse in Berlin, where more than 500 have gone up in flames.  Police are powerless to do anything about it because it’s completely random who’s doing it and for what reason.  Putting an extra 200 Hamburg police on night patrols didn’t work out, so now they’ve scaled them back to 20, with just as much effect. 

Some say there’s a political motivation behind the attacks, that it’s the marginalised of society roving around getting their kicks watching fat-cat Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches reduced to scrap.   But there’s no pattern to the burnings or their timing, and there are never any notes left behind.  A couple of yahoos here and there have been charged and thrown in jail, but it just keeps on happening.  

We always thought we were living a decent life in a safe and modern country.   But having once again been the victims of theft and adding up everything that’s going wrong right in our midst, sometimes we get the feeling we’re living in some besieged Middle Ages village, its citizens left to fend for themselves and wondering when the next attack will hit.

11 Responses to “Hamburg car burnings hit close to home”

  1. October 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    For ten days during my recent trip, I made it a point to ignore “news reports”. I’d begun to get so enraged every time I saw another occupy-wall-street sort I needed a vacation from all that, too. Your car burnings fall into the same category: things that make me so angry they’re probably not good for my blood pressure.

    I suppose it’s good and necessary to know such things are happening – for you, especially, since it’s right around the corner – but I just hate it. You did get a rueful smile out of me with the Middle Ages village comment. When Hillary Clinton came up with her “it takes a village to raise a child” remark, I thought to myself that it might not be such a good idea to romanticize village life. After all – the phrase “village idiot” came from somewhere.

  2. 2 hmunro
    October 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I am appalled by your report, Ian. Aside from the horrible wastefulness of the property damage, there’s also a psychological cost to seeing 300 cars go up in flames, for no apparent reason. No one should have to live in a society where people are “left to fend for themselves and wonder when the next attack will hit.” I hope the police are working on some sting operations and that they’ll catch the thugs who are doing this, one by one. But thank you for another of your excellent (and always-interesting) posts.

    • October 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm

      Thanks, h. I keep wondering if our car is next. Not that it would be a direct target – it’s old, so not what they’re after – but what’s happened before is that a fire from one car has spread to others parked adjacently. It’s a crap-shoot, the odds are against it happening, but still….

  3. 4 G
    October 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    The German tells me that they have 500 police here and it’s not working. Apparently the means is a simple device, attached to a tire, that ignites so much later tat the criminal is far away. And apparently the device (which you can google) is so common (we have one, for example), that if one is caught with the item there is a ready excuse. Time to make an example of the few that they have caught, perhaps, and make the fear of punishment a little stronger than a slap on the wrist.
    This type of anarchy is an affront to everyone.

  4. 5 Anonymous
    October 19, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    The odds may indeed be slim, but it’s natural to worry about your property. If you think about it, these car burnings are like an act of (comparatively limited and nonideological) terrorism. They rob people of their sense of “normalcy” and fill them with fear that they many be next. As if life weren’t hard enough already …

    By the way: Are you writing from Hamburg tonight? My goodness, you’re up late! 🙂

  5. October 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Do you have a car? And if so do you have to park it on the street or do you have a nifty hide away place to park it? Hope for the latter. Don’t want to read a post about you getting your car burned to bits.

  6. October 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I can be so slow sometimes – 300 cars burned so far this year is approximately one per day. Even in a city approaching the size of Houston, that’s significant. And the random nature of the acts amplifies the effect.

    The car burnings are so similar to activity of the drug cartels along our southern border. Random, unpredictable, destructive – and operating with apparent impunity. I must not be reading the right news sources – hadn’t heard of this before.

    You’re right about the risk of fire spreading. A few years ago a boat in the marina outside my door caught fire. By the time it was over, eight boats were involved, and a lot of residents were glad the wind was blowing the flames away from the buildings.

  7. October 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Are they targeting mainly the more expensive cars?

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