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Drugs Gangs in Germany: Power struggle of the Underworld

For the past several years, Germany has witnessed a surge in drug related organized crimes and offenses. The drugs landscape in the country is complicated by the presence of several non-German or foreign mafias, organized crimes groups and gangs that frequently clash with one another. These include, 

  1. The Arab mafia: The Arab mafia comprises of several Arab crime families such as Al- Zein, Omeirat, Abou Chaker etc. 
  2. Italian mafia: The Italian mafia is divided into three prominent syndicates or organizations i.e. Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra and Camorra. Ndrangheta is the most active and prominent amongst the three and control the bulk of the cocaine trade in the country. Several small scale Sicilian mafia groups are also operating in the country but exercise relatively less influence and power.
  3. Balkan organized crime group: The Balkan organized crime groups are involved in illegal narcotics trade and trafficking. They are regarded as a group that does not shy away from violence. The gangsters belonging to this group have fought several wars in Balkan countries such as the Yugoslav wars and therefore possess violent tendencies.
  4. Albanian mafia: The urban centers of Germany are dominated by the Albanian mafia gangs’ drug trade. 
  5. Turkish mafia: Grey Wolves and Dev Sol are the most prominent amongst the sixty one Turkish mafia gangs operating in the country. 
  6. Russian mafia: From amongst the several Russian mafia gangs, the Tambov gang is the most active particularly in Dusseldorf and other cities. The Aussiedler families are another prominent Russian speaking mafia group that comprises of ethnic Germans whose place of birth is the former Soviet Union. These clan based groups are highly prone to violence and are involved in several organized criminal activities including drug trafficking. 
  7. Middle Eastern criminal clan groups: Since the mass immigration of Middle Eastern families to Germany, the country has witnessed the emergence of several clan based Middle Eastern criminal drug trafficking groups. These groups dominate the trade of heroine in Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg and other German cities. 
  8. Afghan clan based gangs: The city of Hamburg hosts a large Afghan population and that is where these gangs are most active especially in heroine and hashish trafficking. 

German Report on Drug Crime 

A German Report on Drug Crime was released in July of 2021 and the main points of the report were highlighted in a conference held by President of the Federal Criminal Police Office, Holger Munch and Federal government’s Drug Commissioner, Daniela Ludwig. The Report asserted that drugs mafias and organized criminal groups are becoming increasingly violent. The drug market of the country has also witnessed the emergence of new psychoactive substances. In 2021, narcotics crimes are on the rise as 365,753 cases were registered in the last year, representing a 1.7 percent increase from 2019. Majority of the organized crime in the country is devoted to drug trafficking. The proof that violence has become increasingly apparent in drug related criminal activities lies in the fact that most of the suspects arrested for drug related crimes were armed. Trafficking of cocaine and crystal methamphetamine has risen by 9.6 percent and 7.2 percent respectively while the greatest trafficked narcotics remains cannabis as 31,961 cases were reported in the previous year. 

A positive development is that a 4.9 percent decrease has been witnessed in heroin trafficking. The anti-drug task force has been active, seizing 11 tons and 16 tons of cocaine in 2019 and 2021 respectively. However, these organized criminal groups continue to amass immense profits from international cocaine trade across Europe. By reinvesting these profits in the narcotics industry, they are enhancing and legitimizing their hold on power. Moreover, criminal groups continue to utilize Germany as a transit country for procuring chemicals utilized in the production of drugs. 

Violent Propensity of drugs gangs 

The growing propensity of violence being instigated by such drug related organized criminal groups can be witnessed in the recent killing of Peter de Vries, a famous journalist of Netherlands. According to news reports, the Dutch journalist was caught between the cross fire of a violent cocaine war between two drug gangs. German Federal Drug Commissioner, Ludwig claimed that it is increasingly important to hold such international organized criminal groups accountable under the auspices of law. It is crucial to make them realize that they do not possess absolute agency and freedom to instigate violence as they so desire, especially when civilian lives are at stake. However, taking note of the previous behavior of drug gangs, such violent episodes are not new. For instance, in 2020, a turf war took place between two rival drug gangs i.e. between Chechen and Arab drug gangs in the heart of Germany, the city of Berlin. Such turf wars represent the growing power struggle amongst various organized criminal groups and their violent tendencies. Apparently, Chechen drug gang attacked an Arab drug gang. From amongst the thirty people involved in the brawls, three were brutally injured. Sadly, the violence did not end here. Seeking vengeance, a few hours after the attack, Arab drug gang members attacked the Chechen drug members outside Gesunndbrannen- Center in Wedding. The next day, another violent attack was instigated by the Arab gang against the Chechen gang.   

New Psychoactive Substances 

An alarming aspect of the German Report on Drug Crime (2021) was the increase in the trafficking of new psychoactive substances. The report contended that in comparison to the previous year, the trafficking of psychoactive substances had increased by 16.2 percent. The issue with NPS drugs is that they are not illegal. Therefore they are referred to as legal highs. However, they are able to induce similar effects as illegal drugs such as cannabis, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine etc. NPS are made up of synthetic cannabinoids and substances imitate the hallucinogens, tranquilizers and stimulants. Large quantities of chemicals were intercepted from China bound to the Netherlands for the production of NPS. Several facilities are currently functioning in Dutch countries for the production of NPS. This increasing production is growing the trafficking of NPS drugs, thus making the issue of NPS drug trafficking a transnational one, affecting the whole of Europe. Apart from Europe, the entire world has witnessed the rapid emergence of NPS in the international drug market. Considering the lack of awareness regarding NPS, it creates critical challenges and risks for drug policy making and development of appropriate public health responses. Generally, the side effects of using NPS may include aggression, seizures, agitation, acute psychosis and potential development of dependence. 

Increasing Availability of Traditional drugs and German drug policy

Although the German Report on Drug Crime signaled the growing availability and trafficking of new psychoactive substances, traditional drugs continue to dominate the drug market in Germany and wider Europe. As already mentioned before, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and cannabis drugs trafficking has grown from last year. Some of the problem lies with the leniency that the drug policy of Germany awards to offenders. In comparison to other EU countries, German drug policy is unreasonably moderate. However, it is stricter than the drug policy of Netherlands. The Federal Constitutional Court of the country ruled in 1994 that possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use is not illegal and addiction to drugs is not a crime. The German law on narcotics was amended in 2000 to allow for supervised injection rooms for drug addicts. In 2009, the health insurance policy of the country was changed and heroin-assisted treatment was made a mandatory part of it. As a consequence of such laws, more than 1/4th of the German adult population has used illicit drugs at some point in their life. The Drug Affinity Report of 2011 highlighted how the use of illicit drugs is also prevalent, though at a much smaller scale, amongst the youth and adolescents aged 12-17. 

The Future of Drug related crimes 

Much of the organized crime ongoing in the country is directed towards the trafficking of drugs. On top of this, there are several mafias, gangs and criminal groups possessing violent tendencies operating the drug market. Drug turf wars, cocaine wars and other conflicts amongst these groups have compromised the security of country and its neighbors. The recent successful drug busts showcases the active role being played by the police in combating narcotics crime. However for such efforts to prove sustainable it is crucial for Germany to adopt a much stricter drug policy. Collaborative efforts amongst states are the only suitable way to deal with the transnational nature of the threat poses by illicit drug trafficking and violent organized criminal groups. Moreover, it is crucial to rehabilitate existing abusers of drugs. For this purpose, Germany has provided the facilities of substance use treatment. The German National Strategy on Drug and Addiction Policy stresses upon treating and counseling drug addicts along with early intervention and preventative efforts. Both short term and long term treatments are available for such patients such as counseling services, therapy, low-threshold contacts, specialized impatient facilities, opioid substitution treatment (OST), social integration measures and rehabilitation treatment etc. 

Written By: Olivium's Staff


References:

https://www.drugpolicyfacts.org/region/germany

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