Austrian police will distribute pocket alarms to women on New Year’s Eve in order to prevent a repeat of the mass sexual assaults that rocked Europe last year. The gadgets will emit a shrill sound to ward off potential offenders and draw police.
“It’s a national campaign aimed primarily at women on New Year’s Eve,” Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said on Tuesday, as cited by AFP.
Around 6,000 pocket alarms will be distributed during the holidays in the Old Town of Vienna, the inner city, where major celebrations will be held, the spokesman said. It is not yet clear if other cities will receive such ‘anti-rape’ alarms on New Year’s Eve.
The most striking case of sexual assault by refugees occurred in Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve last year. A German Police report from November revealed the latest figures on the crimes committed on New Year’s Eve: 881 sexual offences involving over 1,231 women. The victims were almost all young women.
In the German city of Cologne, where the majority of attacks took place, authorities are planning to deploy helicopters, better CCTV cameras, and mounted police during the upcoming New Year’s celebrations. About 1,500 officers will be present in the streets of Cologne during the holidays. In addition to federal police officers and city security officials, trained specialists will be available to help women and girls in case of harassment, intimidation, assault, or rape.
Apart from Germany, sex attacks took place in Sweden, Austria, Finland, and Switzerland last year.
In September, five migrants from Afghanistan were arrested during a festival called Welser Volksfest in the town of Wels, Austria, after eight women reported sexual assaults to police.
In June and July, two Swedish music festivals in the towns of Karlstad and Norrloping were marred by waves of sexual assaults with dozens of woman being molested during both events. The Bravalla Festival in Norrkoping witnessed almost 30 assaults, including five rapes, in early July, while the Putte i Parken (Party in the Park) music festival in Karlstad saw 32 similar attacks a week earlier. Police later said that two of the suspected perpetrators were young male migrants.
Earlier on Tuesday, Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka announced that the country will increase security in public places during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Sobotka said that Austria is well prepared for any terrorist attack, though it is impossible to provide “100 percent security.”