On New Year’s Eve in the German city of Cologne, hundreds of women were harassed, groped, or robbed as revelers rang in 2016. Gangs of men, many drunk, formed rings around young women near the city’s cathedral. In the days and weeks after the holiday, the number of complaints filed to police rose nearly tenfold. Police, outnumbered and unable to control the crowds, described the assaults as a “completely new dimension of crime.”
Now, just over a month later, there’s a small white booth with orange lettering outside Cologne’s cathedral. “Women’s Security Point,” it reads.
The booth is meant to serve as a spot for women and girls who feel threatened during Carnival, a five-day annual street party in the Rhineland region that kicked off Thursday. The festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of people, is one of pure merrymaking, with parades, colorful costumes, masked balls, lots of singing—and plenty of booze. City and police officials have vowed “to do everything in their power” to avoid a repeat of New Year’s Eve in Cologne, the epicenter of the celebrations.
The number of complaints stemming from the wave of crime on New Year’s Eve stands at 945, according to the BBC. About 60 percent are allegations of sexual assault. The wave of crime sparked debate over police response and sexual-assault prevention, as well as Germany’s open-door refugee policy; most of the perpetrators were described as men of Arab or North African origin, and the two who have been arrested are from Morocco and Tunisia.