New Year’s Eve celebrations are planned at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin tonight and authorities have set up a safe zone for women who are feeling sexually harassed. However, the head of a major police officer’s union says the plan will send a “disastrous message,” adding that women have the right to feel safe everywhere. A report by ABC News provides much of the information for this article.

Sexual harassment on New Year’s Eve 2015

Two years ago in Cologne, Germany, 1,200 complaints were filed by women following the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

According to prosecutors in the city, around 500 of these cases involved sexual offenses. On that night, groups of what appeared to be North African men were hanging around the cathedral and the main railway station and sexually assaulted women during the celebrations. The city of Hamburg also received reports of sexual assaults on women, leading to 245 investigations.

‘Safe zone’ to be made available to harassed women

Resulting from those incidences, Berlin police are setting up the safety area for women in the “party mile” surrounding the Brandenburg Gate, where Red Cross staff will look after any women who feel they are being sexually harassed.

The area will reportedly be tented and there will be psychologists available to help the women.

As reported by ABC News, Rainer Wendt is the head of the DPoIG police officers’ trade union in Germany and he believes the safe zone will send a “disastrous message.” According to Wendt, this message says there are unsafe and safe zones in the city.

He told the German media on Saturday that this would, in effect, mark the “end of equality” and would also end self-determination and freedom of movement in the city. Wendt believes that whoever came up with this idea does not understand the political dimension, adding that women have the right to feel safe everywhere.

Terror prevention also in place for New Year’s Eve

During the New Year’s Eve celebrations, Germany spends over €130 million ($155 million) on a firework display at midnight. Now, according to Police Chief Uwe Jacob in Cologne, there will, in addition, be 1,400 police officers deployed at the railway station plaza and the cathedral. In this area, fireworks will be banned and additional surveillance cameras have been installed. Improved lighting will also be set up. Hamburg has plans for additional mobile police stations close to Reeperbahn, the red-light district in the city, also with additional cameras and better lighting.

As reported by Deutsche Welle, after the terrorist attack last year in Berlin, where a terrorist plowed a truck into people enjoying a Christmas market, killing 12, additional concrete bollards are being set up near the Brandenburg Gate for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Police are planning to check or search any delivery vehicles seen in the area and pedestrians are banned from carrying large suitcases or bags.