Munich Christmas markets close after spate of drug overdoses

Written by By Staff Writer Munich has cancelled Christmas markets to crack down on the spread of hard drugs, but a Bavarian charity has warned the closures will drive dealers to the streets and…

Munich Christmas markets close after spate of drug overdoses

Written by By Staff Writer

Munich has cancelled Christmas markets to crack down on the spread of hard drugs, but a Bavarian charity has warned the closures will drive dealers to the streets and could in turn fuel a national heroin problem.

The Christmas markets at the famed Acropolis hill are a fixture in German cities each year — big draws on a street where colorful bakers, balti hawkers and church choirs light up the air.

But as drug crackdowns around Europe have waned in recent years, hard drugs like cocaine, ketamine and ecstasy have become more widespread in Bavaria and the German capital, and have reached new heights of availability.

According to an investigation by drugs charity Netzwerk der Glasige Klug (Klugation der Glas), drug use in Munich has risen from 6% in 2014 to 12% in 2017, and the “intensification of street drugs makes it difficult to implement such extreme measures.”

The charity’s director, Guenter Harms, said an exodus from cities like Munich would encourage dealers to move to the outskirts of town and continue selling on the streets.

“As in Hamburg, new dealers are moved inside as the city’s market stops,” Harms told CNN. “There are traffickers who resell the drugs and a whole new market of addicts waiting for them.”

Security tightened after death of teen

The decision to close the Christmas markets follows a string of heroin deaths and overdoses over the past year in the southwestern German city.

But the closure won’t be an easy one to implement, Harms says.

“We have already noticed a rise in heroin addiction around Munich over the past two years,” he told CNN. “That means that it will become a health problem, not just a criminal problem.”

The warning from the charity is also likely to be linked to the ongoing controversy around the recent death of a 14-year-old boy in Munich.

Earlier this year, the teen was found collapsed with a bullet wound in the school playground of Urske-Bergach high school. Police ruled out an accidental death, and described the bullet as “minor.”

Some 45 German cities already offer street markets for the Christmas season.

Other major cities, including Vienna, Budapest and Salzburg, are considering their own alternatives to the traditional Christmas markets.

Some will be a test of the approach.

Parliament Speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters Friday that he expected the Vienna underground to produce the usual large numbers of vendors during the popular Christmas market, while Budapest’s economic department is developing an option that could include building a temporary downtown area.

Leave a Comment