Murder, drugs, robberies, extortion of protection money: criminal clans have pushed rocker gangs and the mafia out of the headlines. But the term is difficult to grasp and is under criticism.
By Torben Lehning for https://westwallboats.com
From the robbery of a 100 kilo gold coin to shootings in the street and violence against state officials: criminal clans are making the headlines more and more frequently. But that’s not all, with series like the German production "4 Blocks" the clans are also reflected in pop culture. But which crimes can be described as clan crime? How does clan crime differ from other forms of organized crime and what significance does it have here??
How do investigators define clan crime?
In the federal management report "Organized Crime 2018", the Federal Criminal Police Office differentiates for the first time between clan crime and other forms of organized crime. Clan crime is referred to here as "criminal offenses by members of ethnically isolated subcultures" and interpreted as a form of organized crime. According to the BKA, these characteristics go hand in hand with the fact that the perpetrators have their own set of values and fundamentally reject the German legal system.
Clan crime according to the 2018 BKA management report
|A strong focus on the mostly patriarchal-hierarchical family structure|
|A lack of willingness to integrate with aspects of spatial concentration|
|Provoking escalations even on trivial occasions or minor legal violations|
|The exploitation of group-inherent mobilization and threat potential|
Clan crime is not a separate phenomenon, explains the chairman of the Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter (BDK), Sebastian Fiedler. "It’s just one of many facets of organized crime – just like the mafia."
What are clans?
In ethnology, the term "clan" defines a family group that is derived from the same ancestors. The term has its origin in Scotland in the 18th century. Thomas Zitelmann, private lecturer and ethnologist at the Free University of Berlin, explains: "It is important that the relationship is mostly fictitious – that is, constructed. Clan members refer to forefathers who need not have existed." In relation to large Arab families, the term has established itself without any scientific justification, says Zitelmann.
Where do the clans come from?
According to the BDK’s 2019 position paper, the clans that are suspicious of criminal activity in Germany are primarily part of the Mhallamiye Kurds ethnic group. They come from parts of Turkey, Syria and Lebanon and came to Western Europe, mainly to Scandinavia and Germany, during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). In the Lebanese civil war they could not have built on a political lobby and formed close communities. These communities have increased in their countries of refuge.
According to the BDK position paper, many Mhallamiye Kurds had an unclear residence status, were officially stateless and were not allowed to work in Germany. In fact, for years in the 1980s, only very few of the refugees affected received work permits, according to the Lebanese Islamic scholar Ralph Ghadban. Today things are different: three months after submitting their application for asylum, refugees can apply for a work permit.
The BDK criticizes that the behavior of criminal members of large families is a prime example of "unsuccessful integration". BDK chairman Fiedler warns that refugee Iraqis and Syrians could also build criminal structures if the state made the same mistakes as in the 1980s and 1990s and did not allow and demand too little integration.
What crimes do the clans commit??
Spectacular attacks such as the robbery of a 100 kilogram gold coin from the Berlin Bode Museum in 2017 or the reports in the tabloid media about the rapper Bushido’s connections to the Abou Chaker clan attract a lot of attention. However, the numbers are less spectacular than the headlines suggest.
According to the BKA situation report, there were 535 preliminary investigations against groups attributed to organized crime in Germany in 2018. This reduced the number of preliminary investigations by 6.5 percent compared to the previous year. 45 of these proceedings are attributed to clan crime. More than half of the proceedings revolved around drug trafficking and smuggling. The criminal clans caused a loss of 17 million euros and generated earnings of 28 million euros. For the Berlin criminologist Klaus von Lampe, the fact that the proceedings against organized crime are declining is also due to the fact that it has been continuously since 2001 Investigators were withdrawn from the OK in the area of counterterrorism.
How is the term used?
When is a family a family and when is it a clan? The terms Arab extended families, Arab clans and criminal clans are often used synonymously in public discourse, which leads to a mixture of the terms and their meanings. The "Bild" reported in 2018 about "200,000 criminal clan members in Germany". The information was wrong because not all family members of a clan that also has criminal members become delinquent themselves.
Mehdi Chahrour is a member of a large Arab family that also has criminal members and says: "Social issues should not be dealt with in specific families". He was born in Lebanon and grew up in Neukolln, where he founded the association "Muslims of all origins of German identity" (M.A.H.D.I e.V.). People with foreign surnames, and surnames of large Arab families in particular, have a much more difficult time getting apartments, jobs and training positions, says Chahrour. Criminal clan members must be prosecuted with all the severity of the rule of law, said Chahrour, but "there is no point in demonizing certain families and entire districts for this."
The use of the term is controversial in politics. The Berlin politician Niklas Schrader (Die Linke) describes the use of the term as "problematic". In addition, the police exaggerate with their constant raids. "These missions hit a lot of people and many who were not guilty of anything," said Schrader at the end of October in a current hour of the Berlin House of Representatives. A small inquiry from him and his party colleague Anne Helm had shown that within six months of 22 major raids on Neukollner Sonnenallee there was no specific suspicion in the context of clan crime. The Bundestag member Susanne Mittag (SPD) also warns against placing bearers of certain family names under general suspicion.
As described above, criminal clans are defined by investigators as "homogeneous and isolated subcultures". If you look at the BKA statistics, you can see that in only two of the 27 proceedings against clans of Arab and Turkish origin, the groups of offenders were homogeneous. In other words – only two of the procedures can actually be summarized under the term clan crime.
The Federal Criminal Police Office justifies its analysis in the 2018 situation report: suspects of other nationalities would only perform "henchman services", but the decision-makers all come from one family.
How can clan crime be combated effectively??
BKA and BDK agree: Separate recording of criminal offenses by criminal clans is necessary in order to develop adequate counter-strategies. Furthermore, prevention and repression are equally important, said BDK Chairman Fiedler. He sees the greatest problem in the fight against criminal clans in the shortage of police personnel. "Regular raids are good and important, but we also need the necessary personnel to conduct further investigations."
Strong repression such as arrests and asset recovery are the prerequisites for the equally necessary prevention. "Only when we arrest criminal family members can we create the conditions for social work to be effective with the children." One thing is particularly important to BDK chairman Fiedler. Clan crime should not remain a fashion phenomenon of public interest, as it was the case with the rocker gangs. "Today there are more rock bands than there used to be, but nobody cares anymore."
Which forms of organized crime are recorded and classified, however, are always subject to a certain one political economy, says lawyer Susanne Knickmeier from the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg for Foreign and International Criminal Law. After all, there are other relevant groups such as Reich citizens. "But they are not meant – and generally do not appear anywhere in the OK area, although they undoubtedly commit crimes of considerable quality."