Drugs: “Hitler Speed” crossing borders
18 April 2012
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Traffickers working the Czech border with Germany no longer handle beer and spirits, but methamphetamines. Different laws in the two countries complicate the job of the police. Excerpts.
Asked for a gramme, he offers no less than five. Five grammes of “crystal” for two hundred euros. The young Asian with a baseball cap, maybe sixteen years old, is standing in front of his booth full of jeans and T-shirts in the West Bohemian town of Cheb (known as Eger to Germans). “You are German, yes? Come with me, there’s plenty more.”
On a huge parking area right next to a shopping centre is one of the so-called “Vietnamese markets” selling clothing, shoes and cigarettes that are popping up along the borders of the Czech Republic. But on this afternoon the row of booths, about a hundred metres long, is deserted, and the vendors are cooling their heels. The interest in pirated brands has apparently fallen off steeply. The demand for a substance that is still illegal in Germany, on the other hand, is gladly satisfied.
Buying one of the hardest narcotics you can find is child’s play in Eger. “Pico” is the magic word – and a packet of crystals changes hands. The German border is only a few minutes away, and there has been no barrier there since late 2007.
“Crystal Speed”, “Meth”, “Ice”, “Glass”
But there are still controls, though they may not be easy to spot. In the mist of Upper Franconia, a white-and-green car waits at the edge of the road. Matthias Dürr, head of the customs control unit, sits at the wheel. As a compact black car comes up the road from the Czech Republic, Dürr steps on the gas and gets on its tail. At a convenient place he overtakes the car and signals for it to follow him.
The two young men inside had no drugs on them. A few hours earlier, though, the customs officials had discovered four grammes of crystals on another young man. Such finds are routine these days.
The consumption of crystals has increased rapidly in Germany in recent years, and it’s suspected that a large part of the drug is coming from the Czech Republic. “Crystal Speed”, “Meth”, “Ice”, “Glass”, “Pico”, “Pervitin” – sometimes called “Hitler speed”, as it was used by German soldiers to stay alert in battle – the amphetamine-class drug is known around the world under many names. It’s a lot stronger than normal ‘speed’ and is highly addictive. The current wave of crystals is linked primarily with the liberalisation of the Czech drug laws in 2010. Since then, possession of up to two grammes of crystals has been merely a misdemeanour. In Bavaria and Saxony increasing amounts of the drug are falling into the hands of investigators.
Inspections by German customs or police within thirty kilometres of the border may be carried out without any grounds for suspicion. If there are indeed grounds for suspicion, a “drug-swipe” test (in which a test-strip is passed across the forehead, picking up drug-markers in the perspiration) or a body search can also be arranged, and that is then carried out by a doctor.
Crystal problem is growing
Because the crystal problem is growing, particularly in Upper Franconia and the Upper Palatinate, Federal Interior Minister Friedrich Mitte concluded and signed an agreement in February with Czech interior minister Kubice in Hof to coordinate their border guards, police and customs in the fight against crime in the border area. Despite joint patrols of German and Czech police, the responsibilities currently end at the frontiers of each country. And the laws are so different on the two sides of the border that success will likely be a long time coming.
In addition, police and customs are noting increasingly serious offences. People are travelling across the border not just to buy for themselves, but to deal. The gramme of crystals bought for thirty to forty euros may bring in a hundred euros in Nuremberg, and even more further into Germany.
In the border area, the cars keep rushing on through; the “Green Line” (the nature reserves of the former Iron Curtain) is also evidently being used more frequently by the smugglers.