Centralized Failure

People have been using the attacks in Cologne to argue in favor of stronger border controls because, you know, the attacks must have been caused by immigrants and not the usual drunken debauchery that accompanies New Year’s Eve. Such arguments miss the point (well they miss several points but I’ll only address the biggest one here), which is the danger of centralization. It has been revealed that the police in Cologne were being overwhelmed with reports:

An internal police report reveals officers “could not cope” with the volume of attacks in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, German media say.

Women were “forced to run the gauntlet” through gangs of drunken and aggressive men outside the station, it said.

Police say the number of reported crimes from the incident has risen to 121, about three-quarters of which involve sexual assault.


“The task forces could not cope with all the events, assaults, and crimes – there were just too many happening at the same time,” the senior officer concluded.

Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers has rejected claims teams were understaffed, insisting “we were well prepared”.

But he described what happened as “a completely new dimension of crime”.

I’ve discussed the weaknesses inherent in centralized security before. In this case it appears the central point of failure, relying on the police for security, was a major factor in these attacks getting as out of hand as they did. As the number of attacks increased the inability of the police to effectively respond became more obvious so the perceived risk of perpetuating additional attacks decreased. Since the average German citizen is unable to carry a firearm the risk of attacking them is already lower than it is in most states here. Couple that with the inability of the police to respond and you have a feedback loop of more attacks reducing the perceived risk of committing attacks, which in turn increases the likelihood of more attacks.