Breach of privacy fears raised as Lucerne plans police expansion
Youth political parties in the city of Lucerne have raised concerns over plans to create a “pop-up” police station in a popular leisure area near the lake. The council (Gemeinde) has argued that the area is well known for anti-social behaviour, which needs to be curtailed.
Ufschötti area of Lucerne known for anti-social behaviour
The Ufschötti park area, near the lake and close to the heart of the Swiss city, is a popular site for swimmers during the hot days of summer, and a hotspot for parties that last long into the night. According to 20 minuten, locals have made serious complaints about noise, litter and anti-social behaviour in the park.
In response to the locals’ concerns, Lucerne City Councillor Martin Merki has announced that a mobile police post will be installed in the area. In justifying the move, he said that while other social and emergency services do valuable work in monitoring the park, a heavy presence by Swiss police would have an even more positive impact.
Council hopes a greater police presence would solve the park's issues
His thoughts were echoed by members of the Young Swiss People’s Party, with president Lucian Schneider arguing that “the proposal for a temporary police post is definitely not a violation of personal freedom.” He announced that the party would support Merki’s proposal, noting that he personally feels safer when he sees police patrols late at night.
The move is part of a massive expansion campaign by city officials, with 28 new police stations planned to open in the canton by 2025. According to the city council, they had actually hoped for more as, "According to the Federal Statistical Office, there is nowhere else in Switzerland, per head of population, where there are as many narcotics offences as in the City of Lucerne.”
Ufschötti is one of the few places young people can "develop," say critics
The announcement was met with disdain from youth parties from across the political spectrum. The co-president of the Young Socialists (Juso) in Lucerne, Léon Schulthess, lamented that “one of the last free spaces in Lucerne is being destroyed by excessive surveillance.”
Juso argued that Ufschötti is one of the few places left in the city where young people can “develop” free of excessive supervision, with co-president Zoé Stehlin claiming that a police presence would only spread the issues with the park to other areas of the city.
The proposal is also not popular in the youth wing of Merki's own party, with Lucerne Young FDP president Lukas Blaser commenting that “the Ufschötti is a popular meeting place for everyone. Instead of resorting to proven means such as drug advice tents, the city of Lucerne prefers to rely on repression and surveillance.” While he agreed that police spending should be increased, he hoped the funding will be used "more efficiently and sensibly.”