Berlin car burning suspect arrested, police say

Story highlights

  • A 27-year-old man is charged with damaging about 100 cars
  • Police say he was not politically motivated
  • Hundreds of cars have been burned in Berlin this year
A 27-year old man has been charged with arson attacks on 67 cars in Berlin, police told CNN Monday.
The man "wanted to express his dissatisfaction," but was not "politically motivated," police spokesman Ivo Habedank said.
Police say the man, who was charged Sunday, was unemployed, indebted and shared a flat with his mother.
Police say the suspect has confessed.
Hundreds of cars have been burned in Berlin this year, with experts blaming everything from leftist extremists to thrill-seekers inspired by the London riots in August.
The suspect charged Sunday is the first one accused of so many attacks. Police say more than 100 cars were damaged in the 67 attacks he is charged with.
The attacks have heightened residents' fears in normally quiet, gentrified districts of Berlin.
Berlin neighborhoods have been transformed in recent years as wealthy people move into areas that used to have high unemployment, and low housing and living costs.
"In my opinion, it is vandalism, and we must hope that the offenders don't cross the line to terrorism," Dieter Wiefelsputz, a home affairs expert for the German Social Democratic Party, said in August.
But German sociologist Klaus Hurrelmann says the motivation for the attacks has changed over time.
The attacks now are dominated by "youngsters who are searching for the London kick," he said.
"Setting cars on fire is cheap and easy," said Hurrelmann, a professor at the University of Bielefeld.
Although the 27-year old suspect did not commit the attacks for political reasons, police spokesman Habedank said: "Leftist extremism is still a major problem in Berlin."
A total of 648 cars were damaged in arson attacks all over Berlin this year. About 270 attacks are believed to be politically motivated.
While car attacks have decreased over the last weeks, arson attacks on German railways caused trouble two weeks ago. More than 2,000 trains were delayed or canceled.