Stolen Baby Carriages Hip Berlin Parents Become a Target for Thieves
Parents, mind your strollers! Thieves have been snatching baby carriages and strollers in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood in Berlin -- many of which retail for more than 1,000 euros.
Chic old buildings, trendy bars and nice playgrounds, all within a quick subway ride from downtown, have long attracted young families to Berlin's fashionable Prenzlauer Berg district. Indeed, it is impossible to walk down the sidewalks in the quarter without dodging all manner of prams and strollers.
But it is exactly those baby carriages which are attracting others to "P'Berg" -- as the neighborhood's not-insignificant population of American expats refer to it. Brazen thieves have made a specialty out of swiping all manner of prams and strollers -- the owners of which have often shelled out as much as 1,000 ($1,230) for the hippest models.
For any other Berlin resident, the scenario sounds absurd, Berlin Police Inspector Werner Holzfuss told SPIEGEL ONLINE. But with top-of-the-line baby carriages something of a status symbol in Prenzlauer Berg, their prevalence has attracted the attention of thieves.
Since 2008, the 58-year-old commissioner and his colleague Frank Müller have fielded reports of stolen baby buggies from parents in Berlin's 15th precinct. In 2010 alone, more than 60 strollers and carriages have disappeared. In 2009, just short of 100 such thefts were reported. It is likely that many additional thefts go unreported.
"The issue first arose in 2007," says Müller. At that time, the prevalence of stroller thieves began to be a problem. The yuppie population of Prenzlauer Berg provides a "rich field of operations" for thieves, according to Müller. Holzfuss agrees: "It's unimaginable, what kind of carriages mothers are pushing around these days."
Hesse 's Hot Zone
Stolen strollers are hardly an issue elsewhere in Germany. Munich and Cologne don't have much of a problem with it, and neither does Hamburg. Indeed, aside from some carriage theft in the state of Hesse, the German capital seems to be largely in a league of its own.
By now, Holzfuss and Müller have become intimately familiar with the various makes and models of baby carriages and strollers. "The most expensive carriage currently available is made by Bugaboo," says Müller. "If you add a few accessories, you can easily be out 1,200." The saleswoman at a Prenzlauer Berg baby boutique confirms Müller's estimate: The base price for a Bugaboo is around 900. "If you march through Prenzlauer Berg, then you'll be astonished to see that every second and third mother or father has a Bugaboo," Müller says. "It's the Mercedes of baby carriages."
350 to 400 per Stroller
Thieves tend to work over multi-family apartment houses where carriages and strollers may be left in the entrance hall or basement. They then sell their loot to second-hand dealers or on eBay to unsuspecting buyers. Thieves can fetch between 350 and 400 per stroller or carriage, Holzfuss says.