BERLIN -- German police recorded a significant increase of depictions of sexual abuse against children last year compared to the year before, the country's top criminal police official said Monday.
More than 39,000 cases — or an increase of 108.8% — came to the attention of authorities last year, according to a special analysis of police crime statistics presented to reporters in Berlin. Those cases include the distribution, acquisition, possession and production of depictions of sexual violence against children and teenagers.
According to the report, known cases of child sexual abuse rose by 6.3% last year to more than 15,500. The annual figures only cover the fraction of cases that police are aware of — the real figures are expected to be much higher, said Holger Muench, the head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office.
Authorities estimate that one to two students per school class in Germany are affected by sexual violence.
Muench also said that more people are reporting suspicions of child abuse than in the past.
“We very much welcome this: serious acts of violence against children and young people, as the weakest members of society, must be particularly outlawed, prosecuted and brought to an end,” he said.
Germany's Independent Commissioner on Child Sexual Abuse, Kerstin Claus, pointed out that Europe has become a hub for the dissemination of abuse images.
“We need increased European cooperation and significantly more investment in the human and technological resources of the investigating authorities," she demanded. "Every investigative success is important because it offers the chance to stop acute child abuse and prevent further acts.”
Later Monday, police and prosecutors in Cologne presented new findings about a suspected sexual child abuse case.
Cologne Police President Falk Schnabel told reporters that a 44-year-old German man from Wermelskirchen near Cologne was arrested on suspicion of several cases of severe child abuse and possession of huge amounts of child abuse depictions on both video and photos.
“I am truly shocked and stunned," Schnabel said. "I have not yet encountered such a level of inhuman brutality and callous indifference to the suffering of young children in pain with their cries and obvious fear.”
The married man, whose name wasn't given in line with German privacy rule, offered his services as a babysitter online. He abused babies as young as a month old and teenagers up to 14 years old. The amount of data — from 1993 to the present — found on his computer is so big that investigators have only been able to scour about 10% of the abuse depictions even though the suspect was detained in December.
In addition to the child pornography, authorities also found a list on the man's computer of more than 70 suspects who shared or possessed child abuse material with the main suspect. These suspects are now also being investigated, Schnabel said.