State Secretary of the Interior at the Berlin Senate Department of the Interior and Sports, City-State of Berlin (Germany)
Torsten Akmann is the State Secretary of the Interior at the Berlin Senate Department of the Interior and Sports. He is responsible for all matters of public security and order and advises the Senator on related issues. Prior to his appointment in 2016, Torsten Akmann served in different capacities at the German Federal Chancellery and the Ministry of the Interior, where he worked on a range of topics related to police and intelligence services and acted as ministerial representative to several parliamentary committees of inquiry. From 2012 to 2013, he headed the Office of the Joint Federal and State Commission on Right Wing Terrorism.
Do you have any specific hopes or predictions for the future of urban security? (What will urban security look like in 30 years? What will be the main opportunities and risks?)
Urban security forms a key part of my responsibilities and I personally consider it of utmost importance. It plays a vital part in upholding and protecting our free democratic basic order and ensuring our citizens can enjoy their personal freedom and liberties. Berlin is one of the largest European cities: home to around 3.7 million inhabitants and more than 190 different nationalities. As the third most popular tourist destination in the EU, we receive every year millions of people visiting our city for sightseeing or to enjoy the nightlife, large sports events, concerts and exhibitions. Therefore, promoting and implementing a balanced vision of public security is key. This requires comprehensive approaches and careful coordination across different levels and actors. For us, the three following issue areas are of particular importance for the future of urban security in Berlin and will continue to present priority areas in our daily work: (1) the prevention of terrorist attacks involving vehicles, (2) the fight against drug-related crime in public spaces, and (3) the fight against crime by members of ethnically sealed-off and family-based structures.
Why do you think it is so important to involve citizens in urban security practice?
The ultimate goal behind the protection of urban and public spaces is the protection of our citizens. Therefore, the involvement of citizens and an integrated, human-centred approach to security is key. For prevention to work, individuals and civil society must be engaged long before a potential security incident happens or a crisis unfolds. Measures should be designed based on their experiences and to meet their needs. This applies as much to countering radicalisation and polarisation as it does to fighting crime, securing neighbourhoods and generally making our cities safer spaces for everyone. In turn, citizens should be educated or made aware of security measures, tools, protocols and practices so that they are able to execute or use them in a crisis event and know whom to call. In Berlin, we are fortunate to have strong civil society partners, including aid organisations, volunteer firefighters and many more volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to the public good. During the Coronavirus pandemic, volunteers were involved in organising the contribution of masks and the vaccination campaign. Their assistance in tackling the Covid-19 crisis was and continues to be invaluable. This likewise holds true for other areas of urban and public security, for example civil protection, natural disaster relief, drug prevention or deradicalisation. Citizen engagement and volunteering form crucial pillars of our community and in the maintenance of our security and safety.