In Halle, a city in Germany's Saxony-Anhalt state, organised criminal groups, many predominantly composed of foreign nationals, have been targeting school children for years, with authorities logging numerous instances.
In response, a community-led initiative has commenced local patrols, while an increasing number of students are taking measures for self-defence, reflecting a dwindling confidence in police to keep the streets safe, Die Welt reports.
According to Die Welt, alarming statistics reveal that, within a two-year span, 203 robberies involving students have been reported, with a total of 274 suspects identified. Police data indicates that 40% of the suspects come from a migrant background.
Moreover, the proportion of robberies conducted by so-called intensive offenders consists of a "significantly higher" percentage of foreign nationals, although specific figures were not provided.
Despite assurances from the police of heightened vigilance around schools, episodes of harassment and assault in Halle's schools have persisted with little interruption.
Parents have expressed distress over the situation; one mother told Die Welt that her 13-year-old son has fallen victim to robbery on three separate occasions.
Another described how her son was subjected to monetary extortion. Both women have become involved in a newly-established community effort called "Safe Schools in Halle."
The Interior Ministry of Saxony-Anhalt has described the robberies as particularly vicious, noting that young victims are often subjected to physical violence such as punches, pushes, and kicks.
In addition to these brutal tactics, the ministry reports that attackers are increasingly resorting to the use of weapons, including "pepper spray, knives, or blank guns."
According to Die Welt, an increasing number of students are taking their own safety measures, with some carrying pepper spray for self-defence. The publication also spoke to a student who disclosed that others have resorted to carrying knives.
Students are also dealing with severe forms of intimidation, including instances where assailants steal their ID, photograph them, and threaten harm to their families should they report the incidents to the police.