by David Rising, The Associated Press, September 16, 2016
BERLIN (AP) — Munich authorities are ramping up security precautions for this year's Oktoberfest to reassure the millions of visitors expected to attend the event starting Saturday after Bavaria suffered three attacks in a week this summer.
Deputy Police Chief Werner Feiler told reporters Wednesday that the festival's approximately 30-hectare (75-acre) venue will be fenced to ensure all visitors go through security controls and the grounds will be monitored by multiple video cameras.
In addition, backpacks and large bags will be banned and additional officers will be on hand, Feiler said.
Though there is a "high abstract danger" of an attack at the 17-day festival, which is expected to draw 6 million visitors to the Bavarian capital, the deputy chief said authorities are unaware of any concrete security threats.
"Every visitor can feel secure at Oktoberfest," he said, adding that authorities would make the security measures as unobtrusive as possible so as not to impinge upon participants' fun.
Bavaria was shaken this summer by three attacks in a week. Two were carried out by asylum-seekers and claimed by the Islamic State group; several people were wounded, but only the attackers were killed.
In an unrelated incident, a teenager fatally shot nine people at a Munich mall before killing himself.
Bavaria's top security official, Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, told The Associated Press there remains today a "fundamentally high risk of terror attacks in Germany overall."
"We don't see any special risk for Oktoberfest, but it's clear such an internationally known festival would naturally be a possible attack target," Herrmann said.
The festival, which dates back to 1810, boasts 14 festival halls this year where visitors will be able to foist liter-sized steins of special Oktoberfest beer brewed by the six major Munich breweries.
During times of peak attendance, Munich police plan to have some 600 officers on hand, about 100 more than last year. Another 450 security guards will be checking bags and performing other tasks. The number of security cameras has been raised to 29 from 19.
Given the size of Oktoberfest — on some days as many 600,000 visitors turn up — the atmosphere is generally friendly and the number of disruptive incidents few.
In the only major attack, a far-right extremist set off a bomb killing 12 people and himself in 1980, wounding more than 200.
A vague al-Qaida threat of an attack on Oktoberfest in 2009 led to tightened security measures.
Last year, police reported responding to a total of 2,017 incidents, including fistfights and stolen wallets and purses. Some 20 sexual crimes were reported, including one attempted rape.
The volunteer group "Secure Festival Grounds for Girls and Women," which has been helping at Oktoberfest since 2003, estimates the actual number of sexual crimes to have been much higher.
The festival runs Sept. 17 through Oct. 3. Beer this year will cost 10.40 euros ($11.70) to 10.70 euros a liter (2.1 pints), slightly more than last year.
This article was written by David Rising from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.