Dragnet (policing)

The dragnet is a process for networked searches of databases, which was developed in the 1970s by the former BKA President Horst Herold for the manhunt for RAF terrorists. Certain groups of persons from public or private databases are filtered out by looking for features, of which it is assumed that they also apply to the requested person. The aim is to restrict the group of people to be tested because there is no known target person in contrast to a conventional search.

Dragnet in 1980 named word of the year.


In 1979, the first known successful so-called "negative dragnet " occurred and led among other things to the arrest of a wanted terrorist - Horst Herold explained the procedure a few years later:

"In 1979 entertained the RAF in Frankfurt am Main, one or more rented under false names conspiracy dwellings, the police just did not know where. Since the terrorists the electricity bill could not pay from account to account, was to assume that their false names in the group of those who would find that pay their electricity bill in cash. These were at that time about 18000th How can you find out the name of this false terrorists from such an amount? The answer is simple: by figuring out deletes all legal name carriers so long from the set of barzahlenden current customers can be left until only the bearers of false names. THEREFORE were cleared out from the judicial confiscated tape all barzahlenden electricity customers all persons, firm whose names appeared as a legal name: the reported population, the car holder, pensioner, student loan recipients, which registered in the Land Registry property owners who fire the insured, the statutory health insurance and so on - each file with Legal name can serve as an eraser '. Only then, if it is assumed that all legal data could be canceled out, and the balance of the magnetic tape is printed. In the case of Frankfurt, however, manually assisted procedure, found at the end only two false names. Drug dealer and the one of the wanted terrorists Heißler, who was arrested in his determined thereby safe house shortly thereafter "

In March 2004 plans of the German Minister of the Interior Otto Schily have been known to use the EU-wide dragnet in the fight against the so-called organized terrorism.

On 11 November 2005 it was reported in the press that within the grand coalition, there is a working paper by the application of techniques that correspond to the dragnet, to search for, benefit scroungers ' (see also the discussion about Hartz IV ) is to be legitimized.

On 4 April 2006 the Federal Constitutional Court a suit of Moroccan students was held, which was filed against a dragnet because of a general threat situation in connection with the events of 11 September 2001. Due to the decision (Case No.: 1BvR 518/ 02) the dragnet is restricted to the extent that they may only be in the context of " real risk ", such as for the security of the Federation or of a country or the life of a citizen, carried out.

Tasks and application profiles

First, the characteristics that result from conventional investigation, combined into a perpetrator profile are. For example, when investigating the Russian mafia for money laundering, such a profile would include the following features: " a citizen of a CIS state, not a place of residence or habitual residence is in Germany, involvement in domestic firms or buying property in Germany, high purchase price ." These features are then queried in appropriate databases - in the example about the population register, all offices granting residence permits or visas, the Register and the Land Register. From the search results those records are listed that have all the features of interest. Those people who get stuck in this " grid " are then checked specifically.

The success of the dragnet depends on the creation of the offender profile. If the profile is very specific, without that all features are covered, the person sought may fall through the cracks. Are the characteristics vice versa too general, many innocent bystanders are disproportionately included in the group of persons to be examined, which increases the further investigation effort.

Some years after the introduction describing the benefits of computer-assisted Herold search methods like this:

Legal bases

The dragnet is in the German states a police legal measure to prevent crime. The - different content - rules are:

  • Baden- Württemberg: § 40 Police Act,
  • Bavaria: Article 44 PAG,
  • Berlin: § 47 ASOG,
  • Brandenburg: § 46 Police Act,
  • Bremen: § 36i Police Act,
  • Hamburg: § 23 GesDatVPol,
  • Hesse: § 26 HSoG,
  • Mecklenburg- Vorpommern: § 44 SOG,
  • Lower Saxony: § 45a Nds.SOG,
  • North Rhine -Westphalia: § 31 Police Act ( subject to the cited decision of the Federal Constitutional Court ),
  • Rhineland -Palatinate: § 38 POG,
  • Saarland: § 37 Police Act,
  • Saxony: § 47 SächsPolG,
  • Saxony- Anhalt: § 31 SOG,
  • Schleswig -Holstein: § 195a LVwG,
  • Thuringia: § 44 PAG.

In addition, the dragnet is since 1992 also in § 98a Code of Criminal Procedure laid down by law enforcement agents. As far as the Federal Criminal Police is included as the focal point in the prosecution takes additional power than standard § 28 BKAG one.

Dragnet in Austria

The history of the dragnet in Austria is relatively short. On 1 October 1997 a law came into force, which allowed the then controversial dragnet. The trigger was the search for the mail bomber, who had previously carried out attacks in Austria over the years. The assassin Franz Fuchs was however arrested without the use of dragnet by chance on the day of entry into force of the law. However, the fear of fox in front of the dragnet may have to his nervousness on the day of his arrest, which then led to behavioral problems, contributed.

According to the Austrian Ministry of Justice, the dragnet was never used since its introduction, however. There was this, neither the police nor the prosecutor to submit applications, but the extension of the powers towards online search and online monitoring was decided.


In particular the abolition of the presumption of innocence is seen as problematic in this technique, because all persons to whom these characteristics (for example, shoe size, gender, nationality ) apply are initially suspected. Only through a police check, in this attempt to substantiate an initial suspicion, it is determined whether an investigation is being maintained against these people. The combination of data from different origins is also often seen as problematic in terms of the fundamental right to informational self-determination.

In April 2004 it was announced that after the evaluation of about 8.3 million records only a single investigation has been launched in Germany. This was discontinued again. Critics of the dragnet feel vindicated and see the dragnet as a failure.

This criticism also joined the participants of the 14th German Verwaltungsrichtertag beginning of May 2004 in Bremen. In particular, the judge demanded a limited term of safety laws, as they could draw a restriction of fundamental rights according to generally and therefore bedürften constant review.

At a demonstration against Nazis in Dresden Suedvorstadt all mobile connection data were at least 4.5 hours recorded in the area of ​​large scale demonstration in February 2011. Among the participants were also lawyers, journalists and members of parliament and several provincial assemblies. The dragnet was approved by the court in support of criminal investigations in cases of breach of the peace. Part of the data was then diverted and used for other investigations in connection with the demonstration. After becoming aware of the incident by researching the taz the Dresden prosecutor's office banned the further use of the data for investigations that do not relate to the offense of breach of the peace. It is disputed whether the measures complied with the principle of proportionality.