Prague district council launches drive to clean up Karlovo náměstí

Prague 2 district council is waging war on what it calls an ‘extreme situation’ on the capital’s Karlovo náměstí. Mayor Jana Černochová has said that steps must be taken against the increasing number of drug addicts, pickpockets and prostitutes found on the downtown Prague square.

Karlovo náměstí is one of the capital’s busiest transport interchanges. Every day, thousands of commuters sprint from tram to bus to metro here and, as a tourist in Prague, you are highly likely to cross it in your travels. The square, which is lined by some impressive baroque architecture, is where Goethe’s Doctor Faust was supposed to have lived, but today the space plays host to some different sorts of inhabitants, which the district council would like to get rid of. Earlier today, Prague 2 mayor Jana Černochová told me what she thought the problem was:

“Unfortunately not only homeless people, but drug addicts and drug dealers have set up home on the square, and prostitutes too. The situation has become untenable. So I have asked both the municipal and the state police to increase the number of patrols in the area. There are often muggings on the square, and pickpockets operate in the public transport system in and around the area. The district council can’t control the situation on its own, and that is why we have turned to the police. We want them to intervene in an aggressive way so that Karlovo náměstí becomes once more a quiet zone in the centre of Prague.”

Jan Čihák is a spokesperson for the Municipal Police. He outlines the moves his organisation has just started to take to clean up the square:

“The Municipal Police, in cooperation with the Police of the Czech Republic are looking after Karlovo náměstí and the surrounding area 24 hours non-stop. And this is being carried out in cooperation with Prague 2. During the night, there are four municipal policemen there, and I don’t know how many state policemen there are on Karlovo náměstí and the surrounding area.”

And do you think that this is going to solve the problem?

“I hope so. Because prevention is better than repression, and these policemen stationed there are a good thing for the future and solving this situation.”

The Municipal Police have also organized several clear-ups on Karlovo náměstí; last time just under 50 syringes, or bits of syringes, were found.

Prague 2 is discussing plans to overhaul Karlovo náměstí, and says that construction work could start as soon as next year. We will soon see if the district council’s first steps, before so much as even a stone is moved, succeed in giving the square a facelift.