"Germany's Anti-Chaos Crusaders" - Nicholas Kulish
Knuth Kaufmann, a 41-year-old former accountant for the German Air Force and current member of the local Ordnungsbehörde, or Department of Order, eyed a young woman bicycling down the cobblestone lane. As she approached, he ordered her to dismount, and he reached into his pocket. Out came a yellow card with a large red circle around a picture of a bicycle, a reminder that it’s against the rules to ride in a pedestrian-only shopping zone.
Kaufmann guards the thin line between quaint and chaotic in this historic town of 26,000 at a bend in the Rhine River. He always carries a tape measure to ensure that hedgerows and outdoor cafe chairs don’t jut out too far into walkways, a digital camera to document the various acts of low-level malfeasance and a handheld computer — the Psion Teklogix Workabout Pro — to write tickets. In three years on the job, he has never used his pepper spray.
“We are always watching,” he said. “When something is wrong, when something is broken, when something is dirty, we are responsible.” His girlfriend constantly admonishes him for being unable to ignore small infractions, even when he’s off-duty.
Kaufmann and his two Ordnungsbehörde colleagues are not cops, and they’re not clerks, but they are an integral part of German society, found in every city, town and village. (Berlin, population 3.4 million, has some 1,120 inspectors.) “It’s a German thing,” said Birgit Rohleder, the lady who was nabbed on her bike, “a German idiosyncrasy.” Just minutes after being busted, she told me that she wished there were more people like Kaufmann patrolling the streets.
But seriously, any other Ordnung-loving Houstonians interested in setting up a local Behörde? (I've noticed a few lawns in Midtown that could use some extra manicuring.)