Sexual assaults reported in Berlin despite 'safety area' for women

At least 13 cases of sexual assault were reported in Germany's capital on New Year's Eve -- despite the city's creation of a "safety area" for women to celebrate the arrival of 2018 near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

Police made seven arrests, according to Fox News and multiple German media reports, but no information was released about the suspects.

A local police spokeswoman told Fox News that police were still gathering information about the night's reported crimes, but did not disclose more information about the detained people.

As midnight neared in Germany, Berlin police tweeted that they were receiving reports of sexual assaults, but warned that the force does not tolerate such crimes.

After being asked on Twitter about the nationality of the perpetrators, police declined to provide the information -- saying ethnicity or national origin would have no bearing on the cases.

Germany has been grappling with rampant sexual harassment of women during public celebrations. Two years ago, more than 1,000 complaints were filed about sexual harassment on New Year's Eve.

Many of the victims have identified their attackers as being North African or Middle Eastern migrants -- a source of frustration as Germany struggles to assimilate new arrivals.

Achieving greater national unity has been a goal for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

For the first time this year, a “safety area” was set up for women where they could report or seek refuge in the event of sexual harassment during the festivities. The initiative was a part of broader measures to ensure safety during the mass celebration.

But the “safety area” was largely criticized, with German police union boss Rainer Wendt saying its creation sent a “devastating message.”

“By doing so, one is saying there are safe zones and unsafe zones” for women that could result in “the end of equality, freedom of movement and self-determination,” Wendt told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily newspaper.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.