Police in the German city of Cologne have admitted they "could not cope" with the sheer number of coordinated sexual assaults and robberies taking place on New Year’s Eve, according to an internal police report.

The report has come after a week of shock and outrage in Germany over the scale of the attacks, which also took place on a smaller scale in other cities. More than120 women reported being attacked or sexually assaulted in Cologne, including instances of rape.

According to witnesses, the violence on New Year’s Eve was coordinated, and may have involved as many as 1,000 men, mostly of Arab or African origin.

Alexandra Eul, a journalist for the German feminist magazine Emma, which is based in Cologne, says that many victims feel angry at the failure of the police to protect victims in the station.

“Police didn’t even recognise that women were being sexually abused. People in Cologne and the rest of Germany are really shocked — the phrase you hear is ‘this is a new quality of crime.’"

Eul spoke to one young woman who was returning home with a friend when she missed her train in Cologne station. “She is 26 years old — she wasn’t expecting anything bad to happen to her. But as soon as she started waiting, she realized the whole station was packed with hundreds of men. They were touching them, talking to them, touching their breasts and trying to get stuff out of their pockets. In the end she was so confused she was crying.”  

Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers today defended the performance of his force, arguing that “"we were well prepared." 

However, police also admitted that an earlier official description of the atmosphere in Cologne on New Year’s Eve as "relaxed" was inappropriate. 

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International