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Explained: How to prevent a burglary at your home in Germany

While the number burglaries in Germany are currently low, it's still important to keep your property safe. Follow these tips to ensure your belongings remain secure.

Explained: How to prevent a burglary at your home in Germany
Frank Rumpenhorst/ DPA

Here's the good news: the number of people breaking into homes and stealing items in Germany has been going down  over the last few years.

Official statistics in 2018 by the Bundeskriminalamt (the Federal Criminal Police Office) showed a decrease of 16.3 percent in burglaries from homes compared to 2017.

Meanwhile, Business Data Platform Statista shows the number declined even further in 2019 (see our graph below).


Burglaries in Germany have decreased in recent years. Photo: Statista

During the coronavirus crisis the number of burglaries in Germany also decreased in multiple states around Germany, with Managing Director of the German Insurance Association, Jorg Asmussen saying that “developments in the first half of the year indicate that we will see the lowest number of burglaries since our statistics began in 1981’’.

READ ALSO: German burglaries decrease 'massively' during coronavirus crisis

However, that doesn’t mean that it's not important to keep your home safe. With 87,145 burglaries taking place in Germany last year, it's still (unfortunately) a possiblity. You can follow this list of advice we've gathered from German insurance companies to make sure your home is low on the list of targets.

Always close and lock your doors and windows

Although it may sound obvious, it’s important to always lock your door – double lock preferably, and make sure all your windows are closed when you go out. A titled window still counts as an open window! This is particularly important for windows and doors on apartments on the ground and mezzanine floor. Some thieves come in over rooftops and other accessible areas however, so it’s always important to be careful.

Locking up properly is especially important as if a burglary occurs, insurance companies will regard an improperly unlocked apartment as gross negligence and potentially not compensate you for damage.

Don’t over announce your whereabouts on your social media

While you might be really looking forward to that trip abroad, it’s probably not the best idea to totally over announce that you’re going away on your social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, especially if your privacy settings are set to open. Announcing you’re leaving the country could basically be an invitation for someone to burgle your home.

Change the lock or add another

If you’ve moved in recently you may have considered that previous tenants or owners might still have keys to get in. Even if you know them, there’s no way of telling whether they’ve given a key to a friend or family member who might be able to enter your home. It might be worth installing a new double lock system to prevent this potential worry.

Don’t leave extra keys lying around

Make sure you don’t leave an extra set of keys lying in an obvious place. These include your letter box, flower pot, inside the electricity meter box and so on. Burglars will be quick to check these common hiding spots. If you want to leave an extra key in case of an accidental and emergency lock-out, the best place to do so would probably be with a trustworthy friend.

READ ALSO: Where do most break-ins occur in Germany and where are they going down?

Install extra security

If you have some extra cash it can’t hurt to install an extra security system to make sure your apartment is properly protected. An additional alarm system can trigger an alarm or even report attempted burglaries to the police. Home assistants like Alexa have a feature that detects break ins based on noises built in which you can learn how to set up here

If you have a balcony (which many households in Germany do) you can make it more secure by installing some fencing or large plants round it. Remember to lock the door to your balcony too!

Photo: DPA

Beware of building works and garage doors

You might be refurbishing your home or have scaffolding installed outside your street. If there’s a situation that makes it easier to access the inside of your home, make sure you pay extra attention to stay secure in case someone climbs the scaffolding.

Burglars also sometimes get into communal garages that have timer doors, so make sure nobody creeps in before the door closes.

Make friends with your neighbours

Collaboration between community members can help catch burglars, so whether it’s making friends next door so you can ask them to keep an eye out when you’re not in the house, to setting up a neighbourhood watch WhatsApp group to alert each other if there have been any break-ins in your area recently, close collaboration between neighbours can be crucial to catches burglars. 

What to do if your flat has been burgled?

Don’t panic. Go to a friends house and call the police. Make sure you describe the situation in detail and try not to enter the apartment until the police have given the all clear. It's crucial you photograph everything that the burglars have changed, taking note if the cupboards have been gone through, or footprints on the carpet.

Pay extra attention to photograph any damage caused by the break in and make a list of everything that has been stolen for the police.

If you do suffer a burglary in Germany, call the police on 110.

 

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POLICE

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Germany is known for having some of the world’s strictest gun laws, but shooting incidents continue to cause concern.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Is it difficult to get a gun in Germany?

To get a gun in Germany you firstly have to obtain a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) – and you may need a different one for each weapon you buy – or a license to carry (Waffenschein).

Applicants for a license must be at least 18-years-old and undergo what’s called a reliability check. This includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have a mental illness or any other attributes that might make them owning a gun a potential concern for authorities.

They also have to pass a “specialised knowledge test” on guns and people younger than 25 applying for their first license must go through a psychiatric evaluation.

Crucially, applicants must also prove a specific and approved “need“ for the weapon, which is mainly limited to use by hunters, competitive marksmen, collectors and security workers – not for self-defence.

Once you have a license, you’re also limited in the number of and kinds of guns you may own, depending on what kind of license you have: Fully automatic weapons are banned for everyone, while semiautomatic firearms are banned for anything other than hunting or competitive shooting.

A revolver lies on an application for the issuance of a firearms license. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

How many legal guns are there in Germany? 

According to the latest figures from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, as of May 31st, 2022, there were 5.018,963 registered guns in Germany, and 946,546 gun owners entered in the National Weapons Register (NWR).

Where are the most guns in Germany?

Most legal guns are found in rural areas and are used in hunting or shooting sports. Guns are also more widespread in the western States than in the states that make up the former East Germany, where private gun ownership was extremely limited. 

READ ALSO: German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

What about undocumented guns in Germany?

One problem in Germany is so-called ‘old’ weapons. It’s impossible to estimate how many weapons from the two world wars are still in circulation and such antiques have appeared in a number of high-profile incidents in the last few years.

The pistol hidden in a Vienna airport by Bundeswehr officer Franco A was a Unique pistol from 1917 and the 2007 murder of a police officer in Heilbronn involved a Wehrmacht pistol. 

In 2009, around 200,000 weapons were returned in a gun amnesty, but it is still unclear how many illegal weapons are still out there.

Does Germany have a gun violence problem?

Gun crime is relatively rare in Germany, which has some of the strictest gun laws in Europe and, according to the latest figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), gun-related crimes in Germany are decreasing.

In 2021, there were 9.8 percent fewer crimes committed with a firearm than the previous year, while the number of cases recorded by the police in which a firearm was used to threaten fell by 11.2 percent. Shots were fired in 4,074 of the total number of recorded cases, down 8.5 percent from 2021.

An armored weapons cabinet filled with long guns. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Friso Gentsch

Despite this, there have been several mass shootings within the past two decades, which have had a big impact on public consciousness and on gun control policy. 

Between 2002 and 2009 there were three major incidents of young men carrying out shootings at their former high schools and, in 2020, a racially motivated gunman shot and killed 11 people and injured numerous others in an attack on two shisha bars in Hanau. The perpetrator was allowed to legally possess firearms, although he had previously sent letters with right-wing extremist content to authorities.

Recently there were also shootings at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany and at a supermarket in Schwalmstadt in Hesse.

Are German gun laws about to change?

The German parliament reacted to the mass shooting incidents in the early 2000s by tightening the gun laws, and, in the wake of the Hanau attack, a new amendment is in the works, which aims to shift focus towards monitoring gun owners with extremist, right-wing views.

READ ALSO: Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau

In December 2021, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) announced her intention to further tighten gun laws, as part of a plan to tackle right-wing extremism.

The authorities in charge of the protection of the constitution have been warning for some time that neo-Nazis are deliberately joining shooting clubs to obtain guns and the Federal Ministry of the Interior reports that 1.500 suspected right-wing extremists among legal gun owners.

Campaigners say more needs to be done to stop gun crime. 

Dagmar Ellerbrock, a historian and expert on weapons history at the Technical University of Dresden said: “It is high time that we try to at least make it more difficult for these political groups to find their way through the shooting associations.”

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