What Germany’s new crime report tells us – and what it doesn’t

A study released by the German government this month says that crime has dropped significantly over the past 15 years. Here's what you should know.

Police partol the streets of Leipzig during a pandemic demonstration in November.
Police partol the streets of Leipzig during a pandemic demonstration in November. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Willnow

Overall crime has dropped by 15 percent between 2005 and 2019, the government’s Periodic Security Report concluded.

It was the first time that the report has been published since 2006 and the findings provide reassurance that Germany is becoming an ever safer place to live. 

“Germany is one of the safest countries in the world,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said. “But security is an ongoing task for which we have to work hard every day.”

What is behind the decline?

The biggest drop in recorded crime came in the category of property crime, which refers to theft and robbery. Over the period in question, recorded crime of this nature dropped by a third, while the value of the stolen property also dropped from €8.5 billion in 2005 to €6.6 billion in 2019.

Property damage also saw a decline of 22 percent in the same period, violent crime dropped by 15.4 percent and fraud was cut by 12.9 percent.

Drop in prison sentences

The report didn’t just look at reported crime but also sentencing in court.

Developments at this stage of the justice system were also positive. Only half the number of minors were found guilty of a crime in 2019 compared to 2005.

Meanwhile, of all of the convictions in 2019, only 15 percent were serious enough to lead to a prison term.

Is it good news across the board?

Not completely. Some crimes have increased in prevalence over the period in question.

The report noted that far-right crime, such as the distribution of neo-Nazi or racist propaganda, anti-Semitic hate speech and online hate speech has increased during the past few years.

The report also notes an increase in cyberbullying and online stalking, although it cautions that comparison in this regard is difficult due to the increased centrality of the Internet to our lives.

Suspects and victims

The most common profile of a criminal is an adult male of German nationality. But young Germans are much less likely to be suspects of a crime now than in 2009, with the overall number of teenage suspects dropping 28 percent and those aged 18-21 dropping by 24 percent.

The profile of a victim is highly dependent on the type of crime. Men are twice as likely to be the victim of a robbery as women, whereas women are over ten times as likely to be the victim of a sexual offence as men.

What has the reaction been?

Arndt Sinn, a professor of criminal justice at Osnabrück University, was damning in his evaluation of the report, saying it “does not in any way reflect the actual security situation in Germany”.

Speaking to Deutschlandfunk radio, Sinn said that the report, at 180 pages, was too short and barely contained any information on pressing issues such as organized crime.

He added that some of the reduction in criminality was down to the fact that it had moved into other places. At the same time though, he gave the police credit for developing successful strategies to reduce burglary which had risen precipitously up until 2015.

Markus Reuter, a journalist who writes on surveillance, said that the report showed the wide gulf between perception and reality.

“There is hardly a social field in which reality and perception diverge as widely as in the case of crime,” Reuter wrote, pointing to a recent survey by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung that found that two thirds of Germany believe that crime has been on the rise in recent years.

SEE ALSO: Six Germans charged over spectacular Dresden museum heist

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Living in Germany: Exploring locally, Bargeld and the NRW state election

In our weekend roundup for Germany we look at exploring the country this summer, the country's obsession with cash and some facts about North Rhine-Westphalia, which goes to the polls on Sunday.

Living in Germany: Exploring locally, Bargeld and the NRW state election

A chance to explore Germany 

Although we’re still in the pandemic, it feels like life in Germany is beginning to feel a bit more like it did before Covid hit us. With many restrictions easing, people have been really enjoying spring and looking forward to summer.  So it’s no surprise that many of you have been reading our stories about travel. Our articles on the €9 monthly ticket as well as train travel in Germany and beyond have been particularly popular. The public transport offer will also give many people the chance to explore closer to home. I know I am really looking forward to seeing more of Germany, whether it’s around the Brandenburg area near where I live, or going further afield (Heidelberg, I’m looking at you). I’d love to know if you want to use the €9 ticket or if you have any plans to explore Germany this summer. Please fill in this survey on the €9 ticket (it’s open until Monday) and get in touch with your opinions or other travel plans by emailing [email protected]. Thanks so much to those of you who’ve already been in touch.

Tweet of the week

The German love of cash or Bargeld in 2022 while the rest of the world goes contactless is indeed one of life’s greatest mysteries, as this tweet highlights. We’ll definitely be using our ‘ask a German’ series to try and find out more about this habit… 

Where is this? 

Pankstrasse U-Bahn

Berliners or those who’ve visited the capital may recognise this U-Bahn station which is situated in the north. The station is actually part of the Pankstrasse nuclear fallout shelter. Built in 1977 during the Cold War, this “multi-purpose” facility was intended to protect the citizens of West Berlin in case of a nuclear conflict. The bunker serves not only as an U-Bahn stop for commuters but also, in an emergency, could have sheltered 3,339 people for up to two weeks. For those interested, we’d recommend checking out a tour like those run by Berliner Untervelten E.V. Due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to massive tension between Europe and Russia, the tours have become even more topical.

Did you know?

Since people in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) or Nordrhein Westfalen are going to the polls this Sunday, we thought we’d look at some facts about this western state. This is Germany’s most populated state with about 17.9 million people. It’s also home to the most foreigners – around 2.5 million non-Germans live in NRW. With cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen, the state is a culturally rich and diverse part of Germany. Many people don’t know that Bonn was the capital of the former West Germany all the way up to reunification, before Berlin took the title. Many federal buildings and institutions still have their base there. 

The state is led by Christian Democrat Hendrik Wüst who took over last year after Armin Laschet resigned as state premier following his unsuccessful federal election bid. The CDU is currently in a coalition with the Free Democrats. But it looks like change is on the horizon. The CDU and the Social Democrats are both polling at around 30 percent, with the CDU having a slight lead of two to four percentage points. Meanwhile, the FDP appears to have lost support. It’s going to be a tight race – and the Greens party – polling at around 17 percent – will likely be the kingmakers. Important topics for voters include the future of German industry, and how to secure jobs in the move to renewable energy. Many people see this election as a test for the federal government which is led by the SPD’s Olaf Scholz. 

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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