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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5 signs you’ve settled into life in Germany

From stripping off to keeping your paperwork in order, here are five indications that you're becoming a true German.

5 signs you've settled into life in Germany

Germany can be a difficult country to settle into and there are a lot of strange traditions and cultural quirks that take some getting used to. But if you find that at least three of the following apply to you, it’s a sure sign that you’ve adapted to life in the country. 

You’re comfortable getting naked

One of the biggest shocks ex-pats often experience when first arriving in Germany is the ease with which Germans take off their clothes.

In saunas, spas and the changing rooms of sports facilities, it’s perfectly normal to walk around with everything on display in Germany. In the summer, the fondness for nudity becomes even more visible, as lovers of Frei-körper-kultur (FKK) bare all while basking in the sun on beaches and in parks.

So, if you find yourself happily shedding your clothes without a care in the world, it’s a sure sign you’ve become accustomed to life in the Bundesrepublik.

READ ALSO: Why do Germans love getting naked?

You don’t do anything on a Sunday

A young woman wears sweatpants in front of the TV in Offenbach am Main, Germany. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Christoph Schmidt

Nowhere is the saying “Sunday is a day of rest” truer than in Germany, and it’s a principle that can be baffling and frustrating to ex-pats who first move to the country.

The Sonntagsruhe (Sunday rest) principle is so important in Germany, that it’s even written into the constitution.

Article 140 of the law says: “Sundays and state-recognised public holidays remain protected by law as days of rest from work and spiritual upliftment.” 

This is why shops are closed on Sundays and why some home DIY could end up with a visit from the police – as making excessive noise is, in some cases, a criminal offence.

So if you find yourself shushing your neighbours for hoovering on the sabbath, you’re very well on the way to being a German.

READ ALSO: Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays – and will it ever change?

You’re always on time

It’s no secret that punctuality is a big deal in Germany, and it’s a cultural trait that foreigners have to get on board with quickly.

Turning up just a minute late can result in missed appointments and a black mark against your name with your employer. 

It’s wise, therefore, to adopt the German practice of planning ahead, and aiming to arrive early.

So if you now consider arriving on time as already late and a meeting with friends organized with less than two weeks’ notice to be spontan (spontaneous) you’re 99 percent of the way to becoming German.

You have a filing cabinet

Getting to grips with German bureaucracy is one of the biggest hurdles newcomers to the country have to grapple with.

Tabs with the names of the different types of taxes such as “wage tax”, and “dog tax”, in a file folder. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Tobias Hase

There are countless Bescheinigungen (certificates) to keep hold of, you’re obliged to keep wage slips for at least a year, and health insurers and state authorities still love to send out paperwork. 

READ ALSO: Germany ranked as ‘worst country in world’ for essential expat needs

Once you’ve carelessly thrown away an important document or two, you quickly learn that the only way to survive in Germany is to keep track of your paperwork – and the best way to do that is to get yourself a filing system.

You go prepared to the supermarket

In Germany, grocery shopping is a serious business. 

Expats are often shocked by the lighting-fast check-out workers who expect you to bag your own items in an equally speedy manner to keep the queue moving. 

Supermarket trips for Germans also entail the return of bottles to the machine to reclaim their deposits. 

So, if your trips to the supermarket are accompanied by a bag full of Pfandflaschen and some sturdy, reusable bags, you can consider yourself well acclimatised to life in Germany.