Living a life in security and freedom

Living a life in security and freedom

Feeling safe in their environment, being able to walk around day or night without fear – this was important for people in the national dialogue. Whether they are in public places, at home, on buses or trains, people want to feel they are protected by a well-equipped police force and an effective justice system.

Feeling safe in their environment, being able to walk around day or night without fear – this was important for people in the national dialogue. Whether they are in public places, at home, on buses or trains, people want to feel they are protected by a well-equipped police force and an effective justice system.

I want a life without fear. Without fear of violence in public.
from the national dialogue event of the Lesben- und Schwulenverband Deutschland in Berlin on 5 May 2015

A positive sense of safety, specific fears

Many people feel insecure and are afraid of being victims of crime. It is important for people to feel safe.

The subjective perception of safety is measured by what is known as affective fear of crime. This describes people's fear of being a victim of crime. This fear was examined in the 2017 follow-up of the Victimisation Survey (Viktimisierungssurvey). One of the questions was whether people felt safe in their neighbourhood at night.

Fear of crime 2017

Most people in Germany live their lives relatively free of fear. Eight out of ten persons said they felt fairly safe or very safe in their neighbourhood at night. The same applies to their fear of specific crimes such as robbery, burglary, bodily harm, sexual harassment or a terrorist attack. Here too, the majority of people said they were not or only slightly worried.

The fear of becoming a victim of a criminal act varies quite widely between different groups of people: Women are more afraid of crime than men and older people more than younger people. The fear of becoming a victim of burglary is highest compared to other types of crime. One out of four people reported to be fairly or very much concerned.

Fear of crime by gender 2017

The greater fear of crime felt by women goes against the objective (statistical) risk that they will be victims of crime. For example, police crime statistics for 2018 show that 611,000 men were victims of crime compared to 414,000 women.

Fear of crime varies according to age group and is generally stronger among older people. In general, peoples’ fear of crime is more or less constant over age, but their fear increases after retirement. Young people, however, are more afraid of crimes such as burglary, bodily harm, sexual harassment or a terrorist attack.

Fear of crime by age group 2017

General fear of crime varies according to region and has increased in all federal states since the 2012 Victimisation Survey. People who live in Rhineland-Palatinate and Hessen as well as Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria are less afraid of crime than people in the rest of Germany. The strongest feelings of insecurity are in Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Berlin.

However, respondents here did not give specific reasons to explain their higher level of fear in these regions. The results rather allude to a latent fear of crime with non-specific feelings of anxiety.

Persons with a general fear of crime (fairly and very afraid) by federal states 2017

What Does the Government Do?

Political measures can only have an indirect effect on people's subjective sense of security. The federal government and the Laender have passed a wide-ranging package of security measures („Pakt für den Rechtsstaat“) that will strengthen the rule of law by creating 15,000 new jobs in the police force and the judiciary. It will also simplify and speed up court proceedings and judicial procedures.

First increase in violent crime since 2007

Safety in my daily life is important to me. I want to be able to use public transportation without fear, and to feel safe in parks and side streets. To do this, police presence needs to be considerably strengthened.
from an online response submitted on 25 August 2015

This quote by a female citizen highlights a common dilemma: personal safety in everyday life is a significant aspect in individuals' wellbeing. But their feelings do not always correspond to the actual crime situation.

The Police Crime Statistics provide an annual report on types of crime and their frequency. The number of violent crimes and property-related offences has been selected as an indicator from the wide range of available statistics.

Recorded and solved cases of violent crime

The Police Crime Statistics list all criminal offences that have been reported to the police and publish the corresponding clearance rates. This indicates the number of reported criminal offences across Germany, i.e. it releases data on all crimes known to or reported to the police through their own investigations or criminal charges. The Police Crime Statistics do not contain any data on or estimates of unreported cases, i.e. crimes not known to law enforcement.

One piece of good news is that violent crimes such as robbery and assault fell throughout Germany between 2007 and 2015. However, there was an increase in violent crimes in 2016 followed by a decrease in the two subsequent years. In 2018 there were about 185,400 reported cases of violent crimes. A decrease of two per cent compared to the previous year. More than 77 per cent of all violent crimes were cleared.

Decrease in thefts: After the increase in thefts in 2015, numbers have been decreasing since then. In 2018, there were 1,936,000 reported cases. For the first time, the number dropped below 2 million cases. Within three years, the number of thefts decreased by 22 per cent.

This trend also holds true for burglaries. In 2015, the number of both attempted and successful burglaries peaked with 167,000 cases. In 2018, the number dropped to 97,000 cases. This is a drop of 41 per cent within the last three years.

The clearance rate for theft is unsatisfactory with about 30 per cent when compared to the rate for other crimes. However, there has been a slight upward trend during the last three years.

Recorded and solved cases of property crime

There are striking regional differences: the city states of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin are much more affected by crime than other areas. There is a north-south divide among the more rural states. In 2018, the number of reported violent crimes and property-related offences in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria was much lower than in the rest of Germany.

Violent crime by federal states 2018
Property crime by federal states 2018

In view of the high numbers of break-ins, preventing burglaries is a focus of security policy. All levels of government are expected to take action in this respect.

What Does the Government Do?

The PR campaign K-EINBRUCH (directly translated as “No Burglary”) has been running in all regions of Germany since 2012. People can get more information about how to protect their property on this website. A KfW funding programme offers up to 1,600 euros to install anti-burglary measures.

More respect and tolerance

Tolerance and treating each other with more respect were key aspects of the national dialogue. Social diversity in terms of opinions, lifestyles, religion and attitudes were considered to be very important. Everyone agreed that discrimination based on skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, belief or origin has no place in society.

I think mutual respect is important. It doesn’t matter who I am, where I’m from – good cooperation.
from the national dialogue event of the Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund in Berlin on 30 June 2015

People had a number of different opinions about how to deal with migrants and refugees. They ranged from hospitality and the desire for integration to skepticism about the effectiveness of integration processes and concerns about society's capacity to take in more migrants. In this respect, people also emphasised their concerns about increasing violence by right-wing extremists and terrorism by radical right-wingers. They felt this posed a great danger to the rule of law, which it is vital to uphold.

The figures on hate crime in the statistics on politically motivated crime can be used as an indicator for intolerance towards certain social groups. Hate crime comprises criminal acts that are motivated by prejudice towards other groups in society.

Hate crime, total and xenophobic

In 2016 hate crime peaked at a level not seen since the statistic was introduced in 2001. After the significant 77 per cent increase between 2014 and 2015, hate crimes increased by four per cent between 2015 and 2016. Since then, the trend for hate crimes is decreasing and has dropped by 25 per cent within the last two years. The largest share in hate crimes, almost 95 percent, are xenophobic offences. They increased by almost 20 per cent compared to the previous year. Also anti-Semitic offences happened more often in 2018. They also increased by 20 per cent.

The majority of hate posts2 on the internet are politically motivated right-wing incitement. After the sharp increase of 176 per cent between 2014 and 2015.In 2018, the number of hateful postings dropped by a third compared to the previous year.

What Does the Government Do?

With a wide-ranging package of measures to combat right-wing extremism and hate crime, the Federal Government defends and strengthens liberal democracy. The federal government is countering hate crime with a strategy to promote democracy and prevent extremism.
Its federal programmes, Live Democracy! Taking action against right-wing extremism, violence and group-focused enmity (Demokratie leben) and Cohesion through Participation (Zusammenhalt durch Teilhabe), provide funding for clubs, projects and initiatives that promote democracy and encourage diversity.

Trust in the police and the State

"We need more than rules and laws. These rules and laws must be followed." This is how one participant in the national dialogue event at Charité Berlin on 31 May 2015 described one of the state's core tasks.

Rules that are followed in our daily co-existence. Laws that are consistently applied. A well-equipped police that is visible on the streets. Courts that make speedy judgements. These were all important to people who took part in the national dialogue. In Germany, the police force and justice system is responsible for order, security and the law at federal and state level. In a country governed by the rule of law, it is vital that people have trust in the organs of state.

People’s trust in local policing is measured by the German Victimisation Survey 2017. It reflects the perceived effectiveness of local policing .

Overall assessment of local policing 2017

Eight in ten respondents rate local police’s efforts in fighting crime as very good or quite good.

Assessment of local policing 2017

Trust is lower among people who have been victims of crime. The same holds true for people who have recently had negative experiences with the police.

The neighbourhood also affects people's trust in the police. Citizens who feel they have strong neighbourly relations have greater trust in policing. Those who feel they do not have close ties to their neighbours have less.

Trust is shaped by state institutions. Public acceptance and the presence of local police plays a key role in increasing wellbeing in Germany. It is important to continue improving the quality of policing in Germany.

What Does the Government Do?

The police crime prevention departments of the federal states and the federal government support the local police in their efforts to ensure safe communities.


  1. 1

    For the general fear of crime the Victimisation Survey 2017 asks: "How safe do you feel - or would you feel - if you were walking alone in your neighborhood after dark?" The response categories are: very safe, rather safe, rather unsafe, very unsafe. For specific types of crime, the Victimisation Survey 2017 asks: "For each of the following situations, please tell me to what extent you feel worried by them. To what extent do you feel worried ... among other things to be beaten or injured? The response categories are: not at all worried, slightly worried, quite worried, very much worried.


  2. 2

    Since 2017 there is a specific category for online hate posts in the statistics. Previously, the figures have been gathered via a question on hate crime limited to the internet as the medium.


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