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 2012 Victimisation Survey (Viktimisierungssurvey). One of the questions was whether people felt safe in their neighbourhood at night.

Fear of crime 2012

Most people in Germany live their lives relatively free of fear. Over 80 per cent 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 or sexual harassment. Here too, the majority of people said they were not worried 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.

Fear of crime by gender 2012

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 2016 show that 614,000 men were victims of crime compared to 404,000 women.

Fear of crime varies according to age group and is generally stronger among older people. However young people are more afraid of crimes such as burglary, bodily harm or sexual harassment. In general, people become less afraid of crime in middle-age but their fear increases after retirement.

Fear of crime by age group 2012

General fear of crime varies according to region. People who live in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Lower Saxony are less afraid of crime than people in the rest of Germany. The strongest feelings of insecurity are in the north and east of Germany.

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 2012

What Does the Government Do?

Political measures can only have an indirect effect on people's subjective sense of security. A wide-ranging package of security measures has strengthened the security services in Germany by creating 4,000 new jobs, including 1,000 additional jobs per year in the federal police force, along with the provision of protective equipment and resources.

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 in the throughout Germany between 2007 and 2015. However, there was an increase in violoent crimes in 2016. There were about 193.500 reported cases of violent crimes. An increase of six per cent compared to the previous year. More than 75 per cent of all violent crimes were cleared.

Decrease in robbery: After the increase in the previous year, incidents of theft decreased in 2016. This trend also holds true for burglaries. In 2016, there were 151.000 reported cases. This figure includes both attempted and successful burglaries.

The clearance rate for robbery is unsatisfactory compared to the rate for other crimes. Indeed, it has actually fallen since 1998.

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 2016, 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 2016
Property crime by federal states 2016

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 a website. The KfW is also running a funding programme offering up to 1,500 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 scepticism 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. This was mainly due to a particularly sharp increase in xenophobic offences. They increased by 5.3 per cent compared to the previous year. Also anti-Semitic offences happened more often in 2016. They increased by 7.5 per cent.

The number of hate posts1 on the internet remain at an alarmingly high level. After the sharp increase of 176 per cent between 2014 and 2015, the trend continued in 2016. However, at a slower pace with an increase of three per cent compared to the previous year.

What Does the Government Do?

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! Aktiv gegen Rechtsextremismus, Gewalt und Menschenfeindlichkeit) 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 2012. It reflects the perceived effectiveness of local policing .

Overall assessment of local policing 2012

A majority of respondents (87 per cent) rate local police’s efforts in fighting crime as very good or quite good.

Assessment of local policing 2012

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 good 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 federal government's comprehensive 2016 Security Package (Sicherheitspaket) includes more police, more resources and better protective equipment for the national security authorities.

Footnotes

  1. 1

    There is no specific category in the statistics for online hate posts. The figures have been gathered via a question on hate crime limited to the internet as the medium.

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