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Germany 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Europe > Germany; Europe > Germany > Berlin; Europe > Germany > Frankfurt; Europe > Germany > Hamburg; Europe > Germany > Leipzig; Europe > Germany > Munich

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The Department of State assesses a Low to Medium rating for Criminal Activity in all German cities in which a U.S. diplomatic presence exists. Crime rates throughout Germany are comparable to those in most first-world countries, including the United States. A comparative analysis of crime data for the United States and Germany reveals only marginal differences: In 2012, violent crime affected an estimated 0.39 percent of the U.S. population and an estimated 0.24 percent of Germany’s population [both figures unchanged from 2011]; theft-related crimes affected an estimated 2.9 percent of both the U.S. and German populations, representing a slight decrease in Germany from the last reporting period. (For all statistics presented herein, Berlin RSO used crime data from the 2012 U.S. FBI “Preliminary Annual Crime Report” (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/preliminary-annual-uniform-crime-report-january-december-2012) and the 2012 Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) “Police Crime Statistics” report (http://www.bka.de/nn_205960/sid_372AD13DDC6CBFB9B563A0F22B46F71E/DE/Publikationen/PolizeilicheKriminalstatistik/pks__node.html?__nnn=true).)

Year-over-year, Germany experienced an overall increase of 0.1 percent in the total number of crimes reported from 2011 to 2012.

According to the 2012 BKA report, entitled “Police Crime Statistics,” theft remains the predominate criminal offense throughout Germany, representing nearly 40 percent of all recorded cases. The most common thefts, in rank order, are shoplifting (361,759); thefts from vehicles (343,460); theft of bicycles (326,159); theft from offices, workshops, and storage spaces (145,883); home burglaries (144,117); theft of non-cash means of payment (129,976); and motor vehicle thefts (37,238).  
 
Violent crime fell by 1.0 percent from 2011 to 2012, with small but statistically significant decreases in recorded cases involving physical assaults and murders/manslaughters. However, rape and aggravated sexual assaults rose 6.5 percent (6.5 percent).

Non-violent crimes, including frauds, computer-related crimes, and illegal immigration offenses, experienced modest to significant increases from 2011 levels, while the number of cases involving weapons violations witnessed tangible decreases in 2012. In stark contrast to last year's substantial declines, the number of reported cases involving the fraudulent use of payment cards and debits cards rose sharply (22.4 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively). There was, however, a decrease in credit card-related fraud (-7.9 percent). Not surprisingly, reports of compromised bank and credit cards are frequent, even in well-known hotels and at high-visibility ATMs. 

Changes in the BKA's reporting of drug crimes in its annual release, coupled with the unavailability of certain crime statistics at the time of this report, make it necessary to aggregate all drug offenses in this report. This is a deviation from last year's reporting, when a breakdown of specific drug offenses was possible. That said, the total number of all drug-related offenses in Germany rose slightly from 2011 levels, climbing 0.3 percent.

 

Crime Statistics for Germany, CY 2011-2012

Type of Offense

2012

# of Reported Cases

2011

# of Reported Cases

Percent Change

Total All Offenses

5,997,040

5,990,679

0.1

Violent Crimes

195,143

197,030

-1.0

            Murder/Manslaughter

2,126

2,174

-2.2

            Rape and Aggravated Sexual Coercions

8,031

7,539

6.5

            Robberies

48,711

48,021

1.4

            Dangerous & Serious Bodily Harm

136,077

139,091

-2.2

Non-Violent Crimes

 

 

 

            Thefts, all

2,379,725

2,403,781

-1.0

            Frauds, all

958,515

934,882

2.5

            Computer-related, all

87,871

84,981

3.4

Aliens Act-related

26,110

24,002

8.8

            Weapons Act-related

32,665

34,464

-5.2

            Drug-related, all

237,150

236,478

0.3

 

Generally speaking, U.S. tourists and expatriates are infrequent victims of crime. Occasionally, Americans have purses snatched and pockets picked in high traffic and tourist areas (e.g., in train stations, Internet cafes, crowded restaurants, and outdoor market places), but violent crimes against Americans are rare. And while personal assaults do occur, there is no reason to believe such crimes are driven by anti-American sentiment. Rather, these and other crimes are normally the result of opportunity and convenience.

OSAC members and individuals planning to visit Germany can find extensive information regarding crime statistics and German crime prevention programs — offered in several languages — on the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (Bundeskriminalamt) website at http://www.bka.de.

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Road conditions vary significantly from region to region but are generally fair to good. One should exercise caution, however, while traveling on older roads, particularly in eastern Germany. Drivers should always remember that road conditions can deteriorate quickly with rain, ice, and snow. Consequently, minor and major traffic accidents occur frequently on many major highways and delays can last hours.

Road construction and road wear also present unique safety challenges. In general, road maintenance is a lower priority than in other well-developed countries (much of the infrastructure budget is spent on public transportation services, road and sidewalk environmental clean-up, and other non-maintenance items and services). As such, many roads experience deep and uneven rutting, causing grooves to form on seemingly flat and level road surfaces. This often results in hard and unexpected steering pull, which can lead to motor vehicle accidents for drivers unaccustomed to — or unaware of — such conditions.

Compared to speed limits for major roads and highways in the United States, speed limits in most German cities are relatively low. The average speed limit is 50 kph (~30 mph) but drops to 30 kph in most residential areas and in school zones. Contrary to popular belief, there are also posted speed limits on large stretches of the Autobahn, mostly when traveling through urban areas and on stretches where road curves are more frequent. 

The leading causes of motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents involving U.S. citizens are driver error (e.g., unfamiliar road signs, unusual driving customs and courtesies, etc.) and bicyclist hazards. The former can be attributed to simple confusion by American motorists driving in a foreign country. For example, even though double parking is illegal in most German cities, the practice is an everyday occurrence. It is very common for lane traffic to stop abruptly when a delivery truck parks unexpectedly in a travel lane to unload cargo or when a driver places their car in reverse to take a street-side parking space. Thus, motorists must remain alert and attentive at all times, even when driving in seemingly well-moving traffic. The latter also pose a heightened risk for American motorists and pedestrians. Many sidewalks have dedicated bike lanes. Be aware that bicycles have priority use of these lanes. If you are walking, watch for bicyclists before crossing or stepping into bike lanes. Bicyclists also have priority over cars when turning onto side streets. If you are driving, check whether a bicyclist is approaching from either direction before attempting to enter side streets, even when the light is in your favor. If you are turning onto a side street and strike a bicyclist using a marked bike lane, you will be held responsible for any injury or damage caused. 

Right-of-way and so-called yield laws are similar to those in rural U.S. cities but can seem awkward and confusing for drivers accustomed to driving in larger metropolitan areas. Unless you are traveling on a priority road, vehicles coming from the directional right have the right-of-way. 

It is illegal to leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident until both parties agree that it is alright to do so and before both parties have verified the validity of the other party’s insurance information. Drivers who leave the scene of an accident are frequently referred for prosecution by law enforcement authorities.

It is also generally illegal to pass vehicles on the right-hand side. It is also illegal to use cell phones while driving, and police can detain and fine persons caught engaging in this practice.

For more information on travel within Germany, contact the German National Tourist Board Office in New York at (212) 661-7200, or via fax at (212) 661-7174. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The Department of State assesses a Low to Medium rating for political violence in all German cities in which a U.S. diplomatic presence exists. 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Right-wing extremism remains a center-stage issue and is on the rise. According to authorities, far-right extremists committed more than 17,000 crimes in 2011, including more than 800 violent crimes. In the same year, authorities linked right-wing extremists with the murders of at least 10 German nationals over a 13-year period. As recently as November 2012, the Federal Public Prosecutor brought charges against five suspected neo-Nazi supporters for allegedly setting up and supporting a terrorist association. To mitigate the threat of right-wing extremism, the government created a central database for monitoring violent right-wing extremists, and they recently proposed a ban on the neo-Nazi political party. If the ban is passed, the National Democratic Party (NPD) — their official name — would lose more than one million Euros in government funding.

The Department of State assesses a Medium to High rating for terrorism in all German cities in which a U.S. diplomatic presence exists. Several international terrorist groups that target United States government personnel and interests have a presence and operate in Germany, including al-Qa’ida, Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), and Kongra Gel (former Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK). While not only a Germany-specific concern, the large number of official United States government personnel creates a significant potential target for terrorist groups. Additionally, continued government reporting reiterates the growing concern for the expanding international and indigenous radical Islamist presence within Germany’s borders. Interior Ministry officials estimate that there over 1,000 residents who can be described as Islamist extremists, some of whom attended terror training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In December 2012, the president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maaßen, expressed concern over the growing number of German Islamists travelling to Egypt and Somalia, presumably for terror training. He highlighted that international Islamist terrorism continues to pose the greatest threat to Germany’s homeland security. In March 2013, Maaßen told German magazine Focus that his office estimates there are roughly 4,500 Salafists residing in Germany. 

In 2013, Salafist extremists publicly issued death threats against German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. In response, the federal government banned three ultra-conservative Salafist groups, effective in March 2013. As reported by the Gatestone Institute:
In an effort to enforce the ban, hundreds of German police officers raided the homes of radical Islamists in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gladbeck and Solingen, and seized computers, cell phones and electronic storage devices, as well as money, documents and Islamic propaganda videos in Arabic and in German.

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons to target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorist attacks against public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructures and should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling. 

The U.S. continues to work closely with European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al-Qa’ida. Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and its key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen defenses against potential threats. German authorities continue to investigate extremist groups, deport or arrest individuals considered dangerous, and conduct raids on suspected groups throughout the country.  

Civil Unrest 

Many well-planned and publicized demonstrations protesting government policies draw thousands of participants, and spontaneous demonstrations concerning education and other economic and social issues occur almost daily. Such demonstrations in Berlin typically take place on Unter den Linden near the Brandenburg Gate, in Munich at Marienplatz, and in Frankfurt at the Roemer City Hall and Opernplatz.

According to RSO Berlin, there were 15 declared protests with an anti-American sentiment through the third quarter of 2013, as well as numerous protests over the alleged global spying activities of the United States and its intelligence agencies. Themes included: Guantanamo Bay (GITMO prison facility), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) (many Germans and European citizens demanded a cessation of the free trade talks between the U.S. and the European Union after allegations of alleged spying on European allies by the U.S.), Leonard Peltier (convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first degree murder in the shooting of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation), the U.S. drone policy (specifically, the use of drone strikes against terrorist leaders and organizations operating and/or hiding in other countries), President Obama and his first visit to Berlin (related to the President's decreasing popularity amongst Germans and the President's overall U.S./European foreign policy), asylum for Edward Snowden (the former NSA contractor who leaked Top Secret national security material to world media outlets in an effort to expose the alleged illegal spying activities of the U.S.'s National Security Agency [NSA]), the NSA and its intelligence collection methods and programs (for its alleged spying on German nationals), U.S. involvement in Syria, and the Trayvon Martin murder trial.

In August 2013, a small group of neo-Nazis held an anti-immigration demonstration, which resulted in small pockets of violence amongst the demonstrators and the more than 400 anti-neo-Nazi protestors. Several arrests were made, and the neo-Nazi demonstrators eventually disbanded under a protective police escort.

Post-specific Concerns

Drug-Related Crimes

Illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana, are widely available in Germany. The illegal sale and distribution of these and other drugs often occur near major train stations, public parks and nightclubs. While drug-related activity does not usually affect American tourists or business travelers, Americans should be aware that Germany has the same types of drug-related crime as those encountered in any major U.S. city.  

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Americans should contact the closest United States Embassy or Consulate if they are detained or harassed by local or national police.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if You Become a Victim of Crime

Victims of crime are encouraged to contact the local police by dialing 110 country-wide and to contact the closest American Citizen Services office for possible assistance. That said, German authorities often contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate when an incident involving American tourists occurs.

Various Police/Security Agencies 

There are two primary police agencies within Germany: the LKA and the BKA. 

The LKA is the local police agency responsible for traffic accidents, investigating crimes, enforcing local laws and ordinances, and responding to local emergencies.

The BKA is the federal police agency responsible for higher-level law enforcement actions, such as ambassadorial and Heads-of-State protection, national-level crime investigation (terrorist-related), collecting and analyzing national crime data, and other issues of national importance. In some ways, the BKA is akin to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States, but with significantly fewer law enforcement authorities.

Medical Emergencies

The fire department and ambulance service may be reached by dialing 112. Germany has several university hospitals which provide state-of-the-art medical care in most fields of medicine, including advanced cardiac surgery. 

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

Some of the largest hospitals (by region) are:

Berlin
Charite Campus Benjamin Franklin Freie Universitatklinikum, Hindenburgdamm 30, Steglitz - Tel: 8445-0 (two helipads)

Charité Campus Virchow-Klinikum, Faculty of Humboldt University, Augusteburger Platz 1, Wedding - Tel: 450-50 (two helipads)

Charité Campus Mitte, Faculty of Humboldt University, Schumann Strauss 20-21, Mitte - Tel: 450-50

Krakenhaus Waldfriede, Argentinische Allee 40, D-14163 Berlin-Zehlendorf, Tel: +49 (0)30. 81 810-0

Dusseldorf
Universitaetklinikum, Mooren Strasse # 5, Dusseldorf - Tel: 49 0211-8100

Frankfurt
St. Markus-Krankenhaus, Wilhelm-Epstein Strasse #2, Frankfurt - Tel: 069-95330

Unfall Klinik (Trauma Hospital), Friedberger Landstrasse 430, Frankfurt - Tel: 49 69-4750 (two trauma rooms)

Hamburg
UKE Eppendorf Hospital, Martinistrasse 52, Hamburg - Tel: 040-428030 http://www.uke.uni hamburg.de

Leipzig
Universitaetsklinikum Leipzig, Liebigstrasse 20, 04103 Leipzig - Tel: (0341)97-17300

Munich
Kilinikum Rechts der Isar, Ismaningerstrasse 22, Munich - Tel: 089-4140-2090

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

There are many worldwide air ambulance services that operate in and out of Germany and Europe, including:

Surgical Experts — Based in Germany, +49 176 2028 2223
European Air Ambulance — Based in Luxembourg, +49 711 7007 7007
International SOS — Based in Germany, +49 6102 3588 100

CDC Country-Specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides health-related travel information on their website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/germany.htm. For additional information, travelers may contact the CDC directly at 1-800-232-4636.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Visitors should practice the same common sense personal security practices that they would when visiting any major world city. Germany has crime rates similar to those in other well-developed countries. As such, there are no special tips for avoiding victimization while visiting or living within Germany. American visitors should use the same common sense approaches to staying safe that they would in any large city.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

United States Embassy Berlin
Pariser Platz 2
10117 Berlin

Closed on American and German holidays

United States Embassy Berlin, Consular Annex at Clayallee:
Clayallee 170
14195 Berlin
Federal Republic of Germany
Routine American Citizen Services calls: (030) 8305-1200, 2:00-4:00 pm, Monday-Thursday.
Emergencies only: (030) 8305-0
Fax: (030) 8305-1215

Opening Hours: 8:30 am until 12:00 noon by appointment only, Monday-Friday. Closed on American and German holidays

U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany Website: http://www.usembassy.de/

Public Transport to the Consular Section: From the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), take any westbound train three stops to the Zoologischer Garten, transfer to the southbound U9 two stops to Spichernstrasse, then take the U3 southbound to Oskar-Helene-Heim. Buses from Zoo Station: X10, 110

United States Consulate General Frankfurt
Giessener Strasse 30 60435 Frankfurt am Main
Routine American Citizen Services calls: (069) 7535- 2100, 2:00-4:00 pm, Monday-Friday.
Emergencies only: (069) 7535-0
Fax: (069) 7535-2359
Opening Hours: 7:30 am until 11:30 by appointment only, Monday-Friday. Closed on American and German holidays
http://frankfurt.usconsulate.gov

United States Consulate General Hamburg
Alsterufer 27/28 20354 Hamburg
Tel:  (040) 411-71100
http://hamburg.usconsulate.gov
(no consular services)

United States Consulate General Leipzig
Wilhelm-Seyfferth-Strasse 4 04107 Leipzig
Tel:  (0341) 213-84-0
http://leipzig.usconsulate.gov
(Emergency consular services only)

United States Consulate General Munich
Koeniginstrasse 5 80539 Muenchen
Routine American Citizen Services calls: (089) 2888-575, 8:00 am-4:30 pm, Monday-Friday.
Emergencies only: (089) 2888-0
Fax: (089) 280-9998
Opening Hours: By appointment only, Monday-Friday. Closed on American and German holidays.
http://munich.usconsulate.gov

United States Consulate General Dusseldorf
Willi-Becker-Allee 10, 40227 Dusseldorf
Tel: (0211) 788-8927
http://duesseldorf.usconsulate.gov
(no consular services)

United States Consular Agency Bremen
Flughafenallee 18, 4th Floor, 28199 Bremen
Tel: (0421) 301-5860
Fax: (0421) 301-5861
http://germany.usembassy.gov/acs/bremenacs/
(Only limited consular services are available)

The Department of State main website (http://travel.state.gov) provides access to all U.S. Embassy websites, as well as travel warnings and security alerts.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council located in Berlin. However, Regional Security Officers (RSOs) are located in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich to assist OSAC constituents. RSO, Consular, and Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) personnel can be reached through the following numbers at all times:

Berlin
049-30-8305-0
http://germany.osac.gov

Frankfurt
049-69-7535-2444 / 7502
http://germany.osac.gov

Munich
049-89-2888-0
http://germany.osac.gov

Hamburg
049-040-41171-300

Dusseldorf
049-211-788-8927

Leipzig
049-0341-0213-8411

Each location has a duty officer on call during non-business hours. Contact the telephone operator or Marine Security Guard at these locations if assistance is required. Operators are available on a 24/7 basis.