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Germany 2015 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 Rating Berlin: Medium
Crime Rating Biblis: Medium
Crime Rating Cologne: Medium
Crime Rating Dusseldorf: Medium
Crime Rating Frankfurt: Medium
Crime Rating Hamburg: Medium
Crime Rating Lampertheim: Low
Crime Rating Leipzig: Medium
Crime Rating Munich: Low

Crime Threats

Crime rates are comparable to those in most first-world countries, including the U.S., and comparative analysis of crime data for the U.S. and Germany reveals only marginal differences. According to the latest statistics, the number of violent crimes recorded in 2013 decreased by 5.3 percent over 2012. However, residential property crimes and pickpocketing increased 3.5 percent and 15.6 percent respectively from the 2012 levels.      

According to the 2013 Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), “Police Crime Statistics,” theft and burglary remain the predominant criminal offenses, representing nearly 40 percent of all recorded crimes. The most common offences, in rank order include: shoplifting (356,152), thefts from vehicles (332,605), theft of bicycles (316,857), theft from offices, workshops, and storage spaces (140,186), home burglaries (149,500), theft of non-cash means of payment (136,034), and motor vehicle thefts (37,427). OSAC constituents planning to visit Germany can find extensive information regarding crime statistics and German crime prevention programs — offered in several languages — on the BKA website at http://www.bka.de.

The number of rape cases and related offenses reported dropped by 7.8 percent in 2013. BKA reported that the number of aggravated assaults decreased by 6 percent. Immigration-related crimes including offences against the Aliens Act and illegal entry found 24.2 percent and 29.4 percent increases over 2012 statistics.

Crime Statistics for Germany, CY 2012- 2013

Type of Offense

2013

# of Reported Cases

2012

# of Reported Cases

% Change

Total All Offenses

5,961,662

5,997,040

-0.6

Violent Crimes

184,847

195,143

-.5.3

Murder/Manslaughter

2,122

2,126

-0.2

Rape and Aggravated Sexual Coercions

7,408

8,031

-7.8

Robberies

47,234

48,711

-3%

Dangerous & Serious Bodily Harm

127,869

136,077

-6

Non-Violent Crimes

 

 

 

Thefts, all

2,379,725

2,403,781

-1.0

Frauds, all

958,515

934,882

2.5

Computer-related, all

88,722

87,871

1

Aliens Act-related

33,796

26,110

29.4

Weapons Act-related

31,440

32,665

-3.8

Drug-related, all

253,525

237,150

6.9

Americans are infrequent victims of crime. Occasionally, Americans have purses snatched and pockets picked in high traffic and tourist areas (in train stations, Internet cafes, crowded restaurants, and outdoor market places), but violent crimes against Americans are rare. While personal assaults do occur, these and other crimes are normally the result of opportunity and convenience.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Road conditions vary significantly but are generally fair to good. One should exercise caution 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 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 U.S., 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. There are 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 (unfamiliar road signs, unusual driving customs and courtesies, etc.) and bicyclist hazards. The former can be directly attributed to simple confusion by American motorists driving in a foreign country. For example, even though double parking is illegal, the practice is an everyday occurrence on most German streets. 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 German driver places his car in reverse to occupy a street-side parking space. Thus, motorists must remain alert and attentive at all times, even when driving in seemingly well-moving traffic.

Bicyclists and bicycle traffic also pose a heightened risk for American motorists and pedestrians. Many sidewalks have dedicated bike lanes for use by bicyclists. 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. As an aside, it is also generally illegal to pass vehicles on the right-hand side.

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 are frequently referred for prosecution by law enforcement authorities.

It is also illegal to use cell phones while driving. Police can detain and fine persons engaging in this practice.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Right-wing extremism remains a center-stage issue and is on the rise. 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 help mitigate the threat of right-wing extremism, the government created a central database for monitoring violent right-wing extremists and recently proposed a ban on the neo-Nazi political party. If the ban is passed, the National Democratic Party (NPD) — the official name for the neo-Nazi party — would lose more than one million Euros (1,000,000€) in government funding.

Political Violence Rating Berlin: Medium
Political Violence Rating Biblis: Low
Political Violence Rating Cologne: Low
Political Violence Rating Dusseldorf: Low
Political Violence Rating Frankfurt: Medium
Political Violence Rating Hamburg: Medium
Political Violence Rating Lampertheim: Low
Political Violence Rating Leipzig: Low
Political Violence Rating Munich: Medium

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Several international terrorist groups that target U.S. 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). The large number of official U.S. government personnel in Germany 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. 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 increasing 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 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 that took effect in March 2013. According to open sources, the ban resulted in raids of residences of suspected Islamist extremists and the seizure of property linked to their activities, including personal computers, phones, cash, and extremist propaganda in both German and Arabic. 

In March 2013, Maaßen told the magazine, Focus, that his office estimates there are roughly 4,500 Salafists residing in Germany. 

There are reports that as many as 550 German residents have traveled to the Middle East to fight on the side of ISIL. According to some sources as many as 150 fighters have returned to Germany from the warzones in Iraq and Syria.    

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 tourism infrastructure 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 and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 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.  

Terrorism Rating Berlin: High
Terrorism Rating Biblis: Low
Terrorism Rating Cologne: Low
Terrorism Rating Dusseldorf: Medium
Terrorism Rating Frankfurt: High
Terrorism Rating Hamburg: High
Terrorism Rating Lampertheim: Medium
Terrorism Rating Leipzig: Medium
Terrorism Rating Munich: High

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Protests with an anti-American sentiment, as well as numerous protests over the alleged global spying activities of the U.S. remain common but most always nonviolent. Themes have included the Guantanamo Bay 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 among 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, the Trayvon Martin murder trial, and the death of Michael Brown murder trial.  

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.

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-fascist protestors. Several arrests were made, and the neo-Nazi demonstrators disbanded under a protective police escort. 

Germany is home to large expatriate populations from other EU nations, as well as areas with extensive internal instability, such as Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. Increases in conflict in these regions can prompt large-scale protests from their respective Diaspora. This was the case in the summer of 2014 during the Israeli incursion into Gaza, where sometimes thousands of protestors took to the streets. Although violence was limited, it serves as an example of how Germany can be affected by international events. 

There are also a large number of left-wing groups that can quickly mobilize thousands of protestors. Theses protests are typically focused on German and/or EU matters, such as refugee rights. However, these demonstrations have focused on the U.S. government, as in the case of Edward Snowden’s allegations. In general, even large scale protests are usually peaceful and closely monitored by the police. When violence does occur, it is typically limited to attacks on the police officers themselves or to the destruction of nearby property.

In the latter half of 2014, Germany saw an increasing number of protests against the perceived “Islamization” of the country. A number of these protests, initially held by those described in media reports as “hooligans” and “motorcycle gang members,” became violent when counter-protestors appeared. More recently, a larger, more organized umbrella group known as PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) appeared. This group and its offshoots have held almost weekly-protests in several large German cities, notably Dresden and Berlin, that have attracted thousands of supporters as well as thousands of counter protestors. Despite the numbers, protests have remained mostly peaceful, with only limited and infrequent violence reported, typically directed against police engaged in crowd control.

Remember, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if you find yourself in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. U.S. citizens should monitor local media and maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness.

Post-specific Concerns

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

American businesses are susceptible to industrial espionage. There are many specialists around the world who are capable of gathering information, especially through unprotected computer networks. Businesses should take effective measures to protect their information and their personnel. These measures could include, but not be limited to: video monitoring, alarm systems, and computer network protection programs. Companies can reduce their vulnerability with proper planning, by verifying the bona fides of potential partners, and conducting thorough pre-employment screening and background checks on all potential partners and staff.   

Drug-related Crimes

Illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana, are widely available. 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 crimes as those encountered in any major U.S. city.  

Police Response

German police have extensive experience with managing civil unrest events and remain committed to maintaining law and order.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

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

Crime Victim Assistance

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. Americans are encouraged to contact the local police (dial 110 nationwide or 112 for Fire/Medical assistance) if they are involved in an accident or become the victim of a crime and to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for possible assistance. German authorities also often contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate when an incident involving American tourists occurs.

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 Head 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 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 that provide state-of-the-art medical care in most fields of medicine, including advanced cardiac surgery.

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

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.unihamburg.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

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Visitors and residents should exercise the same level of care as they would in any major U.S. city.   

In popular tourist areas, visitors are encouraged to safeguard their valuables and not to carry large amounts of cash or unneeded credit cards. Visitors should be particularly careful on crowded streets and other high-density areas, including entertainment areas, department stores, restaurants, underground pedestrian street-crossings, or on crowded public transportation. Visitors are encouraged to keep their bags where they can be seen rather than slung over a shoulder. Pay particular attention to personal belongings in busy bars or restaurants. Thieves use snatch-and-grab techniques to steal laptops, purses, shopping bags, and other valuables. In restaurants, bars, and theaters, bags should not be placed on the floor or hung on a chair, but should be kept in sight. Bags or purses should be slung across the chest and carried such that the zipper or opening securely fits under the arm. Visitors carrying backpacks should not place valuables, including passports, in external pockets and should consider keeping wallets, cash, credit cards and passports in a front pants’ pocket. Should a criminal attempt to snatch or otherwise forcefully take a bag, one should not attempt to struggle. Visitors should pack day bags or backpacks such that there is nothing in them for which it is worth being injured.

When withdrawing money from an ATM, especially one on a public street, try to do so with a companion. Avoid using ATMs that are located in unlit areas. ATM skimming devices, installed by criminals to capture data from cards, are a threat throughout Europe, and users should inspect the ATM’s card reader for signs of tampering or other abnormalities before inserting their bank cards. In addition, all ATM users should be careful to protect their personal identification numbers (PIN) from “shoulder surfers” who may attempt to observe the PIN surreptitiously.

Visitors should be aware of "distraction crimes." Strangers will attempt to engage victims in conversation, or otherwise distract their attention, so that their accomplices may more easily snatch bags or parcels or pick the victims’ pockets. Avoiding such distractions and maintaining situational awareness will help to deter such crimes.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

United States Embassy Berlin
Pariser Platz 2
10117 Berlin
Federal Republic of Germany
Closed on American and German holidays

United States Embassy Berlin, Consular Annex at Clayallee
Clayallee 170
14195 Berlin
Federal Republic of Germany
Fax: (030) 8305-1215

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

Embassy Contact Numbers

Consular Annex routine American Citizen Services calls: (030) 8305-1200, 2:00-4:00 pm, Monday—Thursday.
Emergencies only: (030) 8305-0
U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany Website: http://www.usembassy.de/

Nearby Posts

Consulate General Frankfurt: http://frankfurt.usconsulate.gov
Consulate General Hamburg: http://hamburg.usconsulate.gov 
Consulate General Leipzig: http://leipzig.usconsulate.gov
Consulate General Munich: http://munich.usconsulate.gov
Consulate General Dusseldorf: http://duesseldorf.usconsulate.gov
Consular Agency Bremen: http://germany.usembassy.gov/acs/bremenacs/

Embassy Guidance 

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. 

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council located in Berlin. Regional Security Officers (RSOs) are located in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich to assist OSAC constituents. The OSAC Country Council for Germany has a website: http://germany.osac.gov. To reach the OSAC Europe team, please email OSACEUR@state.gov.