What is the main difference between the objective justification

Internal security

Dina Hummelsheim-Doss

To person

holds a doctorate in sociology and works as a research assistant in the criminological department of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg im Breisgau. [email protected]

A scientific approach to the feeling of security

For some time now there has been talk of growing uncertainty in the media and in politics. Hardly a day goes by without spectacular reports on crime and terrorism, and opinion research institutes publish survey results according to which a clear majority of Germans believe that they are in particularly uncertain times. [1] In the run-up to the 2017 federal election, internal security has become one of the dominant issues. Parties that have previously made a name for themselves in other areas are now also claiming this political field for themselves. It is said that one wants to take the citizens seriously. However, the roots of feelings of insecurity related to crime usually do not lie in the objective security situation.

How safe do the Germans live?

Indeed, the annually published police crime statistics (PKS) convey the image of a fairly safe country with decreasing overall crime: in 2016 a total of around 6.4 million criminal offenses were recorded. Without the increasing number of cases of immigration-related violations such as unauthorized entry, unauthorized residence or other violations of asylum and residence rights that do not directly affect the security of citizens, this corresponds to a decrease of 0.7 percent in comparison compared to the previous year and by 6.4 percent compared to 2005. The so-called frequency number, i.e. the number of crimes committed per 100,000 inhabitants, fell by 1.9 percent to 7,161 cases in 2016 compared to the previous year. [2]

If you focus on the different areas of crime, theft, fraud and property damage make up the overwhelming share of total crime at around 66 percent. The most common crime, with around 2.4 million cases and a share of 40.3 percent of the total crime, is theft. Among other things, this also includes theft of a home - a criminal offense that has a particularly strong and lasting effect on people's feeling of security. [3] While the number of burglaries rose steadily in previous years, in 2016, with around 151,000 cases, for the first time in around ten years, a decline of almost ten percent compared to the previous year was recorded. "Street crime", which in particular in the form of robberies influences the feeling of security and above all the behavior at going out, [4] has also decreased by a total of around 27 percent since 2002.

The only thing that is striking is an increase in violent crime in the past two years. While the number of registered cases decreased from 2008 to 2014, they increased slightly from 2015 and then significantly in 2016 by almost seven percent compared to the previous year. The increase is primarily attributed to an increase in dangerous and serious bodily harm. Robbery, on the other hand, has decreased. However, the number of violent crime cases has fallen by two percent over the past 15 years, so there have always been phases of increase and decrease.

When assessing the objective crime rate, it must be taken into account that the PKS only includes criminal offenses known to the police - the so-called bright field. Since only a very small part of the recorded crime can be traced back to police investigative work, the reporting behavior of the population plays a decisive role in the extent of the brightfield. This turns out very differently depending on the crime. [5] Without information about the unreported areas of criminal offenses, it remains uncertain to what extent the numbers registered in the police crime statistics reliably reflect objective crime. Representative population surveys on people's experiences as victims of crime are therefore a necessary addition to the PKS.

The German Victimization Survey (DVS) from 2012 is such a dark field study that enables representative statements to be made on the extent and type of victim experience in the German population regardless of reporting behavior. These figures also indicate that victim experience is generally rare and that less serious offenses predominate. In addition, the victim experiences are not distributed randomly among the population. Certain socio-demographic characteristics and lifestyle aspects are associated with more frequent crime experiences. With regard to violent crime, it can be stated that a large proportion of victim experiences are concentrated in a small group of repeatedly affected persons. About two thirds of all physical injuries are caused by multiple victims. [6] These are primarily young men who are involved in acts of violence such as brawls when they go out in the evening. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make a statement about the development of victim experiences over time, as there has not yet been a regular unreported field survey in Germany. [7]

Overall, the data from the PKS and the findings of the DVS 2012 show that Germany - also in comparison to other European countries - is a largely safe country in which citizens are rarely directly threatened by crime. But what is the relationship between this finding and the "perceived" security in Germany?