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Germany: Crime down but surge in child sex abuse images

April 5, 2022

Germany's crime rate has fallen for the fifth year in a row, down by nearly 5% in 2021 alone. Still, online crime and the distribution of images of child sex abuse are on the rise.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser speaking at a press conference in Berlin
German Interior Minister Faeser said investments in law enforcement are paying off with lower crime ratesImage: Emmanuele Contini/IMAGO

Germany's top security officials presented crime statistics for the year 2021 on Tuesday in Berlin, documenting some 5.05 million cases.

Though overall crime was down 4.9% over 2020 — the fifth year running that crime has gone down — disturbing trends nevertheless persist. At Tuesday's press conference officials pointed to sharp rises in both online crime and the distribution of images of child sex abuse.

Child abuse on the dark web

Interior Minister Faeser: 'A clear mandate to take action'

Citing a 108.8% rise in the distribution of images of child sex abuse compared to 2020, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said: "The appalling extent of sexualized violence against children is a clear mandate for me to take action with all possible consequences. Combating the sexual abuse of children and the dissemination of heinous abuse photos and videos via the internet is a top priority." 

Faeser told reporters the drop in crime was in part a payoff on the country's investments in law enforcement hiring. She added that her immediate goal would be to expand the Federal Criminal Police Office's (BKA) ability to fight the distribution of such images and videos of children as well as pressure investigators to be more aggressive in their efforts.

The interior minister said authorities would improve the analysis of online data to help combat the phenomenon. Officials said cooperation with the US National Center of Missing and Exploited Children has helped police track down offenders as the US non-profit organization has regularly informed police about crimes occurring in Germany.

Another factor fueling the uptick say officials, is the fact that many children and teens freely distribute sexually explicit images of children and young students in chat groups on apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat.

Data theft and cyber attacks

BKA President Münch: 'Witnessing a structural change' in crime

Online crime continued its consistent rise in 2021, up by 12.1% over 2020.

"The number of cybercrime cases has roughly doubled since 2015," said BKA President Holger Münch. "In order to keep pace, we need to quickly drive the digital transformation in policing.''

Münch said authorities were "witnessing a structural change" in crime, noting that police had registered 146,363 online crime cases last year, though he pointed out that many such crimes go unreported.

Arab crime gangs in Germany

Violent crime and home robberies down dramatically as a result of the coronavirus

Authorities say they are also getting better at solving crimes — in 2021, 58.7% of reported cases were solved. The BKA did, however, note that the dramatic fall in robberies — crimes that are notoriously difficult to solve — was a factor. Police have much better stats when it comes to stalking and resisting arrest, with roughly 90% of such cases solved.

Violent crime was down 6.8% according to statistics; home robberies fell by 27.7%. Authorities say that last statistic is the result of many people remaining at home due to remote work and limited travel opportunities — both because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Statistics showed that in all, a total of 1,892,003 suspects were identified last year — roughly 75% of whom were male.

js/msh (AP, dpa, KNA)

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