Crime drops in Germany although citizens still feel unsafe


BERLIN (AP) — Germany saw a drop in hate crimes in 2017 amid an overall decrease in criminal activity, but statistics released Tuesday showed an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, primarily from far-right perpetrators.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel had called an attack last month on an Israeli wearing a Jewish skullcap in Berlin a “new form of anti-Semitism” and said his office was taking the issue seriously.

“For the fight against anti-Semitism, we need the widest possible commitment,” he said, noting the recent appointment of a commissioner for Jewish life and against anti-Semitism.

According to the new report, anti-Semitic crimes in Germany rose 2.5 percent in 2017 to 1,504. Overall hate crimes fell from 10,751 in 2016 to 7,913 to 2017.

In the Berlin attack, the 21-year-old victim, an Arab Israeli who said he wore the kippa in a show of solidarity with his Jewish friends, the suspect has been identified as a 19-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker.

But Seehofer told reporters — despite fears that the influx of migrants into Germany in 2015 and 2016, many from largely Muslim nations, might lead to a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany — “imported anti-Semitism” accounted for few of the crimes. Some 95 percent, he said, were attributed to Germany’s far-right.

The number of right-wing attacks on asylum-seeker homes, another cause for concern in recent years, dropped nearly 68 percent to 300 in 2017 from 929 in 2016.

Overall offenses dropped nearly 10 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year to nearly 5.8 million cases from 6.4 million cases, the lowest figure since 1992. Meanwhile, the proportion of crimes that were solved rose.

“Despite all the challenges, the clear fact is that Germany is more secure — though that’s no reason to give the all-clear, there’s still a lot to do,” Seehofer said.

Significant drops were seen in break-ins, shoplifting and pickpocketing, while increases were seen in drug offences, economic crimes and weapons violations.

Despite the decline, recent surveys have shown that Germans perceive their country as less safe.

Overall, crimes attributed to the far-right fell by 12.9 percent in 2017 to 20,520. Crimes blamed on the far-left, many connected to the violent protests against last year’s G-20 summit in Hamburg, rose 3.9 percent to 9,752.

There were 1,102 crimes motivated by religious ideology in 2017, a new category. In 2016, there were 722 crimes attributed to Islamic extremism.

The Interior Ministry noted a large spike in the number of people accused of membership in a terrorist organization — to 316 in 2017 from 66 in 2016 — but said most were people pointed out by fellow asylum-seekers for crimes in their homelands.

Copyright 2018. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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