FACT CHECK: Is Crime In Germany Up Over 10 Percent After An Influx Of Migrants?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this week that crime in Germany is up over 10 percent since the country started accepting migrants.

“Crime in Germany is up 10% plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted,” he tweeted Tuesday.

“Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” Trump tweeted Monday.

Verdict: False

Overall crime in Germany was 5.3 percent lower in 2017 than in 2014, before the country started accepting a large number of refugees. Violent crime was 4.4 percent higher.

Fact Check:

Trump’s tweets came as his administration faced heavy criticism for its “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration on the southern border that led to an increase in the number of migrant families separated. He compared asylum-seekers in the U.S. to those in Germany in a speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses Tuesday.

“The United States has just surpassed Germany as having the most asylum seekers of any nation on Earth,” Trump said. “They allowed millions of people in. And, by the way, their crime, from the time they started, is up more than 10 percent.”

Germany has taken in over 1 million migrants since 2015 after it changed its policies to grant asylum to those fleeing conflict. Hundreds of thousands were denied asylum, but many remain in the country while they appeal the decision.

The number of reported crimes in 2017 was 5.3 percent lower than it was in 2014 before Germany started taking in more refugees, according to German police crime statistics.

“Altogether, we had in 2017 the lowest crime rate in Germany in 25 years because theft went down dramatically, also breaking into houses and many other offenses,” Dr. Christian Pfeiffer, the former director of the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN), told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The government was extremely happy that in spite of all the refugees, we had enormous decline.”

There was an initial increase in crime after the influx of refugees into Germany, however. The number of crimes increased by 4.1 percent from 2014 to 2015 and by 0.7 percent from 2015 to 2016. There was a sharp 9.6 percent decline from 2016 to 2017.

Violent crime alone was higher in 2017 than it was in 2014, but still not as high as Trump claims. There were 4.4 percent more violent crimes reported in 2017 than in 2014.

Germany saw a peak in violent crime in 2007, and it steadily declined until 2014. “Then, a huge wave of immigrants arrived in Germany. And the following three years, ’15, ’16 and ’17, there was a slight increase,” Pfeiffer told TheDCNF.

The number of violent crimes increased 0.2 percent from 2014 to 2015 and 6.7 percent from 2015 to 2016 before declining slightly by 2.4 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Thomas Bliesener, the current director of the KFN, rejected Trump’s accusation that officials are not reporting all crimes. “There is absolutely no indication that the German police is faking these figures,” he told TheDCNF in an email.

The White House did not respond to an inquiry from TheDCNF asking where Trump got the 10 percent figure, but he may be thinking of a German government-sponsored study on refugee crime released in January.

The study found that the number of reported violent crimes went up 10.4 percent in 2015 and 2016 in the German state of Lower Saxony, which is in the northwestern part of the country.

Notably, the study found that refugees were responsible 92.1 percent of the increase. But those figures do not apply to the whole country, and national data for 2017 shows a decline in violent crime from 2016.

Pfeiffer, one of the authors of the study, said that a significant portion of the violent offenses committed by refugees in 2015 and 2016 was due to confrontations in overcrowded migrant shelters. For example, Sunni and Shiite Muslims would encounter each other.

He also noted that the refugee population was about 30 percent female, reducing the violence-preventing, civilizing effect that the study says emanates from women.

The crime rate among migrants from North Africa was much higher than for those fleeing Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. North African refugees accounted for 17.1 percent of violent crime in Lower Saxony in 2016 even though they made up 0.9 percent of the asylum-seeking population.

Asylum-seekers from North Africa do not have a good chance of getting legal status in Germany. “The situation is completely different for those who find out as soon as they arrive that they are totally undesirable here. No chance of working, of staying here,” Reuters quoted Pfeiffer as saying in January.

It is too early to definitively say why crime decreased in 2017 after spiking in 2015 and 2016 and how that relates to migrants. Pfeiffer suspects that there was less migrant crime in part because there was a higher proportion of women in the migrant population in 2017, and because refugees found stable living situations and jobs.

He thinks that there is too much focus on migrant crime rather than other aspects of international politics. “We are overwhelmed by fear and insecurity and the mass media doesn’t talk about anything else but about refugees,” he said.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter