43% of Criminals in Hamburg...; or Why Germans Are So Ignorant About Crime in Their Country

Much debate in Germany revolves around the question of whether foreigners commit more crimes than Germans. Whenever this subject comes in mainstream German television talk shows, the responses fall into four predictable categories:

  • Those on the center-left (and everyone to the left of them) get up on their hind legs and immediately start lobbing rhetorical smoke-bombs about "over-generalizations" and "stoking prejudice" and "doing a disservice to the millions of hard-working...", etc.
  • Those on the far right consider all immigrants potential criminals, but hardly care, since they would oppose even the most law-abiding immigrants because they want to keep Germany Deutsch. However, their views don't really matter, since people this far right are never given a chance to air their views on mass media.
  • Those on the center-right do occasionally mention statistics, but are too afraid of being labeled xenophobic to say anything specific. They quickly revert to waffle about "criminal structures", "inadequate integration", "challenging and supporting", etc.
  • Those on the right (including the AfD, which contrary to common belief does not (g, pdf) oppose all immigration) say what the numbers show: that foreigners are over-represented in crime statistics. Representatives of this political tendency were almost never invited onto German talk shows until the rise of the AfD made this inevitable. Aside from the AfD, the only other talk-show guests who mention this are are representatives of the Hungarian or Polish or Czech governments who are invited to be the ceremonial punching bag of everyone else on the show, including the moderator.

These programmed responses and euphemisms make informed debate on this issue nearly impossible. One by-product is that most Germans have no idea that foreigners are vastly over-represented in German crime statistics. Dozens of times, I pointed this fact out in class, only to be challenged by students who didn't believe the numbers, some accusing me of "peddling right-wing propaganda". Needless to say, all of the students were keenly aware that blacks are over-represented in American prisons relative to their numbers in the population. Yet they had no idea the same thing was happening in their own country.

So now, in the service of just plain information, a story that appeared in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper a few weeks ago, then quickly fell down the memory hole. The report was based on a confidential police report leaked to the newspaper. The story appears to be pay-walled, but a confidential source furnished me with the paper originals at a 4 AM meeting in an abandoned parking garage, in return for guarantees of confidentiality and a substantial cash payment. I can now reveal the following statistics:

  • In the first half of 2106, Hamburg police investigated 38,000 criminal suspects.
  • Of these, 16,600, or 43%, did not have German nationality.
  • 3882 suspects, or 9.5% of the total, were "refugees" (that is, recent migrants)
  • These numbers do not reflect offenses merely against immigration laws, those were removed from the calculation to avoid distortion.
  • In all of 2015, Hamburg authorities investigated 68,868 criminal suspects, of which 28,400 (41 percent) were foreigners.
  • The crimes most often committed by refugees were assault (1014 cases). Refugees were also responsible for 30.6% of all thefts and 27.5% of all drug smuggling and distribution offenses.
  • Refugees also committed 18.2% of all cases of "sexual insult" and 18.9% of all more serious sexual offenses. A majority of these cases resulted from New Years' Eve in Hamburg.

There are currently about 25,000 refugees in Hamburg, out of a population of 1,814,597 (g) million. So refugees are 1.37% of the population. But it sure looks like they are committing crimes way out of proportion to the raw numbers.

We can't say exactly how over-represented refugees are among criminals in Hamburg, since it's entirely possible a single refugee enriched the crime stats with 7 pickpocketings, 3 simple assaults, and one sexual assault. This is known to police and criminologists as the 80/20 rule of thumb: 80 percent of all crimes are committed by 20% of the people; 80% of all police calls are to the most unruly 20% of the city, etc.

Without a detailed breakdown of the identity of the offenders, we can't know for certain just how disproportionate the rate of crime among refugees is. And of course cops and politicians will use this gap in the knowledge -- which they themselves created -- to constantly muddle the issue: "This doesn't necessarily mean refugees are more criminal, because it just might be a small number of refugees committing most of these crimes." Kind of like the boy who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. This also raises the question of why Germany imported these one-man crime waves and allows them to stay, but those are questions for another post.

It should also be remembered that there is some unknown number of people who have German citizenship, and are thus accounted for as German nationals, but were not born in Germany. German authorities intentionally fail to keep records on these numbers, but they're probably at least another 15-20% of criminals.

So, to sum up, here are a few : Most immigrants aren't criminals, but most criminals are immigrants, or were not born in Germany. Most immigrants are law-abiding, but immigrants as a whole commit crimes at a much higher rate than Germans.

See, now you know the truth. Let it set you free!

Japanese Tourists, Online Galleries, and Old Blighty

Doughty mews

  • If you're in London anytime soon, go visit Shunt, an underground (literally) bar/theatre/gallery run by a collective of 10 artists. It inhabits a gigantic series of vaults under the London Bridge Tube Station. Its lease expires in May!
  • When you do visit the Shunt Vaults, I can recommend 'Wuthering Heights,' a piece by "pop performance artist" Kazuko Hohki, who plays a Japanese tourist come to Yorkshire to visit the locations described in her favorite novel. Amusing cross-cultural comedy.
  • If you're into Second Life, you can visit the Dresden Old Masters Gallery online here. I tried to do this myself by downloading Second Life and creating a character, but I ended up in some weird beginner's zone where giant floating images completely obscured the environment and freaked me out. I couldn't teleport to the Old Masters Gallery. Here's hoping you have better luck.
  • If you visit the British Library and jump through all the hoops required to actually gain entry into a Reading Room, don't talk on your cellphone. No matter how well you think you've hidden yourself, the staff have CCTV cameras everywhere and will track you down and chastise you.
  • It's true what they say -- every building in London bristles with CCTV cameras. So don't try anything screwy.
  • I've never considered myself particularly völkisch, but while in England, I felt a mild sense of relief and fellow-feeling at being among 'anglo-saxons.' Strange, that. 

Synthetic Saxon Speech


  • A website with very odd samples of computer-synthesized German speech can be found here. It includes German spoken in computer-generated Saxon (g, mp3) and French (g, mp3) accents.
  • Let's keep on the subject of Saxony, a state in the former East Germany. According to someone I hung out with a couple of weeks ago, Saxons were offered classes in the early 1990s to help them get rid of their distinctive accents. And you thought accent-tony-fication was only for Margaret Thatcher!
  • Frogs have no penises.
  • The Mounties Catch Herpes.

That's all the factoiding for today.

Factoids for the Day

No time to post somethin' fancy, so here are the 'toids you need, from a source you trust.

  • The most effective political ad in the current U.S. presidential campaign deals with aerial wolf gunning.
  • Some unlucky person at the KFW (Germany's state-owned "Credit Institute for Reconstruction") transferred up to 350 million Euro (g) to Lehman Brothers last Monday, the day LB declared bankruptcy. D'oh!
  • Two guys I've never heard of describe the current U.S. credit crisis brilliantly here.
  • Since I'm an American taxpayer, and the American taxpayer now owns AIG Insurance, and AIG Insurance owns Manchester United football team, I suppose I now own about .000001% of Man U.
  • Wilco's most recent record, Sky Blue Sky, is magnificent.

UPDATE: Commenter Ingo points out that the Wilco link was broken. Thank, I fixed it. He also points out that the record has been out for a year now. To which I say: did I saw it new? No, I called it 'most recent', not 'recent.' And lay off me, already! This blog does not appear on vellum, bound in calfskin, edited by a panel of distinguished scholars. It's a fecking hobby. And besides, I ain't chargin' you people ONE THIN DIME for this, so if you don't like my humble efforts, Ingo, why don't you start your own goddamn...

Excuse me, it's been a rough day. I didn't mean to get all cranky. Have a nice weekend!

Factoids on Hope and the Brothers Grimm

  • If you're not visitin Bouphonia's glorious Friday Hope Blogging, you should start now.  Bouphonia also has something for the sea-slug fans out there.
  • Also, the Brothers Grimm German dictionary can be found online here.  It starts with a hymn of praise to the letter A as the "noblest and most fundamental of all sounds, sounding fully from the throat and breast, and which the child learns first."
  • Jonathan Rutherford and Zygmunt Bauman have essays on the culture of capitalism and privatization which can be downloaded from Soundings here.

This Week's Factoids on Language, Consulting and Computers

  • According to a friend of mine who works for a consulting company, one of their gags involves ordering workers to break up into teams, and then perform an exercise which involves each of them writing one or two words from a particular sentence on a index cards, until the entire sentence has been formed.  The sentences they use? "Caring parents are to be admired" and "Loving children are to be admired."
  • Possibly the longest debate on German Anglicisms on this or any other Internet can be found in a discussion forum of the online dictionary LEO right here (g).  For an amusing short story composed almost entirely of French imports into English click here.
  • Windows Vista has built-in speech recognition capability, which actually works amazingly well, no joke!  Just go to Control Panel, then Speech Recognition.  Why was I not informed of this long before?

Hashish, Hitchens, Heaven

  • A friend of mine yesterday told me that her acupuncture doctor herGod_is_guilty_of_everything_2e in Germany plunges needles tipped with tiny balls of hasish into her pressure points.  According to her, "Dr. Wang's entire office reeks of hashish."  Also, it feels soooo goooood.
  • Ed Philp recently sent me this joke: "A busload of people from different nations arrives at Heaven’s gates.  A sign says "Heaven -- turn left.  Lectures About Heaven -- turn right." The Germans all head to the right.
  • The fine Spiegel cover story on the "new atheists," which was announced by the classic cover "God is to blame for everything!" (see left), characterizes Christopher Hitchens as the "English Hans Magnus Enzensberger," which seems about right to me.  Both are public intellectuals with a claim to have read everything, both migrated away from the left, both write tartly ironic prose, and both surprised many onlookers by supporting the Iraq war.

Fast. Faster. Joy.

This blog's been getting a bit long-winded. Time to learn from the tabloids: the news you need, in the time you have. Presenting German Joy Factoids:

  • Fact: According to Titanic, German ambulance drivers have a private lingo in which they refer to doctors as "Druids" or "Higher Beings," depending on the particular ambulance firm. Epileptic attacks, however, are universally called "Dirty Dancing." In English.
  • Fact: In the television series Ma Famille from the Ivory Coast, an entire stretch of episodes during which one character complains of physical pain is called De quoi souffre Bohiri ? (What is Bohiri suffering from?). The next 2-part installment of the series is called simply: "Renal Insufficiency."
  • Fact: Germany has just won the World Championship in Handball, which, according to this news story (G), has again plunged "the entire nation into World-Championship delirium!" The President and Chancellor called to congratulate the team.
  • Fact: I don't even know what handball is.