Trump claims to have more authoritative statistics on German crime than the Germans do. And his numbers show it is rising.
Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants since 2015, many fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. On this side of the pond, hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Central America have sought refuge in the United States since 2014, many fleeing violence in their home countries.
In Trump’s view, Germany offers a cautionary tale: Let immigrants in and watch crime go up.
But this warning carries weight only if his numbers are solid and crime is on the rise in Germany. Let’s find out.
Trump alleged that crime is “way up” or “up 10% plus” in Germany, but he didn’t cite any source. It’s also unclear what time periods he was comparing when he said “up 10% plus.”
Meanwhile, the German government reports that crime dropped to a 25-year low in 2017.
“At roughly 5.76 million, the number of criminal offences committed in Germany is the lowest since 1992,” Horst Seehofer, the German minister of the interior, said in a statement May 8. “This drop in crime is even more apparent in relation to the total population: fewer than 7,000 offences per 100,000 residents. That is the lowest rate in more than 30 years!”
Crime overall was down 9.6 percent from 2016, which included a 2.4 percent decrease in violent crimes. However, violent crimes had risen 6.7 percent between 2015 and 2016, as our colleague Adam Taylor reported.
Germany has seen a huge population influx in recent years, taking in “more than a million migrants, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa in 2015 and 2016,” according to Reuters. In 2016, one-fifth of the country’s residents, or 18.6 million, were first- or second-generation immigrants with “at least one parent who was not born with German citizenship,” Reuters reported.
The number of non-German suspects questioned by police has risen sharply over the past five years, but crimes by non-Germans declined 2.7 percent in 2017. (For Germans, the decline was 2.2 percent.)
“As in the previous year, about 30% of all suspects were not German nationals; the absolute number fell from 616,230 in 2016 to 599,357 in 2017,” according to the German government. “Of this number, 27.9% were asylum applicants, beneficiaries of national or international protection, persons granted asylum status, persons whose deportation has been temporarily suspended, refugees admitted under humanitarian relief programmes or foreigners residing in Germany illegally. This group accounts for 8.5% of all suspects (2016: 8.6%).”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. But one study sponsored by the German government showed that violent crime rose nearly 10 percent in 2015 and 2016, attributing more than 90 percent of that increase to young male refugees. This study paints a partial picture, however, considering the official numbers we discussed above for 2017 and the Germans’ 25-year record.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asked about Trump’s comments during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, said the 2017 crime statistics “speak for themselves.”
“My answer is that the interior minister presented the crime statistics a short while ago, and they speak for themselves,” Merkel said June 19. “We are seeing a slight positive development. We must always do more to fight criminality. But they were very encouraging numbers.”
Trump often makes similar claims about the United States. “Tell them [Democrats] to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration,” he tweeted June 18.
The Justice Department reports that 90 percent of U.S. prisoners are housed in state or local institutions, and because states generally do not report data breaking down how many of their prisoners are undocumented immigrants, experts on several sides of the immigration debate say it is not possible to verify Trump’s claim.
But a comparison of census and FBI data shows the U.S. rate of violent crime was cut by nearly half from 1990 to 2013, while the number of undocumented immigrants in the country tripled. And almost all the independent research on this question — do immigrants bring more crime? — contradicted Trump in 2015 and continues to do so in 2018.
The Pinocchio Test
Trump tweeted that crime was up more than 10 percent in Germany, but he didn’t cite any sources, and the German government says crime declined 10 percent in 2017.
We don’t think we’re going out on a limb by saying the Germans probably have more accurate data than Trump on this one. We’re compelled to give the president’s unsupported claim and his bogus warning Four Pinocchios.
Send us facts to check by filling out this form
Keep tabs on Trump’s promises with our Trump Promise Tracker
Sign up for The Fact Checker weekly newsletter