Crime rate continues to fall in Germany

The recent report of the Bundeskriminalamt for the year 2021[1] confirms the downward trend in crime in Germany, which fell by 4.9% compared to the previous year (5,047,860 crimes, a decrease of 262,761 compared to 2020). This is the fifth year in a row that the trend has continued and moved further away from the total data of six million recorded between 1993 and 2009 or between 2014 and 2016.

The most significant declines, correlating with the evolution of the pandemic and countermeasures, are found in crimes against infectious disease legislation, down 82.7%; robberies and thefts, which, combined, are down 11.8% (199,044 cases in total figures); and minor malicious injuries (-10%, 37,306 fewer cases). Also decreasing are crimes against weapons legislation (-12.5%) and crimes involving serious violence (homicides of various types and serious injuries), which have fallen by 6.8%.

On the contrary, crimes of dissemination of pornographic content (of children and young people), rising by 87.8%, and threats (+21.9%), are mainly increasing. On the other hand, somewhat surprisingly (especially considering the context of increased online activity), cybercrime (+12%) has risen less. Other increases are not quantitatively significant.

In line with the decrease in crimes, the number of detainees has also decreased (3.9%), both the number of German detainees (4.1%) and those of other nationalities (-3.6%). The crime clearance rate remains stable, with a slight downward trend (-0.3%).

In summary, these are crime trends that do not correspond to those of other neighbouring countries; while cybercrime has risen moderately (despite the significant growth of the digital world), property crime has gone down very sharply, and violent crime is down more moderately, but also significantly.


[1] See https://www.bka.de/DE/AktuelleInformationen/StatistikenLagebilder/PolizeilicheKriminalstatistik/PKS2021/pks2021_node.html;jsessionid=C1BF5345D19E9FB1E8769E30406A6CB4.live292

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Evaluating Aerial Systems for Crime-Scene Reconstruction

Security professionals are using ICTs as an opportunity to propose new approaches for modifying or creating innovative strategies for crime prevention and response, thus achieving greater effectiveness and efficiency. New remote sensing technology mounted on drones offers the possibility of improving crime scene reconstruction, alongside the traditional model, i.e., the physical inspection performed by an agent at the crime scene.

In order to analyse the characteristics and differences between the aerial system (drone) and the terrestrial system (laser scanning), simulations of three different outdoor scenarios envisaged in the 2021 report “Evaluating Aerial Systems for Crime-Scene Reconstruction” [1] by the National Institute of Justice were conducted at the Crisis City Training Center near Salina, Kansas: (1) an urban scene recreating a carjacking and shooting including broken glass, bullet casings and pools of blood; (2) a forest where a suicide has taken place, with empty alcohol containers and narcotics; and (3) an open field with a clandestine grave, a shovel, a cell phone and clothing.

With the results of these simulations, the differences that became apparent were, on the one hand, in favour of the aerial system (and opposed to terrestrial laser scanning): (1) it does not require forensic personnel to walk through the crime scene, risking contamination and/or destruction of evidence and bodily harm from hazardous environments; (2) it allows faster data capturing of the entire crime scene; (3) it is cheaper, costing about $15,000 (the conventional terrestrial laser comes in at about $75,000); and (4) by capturing information from above, there are no blind spots, unlike in laser scanning, where blind spots occur if there are insufficient scanning positions or obstacles.

On the other hand, laser scanning results in a higher image accuracy, with an error level of about 1 mm, and capable of preserving the quality in the dark and regardless of the environmental conditions. As far as the drone is concerned, the error level was about 1 cm and, moreover, in the case of open spaces such as the forest, the height of the drone (to avoid hitting the treetops) reduced the quality of the image. The atmospheric variables (cloud coverage, temperature, wind, precipitation…) must also be taken into account, which will condition the efficiency of the aerial system.

Therefore, when reconstructing 3D images of the (simulated) crime scene, maximum efficiency is achieved by complementing terrestrial and aerial scanning, as the combination of both systems allows faster data capturing of the entire crime scene, while maintaining a higher level of accuracy. The procedure is a non-intrusive technique that helps investigators prevent scene contamination, and the results can help officers, lawyers and judges “walk through” the scene at any time, even years later, as well as verify details such as distances and sight.

[1] Informe https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/evaluating-aerial-systems-crime-scene-reconstruction

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Major cross-border operation against cocaine lords in Europe

Joint actions of the Belgian Federal Police in Antwerp (Federale Politie Antwerpen), the Dutch National Police (Politie), the German Regional Police (Landeskriminalamt Niedersachsen) and Federal Police (Bundeskriminalamt / BKA), coordinated by Europol, led to the identification and prosecution of the main European High Value Targets who import large quantities of cocaine to the European Union from South America. The Paraguayan National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD – Secretaria Nacional Antidrogas) also participated in the operation.

This operation targeted the European and South American drug and money-laundering infrastructure of a large-scale trafficking network, with which the operation already had great success in February 2022 with the seizure of 34 tonnes of cocaine in Belgium and Germany.

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and worked with intelligence studies and data based on criminal analyses, which allowed a detailed picture of the operations of the networks across countries and continents to be obtained.

The action day on 20 April 2022 led to:

  • Over 35 locations searched by the police.
  • 17 arrests (5 in Belgium, 11 in Germany and 3 in The Netherlands).
  • Seizures in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, including electronic devices, documents, four vehicles, luxury watches and properties, including four apartments, as well as bank accounts and cash with a total value of 5.5 million euros.

These operational activities are the culmination of a parallel investigation by Belgian, Dutch and German law enforcement authorities into a criminal network trafficking shipments of several tonnes of cocaine from their countries of origin to Europe. The operation began in February 2021 when the police authorities of the ports of Hamburg and Antwerp seized a total of 34 tonnes of cocaine in 3 shipments linked to this criminal network. During the investigation, the cooperating authorities discovered that this criminal group had the capacity to send multiple shipments of several tonnes of cocaine to Europe in just a few months.

The command and control centre of the traffickers and the European targets behind it were headquartered in Dubai. From there, they managed the cocaine trafficking from their own production infrastructure in Bolivia. Logistical and supply lines were also identified in Paraguay.

The leaders of the criminal network used encrypted communication to organise their large shipments. The coordination of the several tonnes of cocaine trafficked was intercepted as a result of taking down the Sky ECC encrypted communications platform in 2021. This also led to the discovery of a large network of legitimate businesses created to allow the import of drugs from South America and the laundering of related revenue. For example, to enter the EU, the cocaine was hidden in shipments of bananas, coffee and plaster.

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Impact of gun violence in the U.S.

Each year, more than 40,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence and approximately 85,000 are injured by gunfire. This equates to more than 110 people shot and killed each day in the United States and more than 200 people injured by gunfire. But the trauma of gun violence doesn’t end when a shooting stops.

Across the United States, people from all walks of life have been affected by this public health epidemic. In a national survey, 58% of adults reported that they or someone they care for have experienced gun violence in their lifetime. In addition, millions of people are injured by gunfire, threatened with a gun, or witness an act of gun violence in their lifetime.

For this reason, Everytown for Gun Safety celebrates National Gun Violence Survivors Week every year in February.

Experiencing gun violence has lasting emotional, physical, legal and economic impacts on survivors and their communities. The breadth and diversity of the survivor experience is directly related to the wide-ranging nature of the U.S. gun violence crisis. Gun violence can take many forms, including gun suicides and suicide attempts, gun homicides and assaults, domestic violence involving a gun, school shootings, shootings by police, and unintentional shootings, among other incidents.

Identifying as a survivor of gun violence encompasses many different experiences: witnessing an act of gun violence, receiving threats with or being injured by a gun, or having an acquaintance or loved one injured or killed with a gun.

However, America’s culture of silence regarding gun violence means that too often we do not talk about or fully understand the lifelong impact on survivors.  One of the consequences of this silence is that many survivors do not receive the support and services they need to live with and overcome this trauma. To help break this silence, a survey of 650 survivors was conducted at the end of 2021. The data show the magnitude of the gun violence epidemic in the United States and the lasting impact on individuals and communities. The main findings include:

  • Nine out of 10 survivors of gun violence report being traumatised by the incident.
  • More than half of those who had experienced gun violence in the past year rated the trauma as 5 out of 5.
  • Nurses, doctors or hospital staff were the ones most likely to say they experienced the impact through their work, followed by staff working in schools.
  • Two-thirds of the injured survivors expressed the need for mental health services, therapy and support.
  • Nearly one in three survivors said they needed legal assistance as a victim or for the death of a family member.
  • One in three survivors said they needed financial support to help cover funeral or medical costs or to compensate for income lost due to death or injury.

Everytown Research & Policy presents the report divided into five sections that discuss the grief and pain of gun death, focusing primarily on the experiences of survivors.

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Would it be possible to abolish the police service in traffic safety in the United States?

During the month of April of this year the report Dismantling Law Enforcement’s Role in Traffic Safety: A Roadmap for Massachusetts was published. This study provides a vision and framework for moving towards police-free traffic safety.

Traffic stops are the most common form of contact between civilians and the police. A recent investigation by The New York Times found that, in the past five years, there were more than 400 deaths caused by police officers during traffic stops of people who were neither armed nor under pursuit for a violent crime.

Despite the obvious harm caused, there is growing evidence – according to the study – that traffic stops do not significantly reduce serious or fatal accidents. The report cites research by the Stanford Open Policing Project and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that highlights that, following the monitoring of 33 state patrols studied, they found no association between traffic stops and crash fatality rates.

During 2021, more than 38,000 people died in traffic accidents on U.S. roads. The report expresses a growing need to rethink the strategies used to make North American roads safer.

The report introduces a framework for assessing traffic offences for their impact on safety and concludes that many offences could be managed without police involvement or removed from the law altogether without any bearing on traffic safety. Different approaches in street design, technology and public policy could make it possible to build non-police alternatives for traffic safety.

The study offers several recommendations for municipalities and state agencies to reduce police involvement in traffic safety and provides alternatives that would be more effective in reducing serious and fatal crashes. Recommendations include, but are not limited to:

  • Proposing the prohibition of pretextual stops
  • Mandating traffic stop and crash data collection, analysis, and response
  • Increasing funding to improve infrastructure

The document also asks state legislators to promote legislation that includes:

  • Allowing municipalities to opt into automated traffic camera enforcement
  • Ending debt-based punitive measures for non-payment of traffic fines
  • Allowing residents to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status

The proposed removal of traffic safety from the purview of all types of law enforcement, including the police and courts, would be no small change and significant transformations would be required in many areas of North American society and government.

With this in mind, the framework and recommendations included in this report take an approach that aims to reduce the harm and lessen the negative consequences of law enforcement involvement in traffic safety in the short term, while alternative systems would be built.

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El Salvador’s government launches tough new offensive against gangs

After months of relative calm and fairly low levels of street violence, murders have increased again to levels not seen for almost 30 years in the Central American country. It could be said that the fragile truce of the gangs has come to an end.

As a consequence of this situation, a few weeks ago the Legislative Assembly approved a controversial request from the Executive to combat the gangs, aimed at reforming the penal code to toughen sentences against gang members.

As reported by bbc.com in an article, the measure comes after the government of Nayib Bukele asked the Assembly to declare a state of emergency in the country, after more than 80 murders took place during one weekend alone.

The laws, which for the time being will be implemented for one month, although they may be extended, include the suspension of freedom of association, the right to an attorney and the right to secrecy of correspondence. Currently, with the recently approved reform, gang members can be sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison, while the leaders of these groups can receive a sentence of between 40 and 45 years in prison.

With regard to one of the most controversial points, the reform of the Penal Code also includes considering members of these groups over the age of 12 as adults – and judging them as such. This would be the first time that the government approves a specific penalty for those it considers gang members. Previously, in El Salvador these members were considered “terrorists” and were prosecuted under this category, although it was difficult to prove their participation in these groups, and sentences ranged from six to nine years in prison.

In this vein, the government has strengthened security in the streets and has requested in Congress to approve the state of emergency. The measure, approved by the ruling majority in the Legislative Assembly, limits freedom of association, suspends the right to be informed of the reasons for detention, extends the period of detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows authorities to tap the mobile phones of those they deem suspicious.

According to the latest information, the authorities had arrested more than 3,000 suspected gang members. In parallel, President Bukele announced via Twitter that he had ordered to limit food and trips to the courtyard for imprisoned gang members and that their bed mattresses had been taken away. For several days, food has been rationed and the 16,000 imprisoned members have not left their cells.

Among the various reactions to the recent events, it is worth mentioning those of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights or Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, which showed their concern for the situation in the country and trust that the measures being taken are in line with international human rights laws and standards.

It is worth noting that approximately 70,000 gang members operate in El Salvador and fight for control of extortion and drug operations throughout the Central American country.

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Bags designed to help police officers intervene with people suffering from sensory processing disorder

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) now has a simple but effective way to respond to people who are unable to respond to them: sensory bags.

Designed to help people suffering from sensory processing disorder to calm down, these bags offer a way for officers to interact positively and communicate with these individuals, who may appear to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Combined with the training that comes with the delivery of the bags, ALEA troopers can easily recognise the symptoms of sensory processing disorder and know how to relate to people suffering from sensory overload. This avoids any misunderstandings that could increase stress in an intervention.

In 2013, 12 agencies and several law enforcement professionals from the state of Alabama came together in one entity to create ALEA. The agency now has around 1500 employees in various departments such as Homeland Security, Public Safety, Revenue Enforcement and Criminal Justice. In 2021, all sworn personnel of the agency, including troopers, special agents with the state bureau of investigation, communication officers, and members of the driver license division, completed Sensory Inclusion training. This made it the first state law enforcement agency to be certified by KultureCity, a non-profit organisation specialising in the acceptance and accommodation of people with sensory processing and other disabilities.

KultureCity’s training, which is primarily video based, focuses on instilling understanding, acceptance and empathy in first responders for those with sensory needs, who are estimated to represent between 5 and 16 percent of the U.S. population.

A common symptom of autism, this disability also affects people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, or strokes. It is a medical condition in which the brain has problems receiving and responding to information coming through the senses, causing them to be over- or under-sensitive to certain things they see, hear, smell, touch and taste.

Bright lights, street noise, scratchy clothing and other stimuli can overwhelm those who are hypersensitive and cause them to have an emotional breakdown and behave in ways that may appear bizarre, even aggressive. These individuals may seek sensory stimulation through activities such as shouting, flapping their arms, and randomly touching people, sometimes in a rough manner.

People experiencing sensory overload may be so overwhelmed that they cannot speak or mentally process what they are being asked to do. They may, therefore, appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and deliberately uncooperative.

Founded in 2013 by Dr. Julian Maha, whose son was diagnosed with a sensory disorder, KultureCity has provided training and sensory bags to more than 50 first responder agencies in the United States. Its training, designed to create acceptance based on an understanding of how people with sensory needs react to stimulus, focuses on four key areas:

  • Compassion for someone with an invisible disability or sensory need and awareness of how common these needs are.
  • The ability to recognise someone with an invisible disability or sensory need and how best to relate to them.
  • Strategies to help these people adjust to a situation that is overwhelming them.
  • How best to bring closure to this interaction and help resolve the situation in a positive way.

References:

CHADD. (2021, September 21). New Research in Sensory Processing Dysfunctionhttps://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/new-research-in-sensory-processing-dysfunction

Office of the Governor of Alabama. (2021, August 3). Governor Ivey Announces Sensory-Inclusive Training for State Law Enforcement Officershttps://governor.alabama.gov/newsroom/2021/08/governor-ivey-announces-sensory-inclusive-training-for-state-law-enforcement-officers/

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European operation against a network that forced homeless people to practice begging

Authorities in Austria, Germany, Hungary and Romania have dismantled a particularly violent family-based criminal network that exploited homeless people.

An investigation by the Upper Austrian Regional Criminal Office (Landeskriminalamt Oberösterreich), the Austrian Federal Police (Bundeskriminalamt), the German Bavarian State Police (Polizei Bayern), the Hungarian National Police (Magyar Rendorseg) and the Romanian Police (Poliția Română), with the support of Europol and Eurojust, led officers to dismantle an organised crime group involved in human trafficking for forced begging. The criminal network was particularly violent and abused extremely vulnerable individuals.

Thanks to the investigations, a police action day was held in early April of this year, which resulted in the following:

  • 7 locations searched (1 in Austria, 2 in Germany, 1 in Hungary and 3 in Romania).
  • 4 arrests (1 in Germany, 1 in Hungary, 1 in Austria and 1 in Romania).
  • Seizures of telephones and other electronic devices, more than €90,000 in cash and 9,400 RON in cash, as well as 1 kg of gold.
  • Two victims, who died during the operation of the criminal network.

Since 2017, national authorities in the four countries in question have been investigating this organised crime group based on family ties. This has included the investigation of group members of Romanian and Hungarian origin who trafficked and exploited people, with victims in Austria and Germany. The victims of Hungarian and Romanian origin were particularly vulnerable as a result of alcohol addiction and homelessness.

These people were forced to beg at specific locations in various cities, such as the German cities of Ingolstadt, Nuremberg and Berlin and the Austrian cities of Feldkirch, Linz, Bad Hall and Stayer. They were totally dependent on the criminal network and their documents were seized upon arrival in foreign countries where they did not speak the language. The criminal network provided them with a sandwich or just enough alcohol to survive the day, while earning more than 200,000 euros from the victims’ activities. These individuals were subjected to inhumane treatment and living environments and suffered violent behaviour at the hands of the suspects.

Two of the victims died from health-related problems while being exploited in extremely degrading conditions. The criminal gang also forced an equally vulnerable person to work at their house and treated them as a domestic slave.

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support in this investigation. On the action day, Europol deployed a virtual command post to enable real-time information exchange between investigators, Europol and Eurojust.

Eurojust had set up a joint investigation team between Germany, Hungary, Romania and Europol in 2021.

In 2017, the European Council decided to continue the EU policy cycle for the 2018-2021 period. It aims to address the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU member states, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. There are currently ten EMPACT priorities. As of 2022, the mechanism becomes permanent under the name EMPACT 2022+.

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The rapid rise of cybercrime in Switzerland

The 2021 crime data for Switzerland presents the increase in crimes that they call “digital offences” as the most noteworthy aspect. Cybercrimes amounting to a total of 30,351 were detected, a figure that represents an increase of 24% over the previous year and an average of 83 crimes per day. The vast majority, 88%, can be defined as economic cybercrime. Specifically, the largest increase can be found in cyberfraud or cyberscams. The most frequent offence is the non-distribution of paid products on small platforms (6,884), followed by identity theft in online payments (use of third party identity), (6,670).

In the area of violent crime, different scenarios can be identified depending on the type of crime. The lowest number of homicides was recorded since the beginning of the series in 1982, 42 homicides, with most of them (23; 54.8%) occurring in a domestic setting. Fifteen women and one man were murdered by their partners (current or former). Three of the deceased were children who died at the hands of a parent. On the other hand, criminal injury has remained stable compared to the previous year, with 1,665 cases, and sexual violence has increased significantly. Specifically, rape reached a total of 757 (44 more than in 2020) and is now the highest recorded figure in the last ten years.

Property crimes (non-digital) also included different behaviour: 31,186 home burglaries were recorded, which is 5% less than the previous year and confirms a downward trend since 2012. Additionally, street thefts and robberies (-1,912) and pickpocketing (-1,723) also experienced a decrease. Vehicle thefts/burglaries increased by 995 cases, as well as the theft of electric bicycles (8,919 cases, 47% more than the previous year), while classic bicycles, still a frequent object of theft (27,246), recorded a decrease of 11% in the last year.

82,284 people were arrested for committing criminal acts, of which 13.3% were minors and 15.9% were young adults (between 18 and 24 years of age). Both the number of adult detainees and the number of young adults decreased, while the number of juveniles increased (3.5%). Juveniles were mostly arrested for minor offences, such as damage or shoplifting, but the number arrested for violent crimes has continued its upward trend of recent years.

Source of information:

https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/de/home.assetdetail.21324071.html

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Extensive cross-border operation against human traffickers in France and Romania

The French National Police (Police Nationale), the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) and the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), with the support of Europol and Eurojust, dismantled a criminal network involved in human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. For the purposes of this investigation, Europol set up an operational task force that led to the identification of the leader of the criminal gang.

The police action day on 22 March of this year resulted in:

  • 16 house searches (10 in France and 6 in Romania).
  • 7 arrests (2 in France and 5 in Romania, including one high-value target identified by the law enforcement authorities involved).
  • 32 victims identified, mostly Romanian nationals (13 in France and 19 in Romania).
  • The seizures included digital equipment and mobile phones, cannabis from an indoor laboratory, luxury vehicles and more than 23,000 euros in cash.

From the evidence collected during the investigation it seems that the criminal network had been active since 2014. The members of the criminal gang manipulated their victims into prostitution for the financial benefit of the criminal network.

The modus operandi was to target vulnerable victims in financially and emotionally unstable situations with the so-called “lover boy” method. The criminal network recruited them with false loving relationships, seduced them with expensive gifts and promises of a better life abroad and forced them to continue working by using threats and acts of violence against them or their family members. Using this technique, the criminals pocketed more than 400,000 euros by exploiting vulnerable victims from Romania.

Investigators have already identified 28 victims exploited by the gang in France. Evidence indicates that the criminal network channelled about €1.3 million in illegal proceeds to Romania through money transfer companies and transferred more assets via cash couriers.

This money comes from 250 localities in 25 different states. 80% of the money transfers were made from internet cafes in Barcelona and were addressed to the organisation’s leaders in Romania. Subsequently, they laundered the criminal proceeds in Romania through investments in real estate and luxury goods. They also used part of the illegal profits to finance various criminal activities.

In 2020, together with France, Spain and Romania, Europol set up an operational task force to jointly target this criminal network. The specific set-up of this task force allowed investigators to easily identify the modus operandi of the criminal group and use the information gathered to identify the leaders and their associates.

Europol coordinated the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. It also deployed an expert to Romania to cross-check operational information in real time and support the investigators on the ground.

Eurojust created a joint investigation team (JIT) between France and Romania. Five suspects were arrested as a result of five European arrest warrants.

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