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By Steffen Kröhnert and Peter Lindner

Regional Analysis of Crime Trends in Brandenburg

The Berlin Institute has published an analysis of the regional incidence of selected categories of crime broken down according to age and gender as well as scenarios for crime trends up to 2030.

The Brandenburg Ministry of the Interior commissioned the Berlin Institute for Population and Development in cooperation with the Brandenburg Criminal Investigation Department to produce a regional analysis of crime trends in Brandenburg. The study looks first at the development of crime rates between the years 1996 and 2007, and second, constructs scenarios for how the crime rate may develop up to the year 2030. The regional analysis was presented to the ministry at the end of 2009 and was initially used for internal purposes only, in particular for planning necessary reforms of the Brandenburg police in the face of demographic change. It has now been released for publication.

Demographically-based Scenarios for Future Crime Trends

Demographic trends on their own do not provide a sufficient basis for predicting how crime rates will change. There are, however, certain kinds of crimes for which demographic factors play a dominant role. The youth crime statistics, for instance, are related to juvenile delinquency and therefore depend on the number of young people living in a region. Violent crimes are also clearly committed chiefly by younger people, particularly males. The likelihood of a person under the age of 21 being accused of committing a violent crime is almost twice as high as for a person between the ages of 21 and 39, about 15 times higher than for a person between the ages of 40 and 59 and more than 110 times higher than for a person over the age of 60.

The aging of the population in the state of Brandenburg strongly suggests that there will be a decline in youth and violent crime; an increase is to be expected only in the area immediately around Berlin. The sudden decline in the birth rate in the years immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall, a decline which led to a halving of the annual birth rate up until 1994, will in the coming years reach those age groups most prone to crime. This is very likely to have an effect on the incidence of age-related types of crime such as youth and violent crime. In order to show the spectrum of possible developments, the Berlin Institute calculated various scenarios. The projected crime trends calculated on the basis of demographic prognoses should not be mistaken for a forecast of crime trends; nevertheless, the scenarios provide additional information that may be useful for policymakers.

The figure referred to in German as the Tatverdächtigenbelastungszahl expresses the number of registered suspects relative to a particular population group – in this case the crime rate for specific age or gender groups. A scenario that assumes that this figure will remain constant for specific age groups in the population would predict a decrease in the number of suspects in the areas of youth criminality in Brandenburg of about 15 percent by 2020 and about 30 percent by 2030. Only if we assume a strong increase in the proportion of young people accused of committing a crime – for example resulting from a growth in social problems – would we expect there to be an increase of about 10 percent in crime suspects by 2020. Even in this case, however, by 2030 the number of suspects would still have declined by 7 percent compared with 2005/07.

The scenarios for violent crime show the number of suspects already declining by 2020. If we assume that the number of suspects in specific age groups remains constant, the number of registered suspects would fall by 20 percent by 2020 and by 36 percent by 2030. If for the purposes of comparison we use a scenario that assumes a large increase – of one-third – in the number of suspects relative to the general population in the age group under 21, there would still be a reduction of 7 percent by 2020 and of around 25 percent by 2030. The crime statistics for theft also show a concentration of suspects among young people, but here the number of suspects relative to the general population in this age group has fallen considerably in the past. Therefore any scenario assuming that the rate of theft among young people will remain at the current level must be purely theoretical. And even if the level did remain constant, the number of young people accused of committing thefts would fall by 16 percent by 2020 and by just under 30 percent by 2030. If the number of registered suspects in all age groups continues to decline as it has in recent years, then we would expect an even greater reduction. In regional terms we would expect a rise in the absolute number of suspects for all scenarios and categories of crime only in the communities immediately surrounding Berlin, mainly in the area to the west of Potsdam. In areas of Brandenburg that are 10 or 20 kilometres further away from the city boundaries demographic trends would lead us to expect a large reduction in crime.

Crime has already decreased considerably in recent years – the suspects are becoming older and the proportion of women is rising

According to the Berlin Institute’s regional analysis, crime in the state of Brandenburg declined more or less steadily between 1996 and 2007. Whereas in 1996 almost 300,000 crimes were registered, this figure had fallen to only 226,000 by 2007 – a decline of about 25 percent. The structure of crime also changed during the period under analysis. The decline in crime as a whole was attributable mainly to the decrease in thefts. Whereas in 1996 theft still accounted for almost 60 percent of all registered crimes, eleven years later this share had fallen to 40 percent. Over the same period the share of fraud and counterfeiting offences almost doubled to 16 percent, and economic crime rose by a factor of seven to 3.5 percent of all crime.

Violent crime remained at almost the same level in Brandenburg in 2007 as in 1996. Within the category of violent crime the incidence of grievous bodily harm and serious injury rose by a third between 1996 and 2007. There was also a big increase in drug-related crime. The number of registered crimes in this category had already quadrupled between 1996 and 2000 and it remained at a similar level in 2007.

The number of suspects under the age of 21 (youth crime) fell between 1996 and 2007 by more than a third (a drop of 36 percent). This was mainly due to a reduction in the number of thefts, but the number of young people involved in violent crimes fell by more than 10 percent as well. The big absolute decrease in the number of suspects is, however, attributable to the major general decline in the number of young people in Brandenburg. The crime rate among young people has actually declined only slightly.


Young men are still accused of committing crimes far more often than any other group. Nevertheless, the crime rate declined among males in all age groups between 14 and 50, and most strongly among young men between the ages of 18 and 21 (a drop of 39 percent). Among females the crime rate remained fairly constant. The proportion of female crime suspects rose from 17.5 percent in 1996 to 22 percent in 2007 – however, this was the result not only of an increase in the number of female suspects but also of the falling crime rate among men. The crime rate among older people increased: the share of suspects over the age of 60 doubled in the period under analysis to 10 percent.


Lower Rates of Violent Crime among Those Over 21

The Probability of Being Accused of Committing a Violent Crime, by Age Group (1996/98 and 2005/07)

The age structure of those accused of committing violent crimes shows a strong concentration in the age group up to the age of 20. In addition, the probability of committing a violent crime falls sharply with increasing age. These patterns did not change significantly during the period under observation; therefore scenarios constructed on the basis of demographic projections could be useful (Data based on figures from the Landeskriminalamt [Office of Criminal Investigation] Brandenburg, Landesamt für Bauen und Verkehr [Brandenburg Office for Construction and Transport] and our own calculations).

 

Lower Rates of Violent Crime in Brandenburg by 2020

Assuming that the crime rate in each age group remains constant, the number of people accused of committing a violent crime will decrease by one fifth in Brandenburg between 2005/07 and 2020. As official projections show, demographic developments mean that a rise in the number of crime suspects is only to be expected in a few communities on the western and southern periphery of Berlin; the overwhelming majority of communities by contrast would expect a decrease in violent crime of more than 30 percent (Data based on figures from the Landeskriminalamt [Office of Criminal Investigation] Brandenburg, Landesamt für Bauen und Verkehr [Brandenburg Office for Construction and Transport] and our own calculations).

 

The complete study “A Regional Analysis of Crime Trends in Brandenburg: Regional Incidence of Crime and an Analysis of the Crime Statistics for Selected Categories of Crime Broken Down by Age and Gender 1996 to 2007; Scenarios for Crime Trends up to 2030” is available for download free of charge in PDF format here.

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