Crime in Switzerland: what the latest figures reveal

A new report shines a light on the state of crime in Switzerland, here are the details.

Crime in Switzerland: what the latest figures reveal
There were 50 murders in Switzerland last year and three remain unsolved. File photo: AFP

The report published by Switzerland's Federal Statistics Office on Monday takes a look at crimes reported to police in Switzerland in 2018. Here are some of the highlights.

Switzerland is 'becoming more law abiding'

When it comes to reported crime in Switzerland, the overall trend is downward. In 2018, police registered 432,754 violations of the penal code. That is 1.4 percent down on 2017 and a full 18 percent down on the 2014 figure.

But as the authors of the new report into crime in Switzerland (here in French) are keen to stress, crime registered by police is only part of the story. The statistics don’t capture the real crime rate – only what people report. For example, most thefts are reported because police reports are necessary for insurance purposes, whereas many acts of sexual violence go unreported. 

Theft is decreasing

A total of 112,000 thefts were registered by police in 2018. That is down 7.9 percent on a year earlier and almost half the number seen in 2012 when a record high 219,000 thefts were recorded. Car thefts and shoplifting are not included in these figures.

Your bicycle is 'most likely' to get stolen in Solothurn

The lowest rate of bicycle theft in Switzerland in 2018 was in Aarau where only 0.2 bicycles were stolen per 1,000 residents. At the other end of the scale was Solothurn where the rate was 21 bike thefts per 1,000 residents.

In the canton of Geneva, the figure was 4.8 bicycle thefts per 1,000 residents, and in Zurich the number was 7.8.

These statistics only capture places where at least ten bicycle thefts were reported to police last year. Police also note that bicycle thefts are down but more e-bikes are being stolen.

Fraud is on the up

The number of reported cases of fraud in Switzerland was up 23 percent year on year to 16,319 in 2018. That is the highest figure since the criminal statistics regime was overhauled in 2009. Switzerland also saw ten-year highs for crimes include blackmail and hacking into data systems, although there were fewer than 1,000 cases of each of these.

Murder figures are stable

There were 50 murders in Switzerland last year, which is in line with the average over recent years. Half of those homicides were domestic. Three of the murders committed last year remain unsolved.

Knives are the weapon of choice for murder and attempted murder.

Read also: 75-year-old woman who killed 7-year-old boy in Basel did not know victim

Of the 199 murders and attempted murders in Switzerland last year, over half involved knives or other sharp instruments. A total of 11.1 percent (22 cases) involved guns.

Basel is ‘the most dangerous’ city

According to the statistics, Basel has the highest rate for violent crime among 24 of Switzerland’s biggest cities – 12.6 registered crimes per 1,000 residents.

In Geneva, that figure is 10.5 per 1,000 residents and in Zurich it’s 10.3. By contrast, in Köniz near Bern, the rate is just 2.6 per 1,000 residents.

But as the report’s authors note, city-by-city comparisons based on the police crime statistics are not representative or fair. This is because the level of reported crime in a city also depends on factors like its geographic location or its status as a cultural or business hub. The crime statistics should be used to draw comparisons over time rather than to line up one city or region against another, according to the report's authors.

There were fewer convictions for drug consumption

The number of people convicted for drug consumption fell in 2018 for all age groups. For minors, the drop year-on-year drop was 9.6 percent (492 people fewer than in 2017) and for adults, the fall was 3.4 percent (812 fewer than in 2017).

This is because there are fewer reported crimes related to cannabis consumption. This is because Switzerland decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis in 2013.

Instead of facing criminal proceedings, adults caught with ten grams or less of pot can be subjected to a 100-franc spot fine, though that is enforced to varying degrees across the country. 

Read also: Thousands of Swiss could get 'cannabis licence'

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Swiss woman indicted over ‘jihadist knife attack’ in department store

Swiss prosecutors said Wednesday they had indicted a woman for attempted murder on behalf of the Islamic State (IS) group over a brutal knife attack in November 2020.

Swiss woman indicted over 'jihadist knife attack' in department store

The 29-year-old unnamed woman allegedly attacked two women in a department store in the southern city of Lugano.

She has been charged with attempted murder and violating laws against association with Al-Qaeda, IS and related groups, according to the indictment.

She was also charged with unlawful prostitution.

EXPLAINED: Does Switzerland face a threat from terrorism?

The attorney general’s office said the indictment related to a “jihadist knife attack” and the alleged assailant, a Swiss citizen, “intended to kill her victims and to commit a terrorist act on behalf of IS.”

“The suspect acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness. She brutally attacked her randomly-selected victims with a knife, with the aim of killing them and thereby spreading terror throughout the population on behalf of the ‘Islamic State’,” it said.

One of the two victims sustained serious neck injuries while the second victim, with help from others at the scene, managed to overpower her attacker and hold her until police arrived.

The attacker was arrested and detained. Police quickly discovered she had been linked to a 2017 jihadism investigation.

The woman had formed a relationship on social media with a jihadist fighter in Syria and attempted to travel to the war-torn country to meet him, police alleged at the time.

She was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, they said, adding that the woman had suffered from mental health problems and been admitted to a psychiatric clinic.