Crime For Members

Why are thefts increasing in Switzerland?

Michael Stuchbery
Michael Stuchbery - [email protected]
Why are thefts increasing in Switzerland?
Swiss police guard a cash transport to the Swiss National Bank in Zurich. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini

Newly published figures show that the number of thefts in Switzerland has substantially increased in 2023. What’s driving this surge?


As reported earlier this week by The Local, new figures from the Federal Statistics Office show that Switzerland experienced an overall fourteen percent increase in crimes committed in 2023. 

Theft is one crime that demonstrated an exceptionally sharp rise—thefts of goods from cars, for example, have risen by seventy-one percent. 

However, before worrying about a crime wave, it's essential to consider the role that two closely related factors may play in these figures. 

The pandemic effect

In the years since the easing of lockdown restrictions, research institutions worldwide have been examining its effects on almost every facet of society, with crime no exception.

A 2021 study by the University of Cambridge and the University of Utrecht found that urban crime levels dropped by a third during lockdowns, including in Switzerland. 

Like many other European nations, Switzerland's pandemic response continued into mid-2022, when the last measures were ended. The country's mountainous geography also made enforcing travel restrictions easier than in many other countries. 

What is reflected in the new numbers is the return of 'crime tourists', criminal gangs from other countries such as Romania and Albania, who may see relatively affluent Switzerland and the frequent cross-border traffic as fruitful pickings.

As criminologist Dirk Baier told news portal "Switzerland is attractive. That means we have criminal tourists who come here from abroad just for this purpose.

"There is something to be gained here, there is wealth here and there is a somewhat inattentive population that, for example, does not lock its cars or sometimes leaves its apartment doors open."


Baier also suggested that the relative ease that with which thefts can be committed plays a role:

"Certain crimes were discovered (...) that are easy to carry out, such as 'sneak-in thefts', opening the car door somewhere and taking something out.

"You can see that individual perpetrators can really commit such crimes on a large scale."

Cost of living woes

While some have noted that the rising cost of living was not felt as keenly in Switzerland as the pandemic ended, the situation changed somewhat in 2023. 

The 'Pulse of Switzerland' study, published by Deloitte Consulting in early 2024, revealed that sixty percent of Swiss had cut back their spending and were eating out less, resulting in flow-on effects across several retail and hospitality sectors. 


While the spike in unemployment caused by the pandemic was primarily reversed, the persistence of global inflation resulted in Swiss unemployment rising in early 2024. 

It rose to two point four percent in February, with a projected rate of two point five percent in early 2025. 

Traditionally, there is a strong association between inflation, unemployment, and crime. As the demand for cheaper stolen goods increases—particularly for electronics, jewellery, and handbags—so does the incentive for theft.

Again, it's not unexpected that crime rates—particularly theft rates —would increase as inflation continues to worry consumers.  

Still a safe place to be

The 'perfect' storm of a global pandemic shutting down society's normal functioning for several months and the ensuing surge in inflation caused by the disruption have resulted in crime figures that may ring alarm bells. 

However, it's important to note that by almost all metrics, Switzerland remains one of the safest places to live in the world. 

It maintains a place in Europe's top ten safest countries, as identified by the Global Peace Index

According to the Better Life Index, it is also a place where 86 percent of the population feels safe walking at night.

With a bit of attention paid to securing your valuables and not leaving them unattended in vehicles, you have no need to worry.


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