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Safety in Germany: Emergencies

Worrying about safety and crime in Germany is a natural concern for expats who are unfamiliar with the country. Germany is generally a safe country, and while crime in Germany exists, it is rather low-scale. Crime in Germany is not a topic the population, including expats, needs to worry about.
German police and emergency services are usually quick to respond.

Emergency Services

If something should happen to you after all, the first and most important thing is: Don’t panic. The emergency number for the German police is 110; under 112, you can call the fire department or an ambulance. Try to speak as loudly and calmly as possible, and make it clear that you are not a German native speaker. If you are the victim of a crime (e.g. theft), you should report it to the local police.

German Police

For the most part, German law enforcement has a good reputation. However, human-rights organizations such as Amnesty International criticize a lack of disciplinary measures for officers accused of excessive violence towards demonstrators or of mistreatment of asylum seekers prior to deportation. There is no official racial profiling policy, but “foreign-looking” people are indeed more likely to be stopped and asked for their papers – even when it turns out that they were actually born in Germany and have obtained German citizenship.

When you deal with the German police – no matter whether as a witness, a victim, or a potential suspect – don’t be surprised if they don’t necessarily speak English or other foreign languages. Your embassy or consulate can not only recommend you a lawyer, but send you an interpreter as well. Explain that you are in need of one, and wait for him or her to arrive before agreeing to further proceedings.

It’s always a good idea to know your embassy’s contact details and have them in writing somewhere. The diplomatic mission of your country will be able to assist you in the following cases:

  • You need a list of local lawyers and interpreters.
  • You want to contact a local doctor for medical treatment.
  • You have to get in touch with your family and friends back home to tell them what has happened.
  • You need to safely acquire money from relatives or friends (e.g. via money transfer).
  • You have lost your passport / ID card.
  • You need information on the local police and legal procedures.

In other circumstances – for instance, in the case of unpaid hotel bills or hospital treatments – your embassy is not responsible for you, though.

Airport Security and Import Restrictions

Since 9/11 and similar incidents, Germany has also been increasing its airport security, although the various safety measures (metal detectors, hand luggage searches, taking off shoes, jackets, and sweaters,…) mostly apply to passengers boarding a plane, not those leaving one. However, certain import restrictions – deemed in the interest of general safety – are enforced by Germany’s Customs Administration. Therefore you should know that some articles constitute either a safety risk or are downright illegal in Germany. Even the hunting rifle you’ve had for years may be confiscated as a safety threat in Germany. Depending on the circumstances, importing the items on the following list might lead to an arrest, so just don’t do it:

  • firearms and ammunition
  • fireworks
  • drugs (both narcotics and selected prescription drugs)
  • pornography (especially that including extreme violence or involving minors)
  • media of unconstitutional content (particularly those glorifying the Third Reich/World War Two)


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