Development and status of environmental crime in Germany

08/07/2023 | Ecologic Institute

A comprehensive quantitative overview of the development of environmental crime in Germany from 2010 to 2020, with additional data for 2021, is provided by the latest publication in the "Environmental Crimes" series. Using police crime statistics and law enforcement data from the Federal Statistical Office, both general trends and specific environmental crimes were analyzed. The report provides both an overview of general trends and an in-depth presentation of individual environmental offenses. Additionally, the publication contains data on administrative offences relating to the trafficking of protected species. The report was prepared by a team from Ecologic Institute on behalf of the German Federal Environment Agency.

Decrease and increase again: environmental crimes from 2010 to 2021

The number of known cases for all environmental offences dropped by 3 % between 2010 and 2020, from 21,546 in 2010 to 20,804 in 2020. In 2021 there were 20,625 cases. This continues the trend noted in the previous edition of the "Environmental Offences" publication, with an increase again in recent years. The number of cases had already decreased between 2010 and 2019, but by 8 % in that period. The number of known cases of all criminal offences recorded in the PKS also decreased by 10 % between 2010 and 2020.

Causes and underreporting: insight into the decrease

This decrease in the number of cases is in line with a general decrease in crime in Western Europe over the last 20 years. The reasons could be both an improved awareness of the rules and an improved actual compliance with the rules, as well as reduced capacities for investigations, prosecution, and law enforcement in the responsible authorities.  In addition, it is assumed that the number of unreported cases is high.

Dominating offenses

In 2020, 38 % of all known cases of environmental offences were offences under the Animal Protection Act. Offences of unlawful handling of waste (§ 326 except Section 2 of the Criminal Code) had a share of 36 %, water pollution a share of 12 %. These three types of offences together thus comprised a share of 86 % of all known cases of environmental offences in 2020. This roughly corresponds to the situation in 2016.

Clearance rate and conclusion: findings and outlook

The clearance rate for environmental offences only changed insignificantly between 2010 and 2020. It was between 58 % and 62 % every year between 2010 and 2020, in 2021 it amounted to 57 %. It was slightly higher than the clearance rate for overall crime in Germany.

The publication continues the series "Environmental Offences" published by the UBA, the last edition of which was published in 2021 as "Environmental Offences 2019".

Further links:

Download: Umweltdelikte 2021 – Auswertung von Statistiken

Publication: Umweltdelikte 2021 – Auswertung von Statistiken

Project: Criminal and other Sanctions in Environmental Law

Publication: Umweltdelikte 2019

Publication: Environmental Offences in Germany 2016: a statistical analysis

Project: Environmental Criminal Law: Status quo and Further Development

Speech: Hearing on Strengthening the Fight Against Environmental Crime in NRW

Interview: Environmental Crime – How do they get away with it?

Speech: Environmental Criminal Law for Police Officers in NRW

Contact at Ecologic Institute

Dr. Stephan Sina

Ecologic Institute is an independent, academic think tank for environmental research and policy analysis. Since its founding in 1995, Ecologic Institute has been dedicated to improving environmental policy, sustainable development and policy practice. We strengthen the European and international dimensions in research, education and environmental policy discourse. | Newsletter | Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Youtube