Vienna's security today in the light of immigration and crime statistics
In the autumn of 2022, several press reports of rapes committed by immigrants stirred up Viennese and nation-wide public opinion in Austria. Based on reports, the five cases of sexual abuse occurred within two weeks in the Austrian capital, which immediately draws the attention of the public and political actors to the risks posed by immigration and illegal migration. The question immediately arises as to whether there might be a connection between the strengthening of the migration process and the increase in violent crimes in certain districts of the city led by the left.
The figures reported by the authorities in Vienna show that in 2021 there were several reported robberies, rapes and serious assaults in the capital, and surveys over the past decade have shown a spectacular surge in the sense of security of Viennese citizens. The very unfavourable development of data and trends at several points seems to confirm the political and professional position that in order to improve the public security situation in Vienna and Austria in general, the eradication of illegal migration can only be an effective tool, and that politics should re-align itself with the lived reality of its own citizens, rather than its utopian desires for an open society based on a misinterpreted interpretation of tolerance.
Vienna's Social Democratic (SPÖ) mayor, Michael Ludwig, has recently come under intense pressure from the Austrian public after immigrants – suspected by authorities in Vienna – committed five acts of sexual violence in the capital in less than two weeks. Cases of sexual abuse quickly made their way into the national press, and there was a strong emphasis on the fact that all the alleged perpetrators were from abroad or people who moved in from abroad, typically from poorer (third) countries.
In late October, an eighteen-year-old Viennese girl was sexually assaulted by a teenage migrant in the public restroom of the Wien Praterstern railway and metro station while her accomplices watched outside the door. Four Syrians have been detained as suspects in the case, and the suspected main perpetrator is barely 12 years old. In another case, an immigrant harassed an 18-year-old Austrian woman on the bus and then raped her in a park in the 23rd district, just two days after the incident in Praterstern. (A few days later, an Afghan person well known to the authorities was arrested by the EKO Cobra Special Forces in Ottakring.) Another rape occurred just a day later, when a 22-year-old woman was sexually abused in the Martin-Luther-King-Park in the Favoriten district. She was suddenly dragged to the ground from behind and then raped in the middle of the park. The rapist was described by the victim as a man around the age of 20 to 30 with a "dark complexion".
Meanwhile, it caused a minor storm when the SPÖ organization in Vienna announced that they wanted to ease the conditions for obtaining citizenship. It is also believed that the party also hopes for significant political gains in the forthcoming elections from putting the initiative on the agenda and possibly implementing it later. If the ideas of the SPÖ in Vienna are really realised, then in the future all children already born in Austria should automatically be granted Austrian citizenship at birth if at least one of their parents has been legally residing on federal territory for five years.
Vienna in 2021: several reported robberies, rapes, and aggravated assaults
According to the police's own assessment, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic may have led to a decrease in the number of reported crimes in Vienna in 2021. Between January and December 2021, 144,183 violations were reported to the police – a low figure in recent years. “The recent decrease in total crime, similar to its development from 2019 to 2020 – without prejudice to the continuous, well-established police measures – is also likely to be due to the restrictions on the social life of the population related to the coronavirus pandemic,” the authority in Vienna announced. However, there has already been an increase in violent crime, with the number of reports increasing from 23,509 to 23,957 cases compared to the previous year, which is an increase of 1.9 percent.
The number of completed homicides decreased in 2021 (10 crimes with 11 victims), which is a decrease compared to 2020 (15 cases), while ten of last year's eleven fatalities were women. Reports of “bodily injuries” rose slightly from 12,118 to 12,238, i.e., by 0.1 percent, while the number of “aggravated assaults” increased to 1,189, which means an increase of 3.7 percent. Data for 2021 reveals that the number of reported rape cases increased significantly last year, roughly by 7.5 percent, compared to previous year’s 342 cases.
There was also an increase in robberies, as the number of such crimes increased by 1.7 percent in Vienna, from 982 to 999. The majority of robbery cases were crimes committed in public places and public transport areas.
The explosive increase in cybercrime may have been caused by the lockdowns imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, a trend-strengthening effect of the pandemic crisis, although the significant increase again was in line with the trend of the past period. (The number of cybercrime cases increased from 13,942 to 17,068, which corresponds to an increase of 22.4 percent compared to the previous year.) Regarding internet fraud, the number of reported cases rose to 6330, i.e., by 22.1 percent.
The number of reports in economic crime also rose to 29,105 (plus 2.7 percent). The number of criminal cases related to orders and goods fraud increased to 5,618 (an increase of 13.2 percent), and the number of frauds related to social assistance increased to 2,225 (an increase of 11.5 percent).
Statistical data should be treated with criticism, as a common accusation, especially against "positive" crime statistics, is that they have been modified with the aim of improvement and do not reflect reality well. It should be added that in many cases lay media consumers do not even bother to look for bias or errors in them, so they often do not even notice them if they are present. Therefore, people can often believe that something is certainly true, even if it is only raw data. Of course, you can afford a certain degree of scepticism regarding crime statistics, but some of the facts and data presented in this analysis may still be good for shedding light on trends and the resulting lessons that can be carefully drawn.
Viennese citizens' fluctuating sense of security in surveys
Of course, experts, journalists, politicians, or ordinary citizens can have debates on crime or immigration and its possible consequences based on data, but the data just presented as an example can perhaps contribute to bringing us closer to factual awareness than before, to dare to think about information, i.e., about data that can be used and interpreted separately, as well as about their totality and connections. The facts and figures that show reality can hopefully facilitate the spread of evidence-based measures and of the ability to make decisions in public policy practice, but only if the results of official statistics can be considered truly credible for all of us, and thus, of course, for policymakers.
The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which has less legislative representation in the capital but a significant one at national level, often refers to the fact that the sense of security of the people in Vienna is deteriorating. According to a 2009 statement by the party, 60 percent of Viennese people felt safe in 2008, compared to 80 percent in 2001. For this reason, FPÖ considers the performance of security-related public tasks and their financial provision to be of utmost importance. In the 2000s, along with increased immigration, the frequency of burglaries and vandalism increased, and there was also a significant deterioration in juvenile delinquency, according to the party. In their opinion, this applies in particular to street crime committed by young migrant gangs.
Fluctuations in the sense of security of the citizens of the capital seem to be supported by the latest Austrian data. According to a 2014 survey, more than two-thirds (71 percent) of Viennese people surveyed at the time felt safe or very safe overall in terms of exposure to crime.
In 2018, however, only 62 percent of Viennese people felt safe, or rather safe. In fact, more than half (53 percent) of those surveyed said they had felt less safe in the few years before.
However, a statistic for 2019 indicates that more than 71 percent of Viennese citizens felt rather or very safe. (This is similar to the data from 2014, but it is noteworthy that half of the respondents answered “rather safe” to the question.) At the same time, almost three out of ten respondents in Vienna did not take this position and clearly expressed their negative opinion about public safety in the capital regarding their personal feelings.
Along with significant migration, violent crime has increased in some districts
There is also a correlation between the considerable proportion of residents with a migration background and the increase in the crime rate in the individual districts of Vienna. A total of 66,878 crimes occurred in Vienna between 1 January and 31 July 2021, and in certain districts there was an increase compared to the same period last year. For example, in the district of Wieden, a total of 1459 crimes occurred (that is, 39 more than in 2020, which corresponds to an increase of 2.7 percent). But there was a similarly noticeable increase in Margareten District (2049 crimes, a 4.2 percent increase compared to 2020).
Margareten is the fifth district of Vienna, where the proportion of foreign citizens was already 23.2 percent in 2001, exceeding the Viennese average by about 6. Overall, in 2001, about 32 percent of Viennese in the fifth district – almost one in three – were born in another country, and already at that time only 64.4 percent of residents indicated German as their main language.
Wieden is the fourth district of the capital, where the proportion of residents with foreign citizenship was 15.3 percent in 2001, which was only two percent below the Viennese average at that time. Overall, a quarter of the district's population was born in another country, according to millennial data, so only 76 percent of local residents said German was their everyday language.
The only effective tool can be the eradication of illegal migration
Facts and statistics suggest that large-scale migration in itself poses risks to the social environment, and the issue of illegal immigration in Austria should be highlighted in this context.
In 2021, more than 40 thousand people who crossed the country's borders illegally, sometimes with the help of human traffickers, were apprehended, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office. That's almost twice as many people as a year earlier, and nearly four hundred human traffickers were also identified. Human trafficking has thus become a dominant branch of organized crime (in 2020, 21,641 people entering or residing illegally in Austria were apprehended). The situation has worsened in recent years, but it is not yet as serious as it was during the migration crisis in 2015, when more than 94,000 people were staying illegally with our western neighbour that year.
In the wake of recent cases of rape and other cases (investigated in administrative proceedings) in Vienna, more and more people are calling for the expulsion of foreigners who are in the country illegally, and of criminal migrants who may have already been convicted of serious crimes. The migration crisis of 2015 has already clearly shown that the vast majority of people arriving in Western and Central Europe are young and often aggressive men and there may still be many people in Vienna who do not have registered asylum. The aspect of the abuse of rights is also important because it is expected not only from the authorities of the host country to provide the exercise of fundamental rights and thus meet the minimum requirements of cooperation, but also from asylum seekers.
That is why the FPÖ has been demanding recently again, with a strong voice, that foreigners who abuse their rights should be taken out of the country in an accelerated procedure. The party also expressed its opinion that the government should not allow full care to be provided to migrants who are illegally staying in the country at the expense of taxpayers. These voices in the public are also aimed at taking measures to protect their own population, so that in the future cases such as the Viennese abuse cases will be much less common. However, the results so far mostly highlight the fact that, instead of aiming at closing the borders for illegal migrants entering the country, the policy of Austria, including Vienna, especially that of the left, has not even taken the necessary and sufficiently decisive steps in the light of the current situation, and, as the tragic cases of recent months unfortunately make it quite clear, it did not put the protection of the safety of the local population first.
If, behind this inaction, the Viennese leadership is unable to give the security of the local population a priority, we can easily come to the logical conclusion that the Viennese leadership continues to welcome migrants with open arms, granting them more advantageous rights than before, the clear consequence of which, as stated above, is that the number of crimes committed by people who do not profess European values or who were not brought up according to them will show an increasing trend. It is not necessary to give a specific reason that an immigrant staying legally or illegally – even with the right to vote obtained in an accelerated procedure – will always vote for the party that further facilitates the conditions for his or her stay and existence in the country or city. The conclusion is simple: new votes can be obtained by granting citizenship, regardless of whether the safety and sense of security of local residents who settled before the large-scale migration, or of original local residents, show a downward trend. If necessary, they contribute to this by "using cosmetics" in crime statistics. Unfortunately, it is no longer a new phenomenon in Europe that the left pushes the interests of the European population into the background in order to retain and/or gain power, thereby further disrupting European unity and values. Fortunately, it can be said that there are still those who know and profess the values on which the unity of Europe is based.
In the research of the Századvég Foundation, a new product will be introduced called Századvég Reality-Check, in addition to the range of strategic or tactical analyses known so far. In the course of its multifaceted work, Századvég, as a dominant think tank in Hungary, has always strived to combine analysis, research and direct information transfer, the interpretation of facts and data, through its professional activities, which attract the attention and interest of a wide public audience.
Reality-Check (actually confronting reality) is nothing more than a second opinion given about the state of a current (e.g., social, economic) situation. So, when we say that something is a reality-check for a specific target group, the goal here is actually to make them aware of the truth about a particular situation. Reality-check is similar to fact-check, but less formal.
In the field of public awareness, it can be considered an important aspect of development that a citizen, a voter who is open to the issues of politics and the economy, can distinguish between reality and fiction when forming his or her own thoughts and opinions. Errors in thinking, as well as inadequate information (incomplete or poor knowledge of facts, data, trends), can influence civic and voter behaviour and thus lead to unsound decisions in many areas of life. The "reality test" of Századvég highlights the importance of interpreting or possibly "correcting", i.e., checking, facts, data, and trends that play a significant role in public and social reality, which can be learned mainly from news.