Violent Hate Crimes in North Rhine-Westphalia

Hate crime violence in the context of far-right mobilization and refugee immigration: North Rhine-Westphalia 2012-2019

Period: 11/2020-03/2022
Funding: NRW Ministry of Culture Science (CoRE-NRW-Projekt)

The research project investigates changes in the quality and dynamics of violent hate crimes, using information from an official reporting system on politically motivated crimes (police files, all registered hate violence offenses) as well as files of the prosecutors’ offices (cleared offenses).

The guiding research questions address the type and severity of offenses, the interactions between persons involved in the incidents, as well as offender characteristics and offender networks in the observation period. Analytically, we focus on radicalization propositions.

In order to answer the research questions, free-text accounts of the crimes are used to obtain data – such as motivation, the type and severity of acts, and interactions between perpetrators, victims, and bystanders.

As the data collection scheme achieves a complete survey of all officially reported hate crimes in the observation period (police documents), severe violent crimes as well as low-threshold assaults can be investigated. In doing so, the project is able to add well founded insights on violent hate crimes in a context of widespread right-wing mobilization efforts. The long observation period is made possible by the utilization of data from a previous self-funded research project.

The analytical approach of hate crimes leads to an inclusion of criminal acts motivated by extreme right-wing ideologies as well as criminal acts motivated by religious or other ideologies. As violent hate crimes are mostly rooted in the extreme right (and because criminal acts of right wingoffenders committed „against leftists“ are in addition covered in the project to achieve comparability with results from research on the extreme right)– the research projects’ primary contributions in CoRE are in the analysis of right wing extremism.

The project is supported by Ministry of the Interior of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the State Office of Criminal Investigation of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia


Violent Hate Crimes in North Rhine-Westphalia 2012-2016

Period: Juli 2018 – Dezember2 020
Funding: Own funds (University of Bochum, FHöV NRW)

Prof. Dr. Cornelia Weins, Sebastian Gerhartz M.A., Dipl. Soz.wiss Sebastian Jeworutzki, Juliana Witkowski M.A. (Ruhr University Bochum)
Matthias Mletzko M.A. (Mainz)
Prof. Dr. Daniela Pollich (University of Applied Sciences for Public Administration and Management of North Rhine-Westphalia, FHöV NRW)

Parallel to an in-migration of more than one million refugees in 2015/2016 and a rise in right-wing mobilisation against refugees and Muslims, Germany has witnessed a sharp increase in “xenophobic” violence (subsuming racially, ethnically, and religiously motivated violence, see Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and Community). In this context the project investigates violent hate crimes in the most populous Federal State of Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), between 2012 and 2016 with a focus on changes in bias motivations (rising anti-Muslim violence?), offense types, offender characteristics, co-offending, and victims.
The project employs (1) police reports on all hate crimes in NRW in the covered time period (target population) from an official reporting system on politically motivated crimes (see Bleich/Hart 2008) as well as a (2) large purposive sample of criminal investigation files. Each police report includes a narrative section with a description of the incident. We mainly take advantage of the description of incidents to collect additional data and more detailed information (e.g. on bias motivations, offence types) than provided by official statistics (e.g. on religiously motivated hate crimes, targeted groups).
Access to police data for this project has been granted by the Ministry of the Interior of North Rhine-Westphalia. Data collection is supported by the Criminal Police Office of North Rhine Westphalia.

Reference: Bleich, Erik; Hart, Ryan K. (2008): Quantifying Hate. The Evolution of German Approaches to Measuring ‘Hate Crime’. In: German Politics 17 (1), S. 63–80. DOI: 10.1080/09644000701855143.


Project-related presentations:

  • Cornelia Weins: Rechte (Gewalt-)Kriminalität in NRW. Winteruni 2020 Campus für alle – 27. Januar 2020
  • Cornelia Weins / Sebastian Gerhartz / Juliana Witkowski: Fremdenfeindliche Gewaltkriminalität: Nordrhein-Westfalen 2012-2016. Bielefeld – Fakultät für Soziologie – 5 November 2019
  • Cornelia Weins / Matthias Mletzko: Ethnically, racially and religiously motivated hate crime violence in Germany: North Rhine-Westphalia 2012-16. Presented at the Annual EENeT Conference 2019, Athens/Greece 16 – 18 October 2019
  • Cornelia Weins / Sebastian Gerhartz: Ethnisch, rassistisch und religiös motivierte Gewaltkriminalität in Nordrhein-Westfalen 2012-2016. Fakultät für Sozialwissenschaft – Sektion Sozialwissenschaftliche Methodenlehre und Statistik. 16. Tagung der Kriminologischen Gesellschaft – 6. September 2019
  • Cornelia Weins / Daniela Pollich: Hate Crimes in Germany 2012-2016. Presented at the EUROCRIM 2018 on Crimes Against Humans and Crimes Against Humanity, 29.08.-01.09.2018 in Sarajevo
  • Matthias Mletzko / Cornelia Weins: Right-wing Violence 2012-2016: -Focus on anti-Muslim violence and its interactive effects. EENeT – Subgroup Meeting 14th – 16th of March 2016 in Budapest


Cornelia Weins and Matthias Mletzko: Part I – Xenophobic crimes. In: Matthias Mletzko, Nina Käsehage, and Cornelia Weins: State of research report – Academic literature and governmental data collection on extremist crime in Germany. Wiesbaden: Bundeskriminalamt 2019