Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (formerly the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law) consists of three research departments: Criminology, Public Law, and Criminal Law. In the Department of Criminology, research is conducted into which individual predispositions and environmental factors cause people to commit a crime. To this end, long-term scientific studies are combined with behavioral experiments in the virtual reality world. The Department of Public Law deals with the law of public security. It investigates how the legal system can respond to dangers in order to prevent criminal offences and other damage. The Department of Criminal Law conducts research into the fundamentals of criminal law, prohibition norm, and criminal penalties in the context of globalization, migration, and the social and cultural fragmentation of societies. The Institute's focus is on basic research, as well as on application research due to its interdisciplinary legal, social science and psychological research approach.


Günterstalstr. 73
79100 Freiburg
Phone: +49 761 7081-0
Fax: +49 761 7081-294
More Problems, More Fear. Where people live influences fear of crime levels in victims of crime

Where people live influences fear of crime levels in victims of crime

Housing estate at dusk with street lighting

Criminologists use Virtual Reality to assess the impact of street lighting and watching-eyes interventions


Research highlights 2023

December 19, 2023

Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2023 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 12 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year

Should Climate Activists be Punished as Common Offenders?

Their acceptance of responsibility and political motivation should be taken into account as a mitigating factor when sentencing

Insights into Unreported Crime Crucial for Prevention – German Federal Constitutional Court strengthens academic freedom

The court emphasized the importance of confidential data collection on criminal conduct

Show more

Studies show that the louder political minorities shout on social networks, the quieter the democratic majority becomes. Hate, hate speech, and propaganda thrive in echo chambers and distort perceptions in political discourse. Researchers investigate this phenomenon from the perspective of social science, law, and mathematics.

Farmers’ protests, democracy demonstrations, and pro-Palestinian assemblies: Germany is experiencing a wave of demonstrations like never before. At the same time, surveys show that many people feel they are not free to express their opinions. Wrongly so, says legal expert Ralf Poscher of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law.

Patrick McClanahan from the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law in Freiburg travelled to Pennsylvania for seven months. He met convicted burglars in four different prisons and encouraged them to rob houses in the service of science.

Stormed parliaments or racist attacks in the US and Germany: politically motivated violence is on the rise. Most of the time, these incidents seem to be isolated, the actions of individual perpetrators. Nevertheless, researchers do recognize terrorist patterns in these acts. James Angove at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law is exploring the question of how this “stochastic terrorism” arises and how it can be countered.

What objectives should a modern, enlightened penal system pursue? And how compatible is the idea of reintegration with the option of handing down a life sentence? Federica Coppola, a jurist at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law poses questions that lead her to the conceptual limits of legal practice. And she provides some surprising answers.

Hate speech, propaganda, and disinformation are increasingly presenting problems on the internet and social media. Efforts to regulate undesirable online content through platform-specific rules or legislation have been unsuccessful. Johanna Rinceanu and Randall Stephenson believe that what is needed is a more precise diagnosis of the underlying causes. Such a legal approach should be inspired by lessons from social medicine.

In Germany’s diverse society, law and order are not just overseen by the police and the courts. There are communities that have their own means of settling disputes: family clans with foreign roots, for instance, but also motorcycle gangs and so-called Reichsbürger (Reich citizens), who turn their back on the modern German state and long for a return of the days of empire. Hatem Elliesie of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle and Clara Rigoni of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security, and Law are studying this phenomenon.

No job offers available

Thoughts of an offender: Where does criminal responsibility begin?

2023 Hirsch, Philipp-Alexander; Payer, Andrés; Schwartz, Svenja; Weigel, Johannes Stefan


The research group “Criminal Law Theory” at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law investigates the limits of criminal responsibility, examining the intent/negligence dichotomy, the significance of inadvertent negligence and willful ignorance, and how criminal law deals with motive. The aim is to develop a transnational “grammar” of subjective imputation based on an interdisciplinary approach that analyses the normative and empirical foundations of current law and compares international legal practices.


Short-term thinking, criminal action

2022 Deitzer, Jessica; Kübel, Sebastian; van Gelder, Jean-Louis

Social and Behavioural Sciences

People who have short-term mindsets (i.e., impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and low future orientation) are more likely to commit crime. In our research, we consider how adverse environments and experiences affect short-term mindsets. We find that harsh and unpredictable environments, victimization, and first-time and early police contact are each associated with more short-term thinking. This can help explain the link between short-term mindsets and later crime in adolescents.


Periodic surveillance barometer for Germany

2021 Poscher, Ralf; Kilchling, Michael; Landerer, Lukas


State surveillance measures and their impact on constitutional freedoms have long been the subject of legal and political discourse. We began developing a concept for establishing a periodic surveillance barometer. Designed as a theoretically and empirically grounded instrument it shall measure and assess the actual status of surveillance. The pioneering project aims at making the cumulative impact on privacy through the various surveillance activities by security and prosecution agencies recognizable and quantifiable.


The dilemma of triage

2020 Hörnle, Tatjana


The COVID-19 pandemic has at times made it impossible to treat every patient with a life-threatening illness. There are no laws on triage. Which selection criteria – such as age or the likelihood of successful treatment – are appropriate and permissible, and who gets to determine them, is a highly controversial issue. What are the regulations in German constitutional and criminal law? Is ex-post triage a criminal offence? We have reviewed such ethical and legal questions with experts from several disciplines


Predictive Policing – an evaluation study

2019 Gerstner, Dominik

Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences

Stopping burglaries before they happen? At least this is how commercial providers advertise their Predictive Policing software. The Max Planck Institute for Criminal Law conducted an evaluation study to find out whether or not this works. Such software was tested by the police in Baden-Wuerttemberg, and a pilot study assessed whether a higher risk of future residential burglaries could be predicted for certain residential areas. This is possible to a certain extent, but the crime prevention effects are moderate. The use of such software is the subject of controversial debate within the police.

Go to Editor View