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Fact check

Does Switzerland have fewer police than neighbouring countries?

In Switzerland there are around 220 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants (Keystone)

In Switzerland there are around 220 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants


After an attack on a regional train in canton St Gallen, calls have multiplied to boost security. The system could possibly be improved, some people admit, pointing out that the number of police officers in Switzerland is proportionately lower than that in neighbouring countries. Is this statement true or false?

Increase the number of railway police (currently 300), check people at station entrances, reintroduce conductors on regional trains, introduce a wide range of technology: after the attack on Saturday there is no shortage of ideas on how to increase security.

Pierre Maudet, the Geneva councillor in charge of cantonal security, told Swiss public radio, RTS, that the authorities are constantly looking for ways to improve the system of surveillance and crime prevention, but they are aware that there’s no such thing as zero risk.

Nevertheless, Maudet said there were limits. One of these is that in Switzerland “the number of police officers is a fair bit lower than in neighbouring countries”.

This statement is confirmed by data from Eurostat, the EU’s statistics body. In 2014, there were 219 police officers in Switzerland per 100,000 inhabitants. In total, 17,816 police were divided between the 26 cantonal forces, the federal force and municipal forces.

As can be seen in the graphic below, Switzerland is near the bottom of the list, along with Scandinavian countries. Most countries in Europe have more police per 100,000 inhabitants than Switzerland. In Italy, for example, the ratio is more than double.

Globally, Switzerland is also near the bottom of the list. According to a 2010 report by the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, of the 97 countries analysed, the highest proportion of police officers was in Brunei and Kuwait, with almost 1,100 officers per 100,000 inhabitants.

Some data, however, could be misleading: Venezuela and Syria, for example, apparently have only 15 officers per 100,000 inhabitants. As the reports says, “with such low values, one can assume without a shadow of doubt that they don’t represent the real police force in those countries”.

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(Translated from Italian by Thomas Stephens), swissinfo.ch


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