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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Jordan 2018 Crime & Safety Report

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Jordan has been assessed as Level 2: Exercise Increase Caution.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Amman does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Amman as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s country-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

The Public Security Directorate’s (PSD) Criminal Information Department (CID) has tracked a steady increase in crime since 2010, with an average of 20,000 crimes per year. PSD has not released the statistics for 2017, though the total number is believed to be slightly higher than the 24,000 crimes committed in 2016. Official reports have suggested that murder, aggravated assault, and kidnapping have increased compared to the previous five year average. Other crimes -- attempted theft, public administration bribery, criminal theft, auto theft, currency counterfeiting, and celebratory firearm discharges -- have remained steady.

Although criminal events are less prevalent in western Amman, crime remains a concern. The most common crimes directed against Americans and other Westerners are petty crimes, to include pickpocketing and bag snatching. Jordanian police warn the public to exercise vigilance when leaving banks and ATMs.

Violence at universities continues to be a problem, and many assaults involve weapons. Several disturbances at universities were incited by disagreements stemming from university elections, tribal affiliations, and perceived grievances and injustices. The U.S. Embassy recorded 17 instances of non-lethal campus violence in 2017.

Sexual harassment/assault is a concern for Western women, with most cases involving inappropriate staring, cat calling, stalking, and touching. Western women should be mindful of cultural differences and be aware that seemingly innocuous behavior such as riding in the front seat of a taxi or even polite conversation with a man may be interpreted as forward and/or inviting. Many incidents affecting Westerners involve taxi drivers inappropriately touching female passengers riding in the front seat. The Embassy received reports of three sexual assaults of U.S. citizens and harassment of five Embassy employees during 2017. Women are encouraged to ride in the back seat of taxis, dress modestly, carry a charged cell phone, and avoid solo travel to unfamiliar areas – especially at night.

Vehicle theft and vehicle break-ins are infrequent but do occur.

In 2017, the U.S. Embassy received several reports of minor thefts at diplomatic residences, to include theft of patio furniture, propane tanks, and diesel fuel. These incidents, particularly propane and diesel fuel theft, can be significant issues for the American expatriate community.

Firearm possession, transport, and sales remained a serious concern for Jordanian authorities. Firearms are not widely available but have been used by criminal and terrorist elements against police and security personnel conducting raids during 2017.

The Jordanian economy, regional events, and the monetary cost of essential commodities all serve as potential catalysts for an increase in crime.

Cybersecurity Issues

2017 witnessed a continuing trend of Internet scams, primarily using fictitious social media accounts purporting to be current or former U.S. government officials. These incidents have included fictitious LinkedIn accounts, Facebook posts, and the use of other cyber platforms. For more information on international financial scams, please see the Consular Affairs website.

Other Areas of Concern

Although confined to northern areas within 10km of the border, explosive ordnance landed in Jordan at least 23 times in 2017. The likely point of origin was Syria. Private travelers should avoid Jordan's borders with Syria and Iraq given the continued threat of cross-border violence, including the risk of terrorist attacks. Because of ongoing conflicts in the region, anti-ISIS Coalition activity, and border security concerns, the U.S. Embassy maintains a strict travel policy for Embassy personnel. All U.S. government employees on official travel must receive prior permission to visit refugee camps and any area within 10km of the Jordan-Syria border. Embassy travel to these locations must be conducted in armored vehicles equipped with tracking devices. Prior to any such travel, the RSO consults with Jordanian security officials to ascertain hazards and, if necessary, the RSO arranges additional security measures.

Celebratory gunfire, especially during weddings, funerals, and upon the release of academic results is a concern.

Additional issues include altercations between tribes and marrying families, honor killings, and retaliatory attacks.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Physical road conditions in urban environments are generally good. Driving conditions in rural areas can be hazardous, as roads are less developed. The RSO strongly discourages individuals from driving outside greater Amman at night, as poor lighting increases the driving hazards associated with unmarked traffic patterns, livestock crossing, and erratic driving.

Traffic accidents are common and often result in serious injuries/fatalities. Fatality rates are significantly higher than in the U.S. Excessive speeding and failure to obey traffic regulations are common. Motorists should drive defensively and use extreme caution; seatbelts should always be worn. In 2017, the RSO responded to 37 reports of traffic accidents involving American diplomats or their dependents. Accidents that are minor may be resolved at the scene, although some parties may escalate tensions and demand immediate compensation. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

U.S. citizens are encouraged to use licensed, commercial taxis, available at most major hotels. Passengers should insist that the driver does not pick up additional passengers. Women are encouraged to sit in the rear of the taxi.

Other forms of public ground transportation are not recommended.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

In 2017, Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) and QAIA implemented enhanced security measures in accordance to TSA standards to rescind the personal electronic device (PED) ban at the last point of departure (LPD) gates to the U.S. The U.S. is coordinating with Jordanian authorities to further bolster security at LPD gates by implementing enhanced security interviews and trace-detecting, X-ray, and canine screening methods of PEDs and carry-on luggage during 2018.

The airports adhere to international air safety standards. Security at QAIA and AQJ is controlled by Jordanian security agencies.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Amman as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The threat of terrorism remains a major concern. Local, regional, and transnational terrorist groups/extremists have demonstrated the willingness and capacity to plan and execute attacks in Jordan. Jordan remains a key ally in combating terrorism and extremist ideology, and Jordanian security services participate in Coalition military operations and bolster defenses against terrorist incursions on their borders. Jordan hosts U.S. military personnel for anti-ISIS operations, joint exercises, and training. Jordan has shown itself to be a willing and capable partner in the fight against terrorism.

The most notable terrorism-related events in 2017 included:

  • Throughout the year, multiple Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) detonated in/around the Al Rukban refugee camp in Syria near the Jordanian border.

  • In October, a house was raided in the Zarqa refugee camp; two homemade explosive devices were found. Authorities discovered the suspect after a bomb he was building accidentally detonated during construction, injuring him. Charges are pending.

  • In October, the State Security Court (SSC) sentenced six people to five years of hard labor for sympathizing with ISIS. They were charged with creating Facebook pages to find Jordanian supporters for ISIS and promote terrorist activity.

  • In October, the SSC sentenced a man to hard labor for planning to carry out a terrorist attack against a Gendarmerie officer. The man planned to stab the officer at the Ministry of Tourism to prove his loyalty to ISIS.

  • In September, the SSC brought terrorism charges against 16 people. The suspects were accused of planning to use automatic weapons to carry out terrorist acts against public security services. The trial is ongoing.

  • In September, the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate (GID) arrested a 10-person ISIS cell that was planning to attack security forces and tourist locations with explosive suicide belts.

  • In June, Jordanian border guards near the Al Rukban refugee camp repulsed an attack from Syria by three terrorists on motorcycles. One border guard was injured; the attackers were killed.

  • In January, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus en route from Amman to Ma’an while it was passing Wadi Musa. There were no injuries; the shooters were not caught.

Throughout 2017, security officials arrested extremists, many for posting pro-ISIS videos or statements on social media. The government charged them before the SSC for using the Internet to propagate terrorist ideology.

Below is a sampling of security incidents and arrests as a background on intent and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of hostile actors:

  • In 2012, Jordanian security services disrupted a complex terrorist plot that targeted several Amman shopping centers and cafes frequented by diplomats and Westerners. The plot, orchestrated by al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), was to take place in several phases, culminating in an attack on the U.S. Embassy. Authorities arrested 11 suspects.

  • In 2010, roadside Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) targeted U.S and Israeli vehicles. One detonated near the passing vehicle of three State Department contractors in Sahab. The attack caused minor damage to the vehicle but no injuries. The other detonated near an Israeli diplomatic motorcade on the Dead Sea Highway.

  • From 2006-2008, Jordanian security officials arrested numerous terrorism suspects while disrupting several terrorist plots.

    • A gunman opened fire on a group of tourists in central Amman, wounding six before killing himself.

    • A gunman also opened fire on foreigners in Al-Hashimiyah Square in Amman, killing one and injuring six.

  • In 2005, al-Qa’ida claimed responsibility for the bombings of three international hotels in Amman that resulted in 60 fatalities. AQ also claimed responsibility for rocket attacks in Aqaba that killed one Jordanian soldier and wounded another. Some 17 AQ affiliates were arrested for planning to assassinate Jordanian and American officials.

  • In 2002, U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley was assassinated in his driveway in Amman.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Anti-American/anti-Western sentiment can become inflamed by regional issues. U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria and the U.S government’s policies on Israel have fueled anti-American feelings. Military operations in the region are viewed unfavorably by certain segments of the Jordanian population. Recent surveys conducted among Jordanians show that over 80% of the population have an unfavorable view of the U.S. government. This sentiment does not extend to Americans in general or American culture. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take steps to increase their security awareness. It is especially important for travelers to vary their times and routes to decrease predictability while maintaining a low profile.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Amman as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Political violence has focused on Arab-Israeli relations, government subsidies, and local grievances (access to water, government services, etc.). Violence in the West Bank and Gaza has led to demonstrations and anti-government/anti-U.S. sentiment. While most instances of political violence in 2017 were not directly related to U.S. interests, there was a marked increase and the potential for directed political violence remains high.

Civil Unrest

There are frequent rallies, demonstrations, and protests, though the number of large, anti-government demonstrations has decreased in recent years. The majority occur after Friday prayers. RSO Amman tracked 55 major events, to include riots, in 2017. During the events, protestors burned tires, destroyed vehicles, blocked roads, shot out electrical transformers, and clashed with Gendarmerie and security forces.

Protests regarding government policies, lost jobs, taxes, wages, reduced subsidies, and other perceived injustices continue to fuel demonstrations, albeit at a lower rate than past years. The economic situation was also the reported cause of multiple protests. Demonstrations and protests can escalate to violent/disorderly demonstrations, sometimes resulting in road closures and confrontations with security forces. Permits are required for demonstrations, and security personnel monitor the events to ensure public order.

Protests in front of U.S. Embassy Amman were infrequent at the beginning of 2017, but increased later in the year. All protests at the Embassy were non-violent and closely monitored by Jordanian authorities. While the number of protestors participating in organized demonstrations decreased, there remains the potential for an increase in frequency and intensity depending on the local political environment and global political situation. Embassy protests of note in 2017 included:

  • In December, protests took place at the U.S. Embassy for 27 days after the announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv would move to Jerusalem. The number of protestors reached 2,500 immediately following the announcement, but as the month progressed fewer demonstrators participated, and the demonstrations, which remained peaceful, were monitored by Jordanian authorities.

  • In July, a Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) soldier was convicted of the 2016 killing of three U.S. military trainers. The shooter’s tribe rejected the verdict and attempted to stage a mass protest at the Embassy. Jordanian authorities diverted the protest, but tensions remained elevated throughout the summer, causing the Embassy to issue a temporary travel restriction in the tribal area around Wadi Rum.

    Individuals should avoid large crowds and demonstrations while taking measures to avoid areas where they are most likely to occur (city centers, universities, refugee camps), particularly during periods of increased tensions.

    The RSO has tracked more than 13,000 demonstrations since the beginning of the Arab Spring uprisings, though other estimates place the figure as high as 15,000. The majority of demonstrations have been small, contained, and mostly non-violent.

    Religious/Ethnic Violence

    In addition to Palestinian refugees, most of whom are Jordanian citizens, Jordan hosts approximately 655,624 UNHCR-registered Syrian refugees (though government officials report as many as 1.3 million Syrians in Jordan) and 65,922 Iraqi refugees. This influx has strained government resources, as the country confronts its own socio-economic challenges including unemployment, rising inflation, and increased costs of basic necessities.

    Tribal affiliations or other associations have exacerbated tensions and fueled unrest in 2017. Simple disagreements often led to clashes between tribes, with violence escalating until Jordanian security forces intervened. Some incidents continued for several weeks with large areas and parts of cities on lockdown until sufficient restitution or mediation between parties could occur.

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

    The region experiences regular seismic activity. The Jordan River Valley, which marks Jordan’s western border, constitutes the northern section of the Great Rift Valley. None of the recent small-scale seismic tremors have caused significant damage.

    On January 24, 2017, an avalanche occurred on a mountainous area near Naemeh Bridge, causing a landslide outside Irbid that destroyed parts of the major road of Jordan Street leading from Amman to Irbid. There were no reported injuries or deaths.

    Jordan suffers from a lack of water, and drought is a recurring concern; the country may experience six months or more of no significant rainfall. Nevertheless, flash floods do occur.

  • In November 2015, a flash flood damaged vehicles, homes, and businesses while leaving motorists stranded in Amman. The flash floods resulted in widespread road closures and at least five reported fatalities.

    Critical Infrastructure

    Rolling power outages are infrequent but do occur, especially during extreme weather when the demand for electricity exceeds the country’s production capacity.

    Economic Concerns

    Piracy of digital media and counterfeiting of computer software is prevalent, despite efforts by the government to stem the flow of counterfeit products.

    Counterfeit currency has also been seized in numerous arrests over the last several years, often in conjunction with illicit drugs and firearms.

    Personal Identity Concerns

    Gender plays a significant role in Jordanian society. One should be cognizant of gender-specific norms, and mitigate gender biases and cultural insensitivities.

    Jordan is tolerant of religious minorities, but proselytizing is illegal. Religious differences can exacerbate arguments or disagreements, sometimes causing Jordanian authorities to intervene and/or deport individuals for their own protection. In 2017, there were at least 15 deportations of American citizens in cases where religion was not the primary issue but played a role in escalating the situation. In 2015, two private U.S. citizens were deported after they were accused of proselytizing. Due to regional tensions, practitioners of certain faiths may experience increased scrutiny and unwelcome attention. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Putting Your Faith in Travel: Security Implications.”

    Consensual same-sex conduct is not illegal; however, societal discrimination against LGBTI persons is prevalent, and LGBTI persons are sometimes targets of abuse. Conservative cultural and religious norms restrict Jordanian LGBTI persons from being open about their sexual orientation. Same-sex displays of affection in public may elicit severe reactions. Laws against adultery or breaches of modesty may be used against LGBTI travelers. In 2015, the RSO received several reports of LGBTI Jordanians being detained and interrogated by security officials. RSO also monitored some parliamentarians and public commentators who called for the arrest/expulsion of U.S. diplomats who voice public support for LGBTI rights.

    While making strides to accommodate individuals with disabilities, Jordan does not have uniform mechanisms to accommodate persons with wheel chairs and other disabilities.

    Drug-related Crimes

    It is illegal to use and/or distribute drugs. Arrests can be made for possession, use, or simply being in the proximity of drugs. Penalties for drug offenses are severe and are considered crimes that threaten state security. Consular access to U.S. citizens arrested for drug offenses can be delayed pending further investigation.

    Captagon (fenethylline), heroin, hashish, and marijuana are the predominant drugs. In 2017, Jordanian authorities seized over 41 million captagon pills, 61 kg of heroin, 2,083 kg of hashish, and 331 kg of marijuana.

    Jordan’s geographical location between drug producing and drug consuming countries makes it a primary transit point for smugglers. In 2017, there were 29 reported cases of attempted border infiltration from Syria, to include drug smuggling and terrorism. Jordanian border guards do not discriminate between the two, and lethal force is authorized to prevent anyone from crossing into Jordan from Syria.

    Kidnapping Threat

    The threat of kidnapping is a concern. There were no kidnappings of U.S. citizens in 2017; however, American citizens and foreigners have been targeted in kidnapping plots in the past:

  • In November 2017, five people were arrested and charged with plotting to kidnap and kill foreign tourists from the Roman amphitheater. Two were sentenced to five years hard labor, and three were sentenced to three years hard labor.

  • In February 2015, the SSC sentenced two Syrians to three years imprisonment for plotting to kidnap an American in Zarqa on behalf of al-Nusra Front.

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”

Police Response

The Jordanian Public Security Directorate (PSD) is proactive and responsive when dealing with criminal activity. The PSD is the primary law enforcement entity that responds to emergencies.

The targeting of Jordanian law enforcement and security personnel remained a concern in 2017. There were several attacks on security personnel, including ambushes of police vehicles and attacks on security facilities and officers.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens detained by authorities should immediately request that they notify the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy (962-6-590-6000 or 962-6-590-6500). The Embassy can provide a list of local attorneys, visit detainees, and contact family and friends. Jordanian authorities may treat Jordanian-Americans as Jordanian and not notify the Embassy promptly. In such cases, a family member should contact the Embassy on the detainee’s behalf.

Crime Victim Assistance

If you are the victim of a crime, contact the U.S. Embassy Consular Section at 962 6 590-6000 for assistance.

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies

The PSD is responsible for law enforcement, protection of visiting dignitaries, routine crime prevention, traffic control, locating missing persons, and protecting public venues. The PSD is headed by the Director General of Public Security who reports to the Minister of Interior.

The General Directorate of the Gendarmerie is primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, to include riot control and the protection of diplomatic missions. The Gendarmerie also supports other security agencies as needed.

The Directorate of Military Security (DMS) is subordinate to the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) and is the military’s primary security and counterintelligence element.

The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) is considered one of most important and professional intelligence agencies in the region.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

London SOS Air Ambulance

Tel: 00 44 20 8762 8008

Insurance Guidance

All visitors are encouraged to have insurance coverage for hospitalization and medical evacuations.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Jordan.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Amman Country Council meets intermittently. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa Team with any questions or to join.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Embassy is located on Al-Umawiyeen Street, Abdoun District, Amman.

The Embassy is open Sun-Thurs, 0800-1700.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: 962 6 590-6000

After-Hours Emergencies: 962 6 590-6500

Website: https://jo.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to [country] should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Jordan Country Information Sheet

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