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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Poland 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Poland at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw 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.

Review OSAC’s Poland-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

There is a minimal risk of crime in Warsaw and Kraków. Polish National Police statistics underscore that Poland continues to be one of the safest countries in Europe. In 2017 (the latest statistics available), police reported 782,114 criminal offenses.

Pickpocketing is common, and is one of the most frequently reported crimes for U.S. citizens and other visitors. Most pickpocketing incidents occur on public transportation or in areas where there are large crowds (Kraków’s Market Square or Warsaw’s Old Town). At train stations, where many people are vulnerable by carrying cumbersome luggage and other articles, groups of thieves can jostle and distract their victim while stealing their wallet. Crowded public buses and trams also attract pickpockets. U.S. citizens most often report passports and other items stolen from luggage, backpacks, or purses.

Assaults occur on very rare occasion. The majority of assaults occurs among patrons of late-night establishments and often involves alcohol consumption. These crimes generally take place between midnight and 0600. The Embassy has received reports of wildly excessive credit card bills received from nightclubs near popular city center areas. Pay careful attention to drink prices and pay in cash. There have also been reports of nightclub security being overly aggressive and, in few instances, physically assaulting patrons. Avoid any confrontation at these locations. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.

Burglars tend to rob homes by entering through an unlocked front door or by some ruse. Police continue to report that most residential crimes occur because tenants and homeowners failed to use alarm systems or to lock doors, gates, and/or garages, allowing thieves to take advantage of the vulnerability. A common tactic favored by thieves is to pose as employees of municipal utility services and attempt to gain access to a residence under the guise of checking meters or repairing reported problems. In reported cases, residents failed to verify the employment status of the supposed employees.

Poland is located along the eastern border of the Schengen Zone, and is the entry point into Schengen Europe for some illicit activities. Organized crime has declined in presence since its heyday in the late 1990s, but remains active. Various elements operate across borders, particularly with regard to drug/cigarette trafficking, vehicle theft, and alien smuggling/human trafficking.

Soccer matches often involve confrontations between opposing fans. Such confrontations may become violent.

Transportation-Safety Situation

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

Road Safety and Road Conditions

In the first six months of 2017, Polish authorities registered approximately 13,000 traffic accidents, to include 927 fatalities. The road fatality rate is high, placing Poland among one of the more dangerous places to drive in Europe. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on the road. Driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are sometimes narrow, poorly illuminated, frequently under repair (especially in the summer), and include pedestrian and cyclist use.

Unpredictable weather can cause problems on the roads. Flooding has closed bridges and significantly disrupted road travel. Driving in the mountainous regions in the winter can be extremely dangerous, as the roads tend to be narrow and twisty with narrow shoulders. Drivers should consider snow tires and or tire chains.

Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish law provides virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties include a fine and probation or imprisonment for up to two years. Penalties for drivers involved in accidents are severe and can include imprisonment from six months to eight years; in the case of drivers under the influence of alcohol/drugs, penalties can be up to 12 years.

You must have both an International Driving Permit (IDP) obtained prior to arrival and a U.S. driver's license in order to drive in Poland. U.S. citizens cannot obtain IDPs in Poland. Only two U.S. automobile associations — the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Automobile Club (NCA) — may distribute IDPs in the United States. If you plan to stay for more than six months, you must obtain a Polish driver’s license.

Use of seat belts is compulsory. You must always use headlights. The law prohibits the use of cellular phones while driving, except for hands-free models. The law prohibits making a right turn on a red light. Turning right on red with a green arrow is the equivalent of turning right on red in the U.S. The green arrow does NOT give you the right-of-way.

For traffic offenses or accidents, police may make an immediate determination of guilt and levy a fine, sometimes substantial. Individuals with a registered address in Poland will receive a fine payable within seven days. Non-residents must pay fines immediately to the issuing police officer. You must be prepared to pay in local currency, though in some cases credit cards are accepted. If you are unable to pay, or if you refuse to pay, the police may hold your passport and request an “accelerated procedure” with the court. The court will not return the passport until the matter is settled.

Polish roadside services are rapidly improving. The Polish Automobile Association (Polski Związek Motorowy Auto-Tour) has multilingual operators and provides nationwide assistance 24/7. You can reach them by calling (22) 532-8427 or (22) 532-8433.

For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation is safe, efficient, and reliable.

Within cities, taxis are available at major hotels and designated stands or are available in advance by telephone. Some drivers speak English and accept credit cards. When hailing taxis on the street, avoid those that do not have a company name and/or telephone number displayed, since these may not have meters, and many of them charge significantly more. Use "radio taxis," those whose company phone number and name appear on the light bar. Check to see that the taxi has a functioning meter and that the driver uses the meter when starting your trip. Do not accept assistance from self-professed “taxi drivers” who approach you in the arrivals terminal or outside the doors at the airport; use only those that display telephone numbers and a company name and are at designated taxi stands. Uber and other ride-share services are increasingly common. For more information on ride sharing, review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report Safety and Security in the Share Economy.

Poland has a highly developed rail system, and the number of rail accidents is quite low.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Warsaw and Kraków. Poland has no indigenous terrorism, and no known terrorist organizations have been identified operating in Poland.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Warsaw and Kraków. Demonstrations are a regular occurrence, but are generally orderly and peaceful. Demonstrations occur regularly in Warsaw, and can range from a few individuals to thousands. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful may turn violent. Avoid areas where you see heavy police presence or crowds assembling, exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings, and stay away from demonstrations.

The U.S. Embassy is located near the prime minister’s chancellery, Parliament, various government ministries, and other embassies. While demonstrations rarely target U.S. policies, the U.S. Embassy lies along a major north-south traffic artery often used by demonstrators, so the Embassy may experience disruptions from these demonstrations.

Demonstrations in Kraków are much less frequent and typically draw much smaller crowds. The U.S. Consulate General in Kraków is near the German and French Consulates. Occasionally, small demonstrations against the German Consulate have taken place, but these normally have little impact on Consulate operations.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Poland has one of the highest rates of air pollution in Europe, and generates almost 90% of its electricity with coal. Almost 70% of single-family homes use a coal-fired boiler or stove. In 2015, the European Commission (EC) referred Poland to the EU Court of Justice as noncompliant with EU regulations regarding the level of particulate (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air. Poland has not yet complied with EU regulations regarding particulate levels.

Critical Infrastructure

In 2013, Poland adopted the National Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, designed to improve security and resilience of Poland’s financial, energy, and communications infrastructure. Polish authorities have not yet identified specific infrastructure concerns.

Economic Concerns

U.S. government interaction with private-sector representatives and Polish counterparts indicate economic espionage problems exist. Many organizations do not know they are targets; others have tried to address the problem internally without involving the authorities.

Drug-related Crimes

There is a negligible threat of drug violence or narco-terrorism. Most violence involving drug trafficking takes place among those involved in the illegal activity; innocent bystanders are rarely, if ever, victimized. Poland is primarily a drug trans-shipment country for Europe. Amphetamines, marijuana, and synthetic drugs are reportedly the primary drugs of choice for domestic use.

Authorities in Poland and neighboring countries report increased illicit production of synthetic drugs, including methamphetamine. However, it is unclear whether the methamphetamine is for local consumption or distribution to neighboring countries such as the Czech Republic.

Kidnapping Threat

There is no record of targeting of expatriates or U.S. Embassy personnel for kidnappings. There are reports of wealthy Poles or their family members kidnapped for ransom, but those instances are rare. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Police Response

Police officers are universally professional and cooperative.

Crime Victim Assistance

Police: 997

Fire: 998

Ambulance: 999

General Emergency: 112

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

Victims of crime should file a report at the nearest police station. Few police officers will speak fluent English, but will usually offer to obtain an interpreter. This may take a few minutes to a few hours. It helps to have a bilingual companion along for translation.

In an emergency with a Polish-speaking person available, call the police, fire department, or ambulance service, depending on your emergency and assistance needed. If no Polish-speaking person is available, call the Embassy or Consulate for assistance. Major cities will generally have English speakers available through the general emergency number.

Medical Emergencies

The standard of care in major cities may lag behind healthcare in the U.S.; in small villages, it may be limited. Many healthcare workers do not speak English. Prescription medication is reliable, but sometimes unavailable.

Dial 112 or 999 for a medical emergency.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

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

Available Air Ambulance Services

  • Global Assistance (formerly Europe Assist), Toll free: 1-877-710-4082, Local: 1-240-330-1523
  • American Air Ambulance provides worldwide air ambulance services for people needing medical attention. Tel: 800-863-0312 or 941-536-2002
  • International SOS provides air ambulance service in Poland. Tel: +49 6102 3588 100
  • Global Air Rescue provides worldwide service.Tel: 866-299-6870, or 561-459-3150 (in the US)

 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Country Council in Warsaw is active, meeting quarterly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Warsaw, Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31, 00-540 Warsaw, 0830-1700, Monday-Friday.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator: +48-22-504-2000

Marine Post One: +48-22-504-2639

Website: http://poland.usembassy.gov/

Nearby Posts

Consulate Kraków: http://Kraków.usconsulate.gov/

Embassy Guidance

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

Additional Resources

Poland Country Information Sheet

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