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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Austria 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at U.S. Tri-Mission Vienna. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Austria. For more in-depth information, 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.

Travel Advisory

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

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Vienna as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Austria has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, and violent crime is rare. Crime rates generally decreased slightly during 2019, except for a notable increase in reported cybercrime. The most common crime experienced by U.S. citizens is purse/wallet snatching, typically in crowded public areas. Other crimes of opportunity included those in trains, restaurants, shopping areas, and crowded tourist areas in which criminals distracted a victim who usually was not in direct physical control of valuables. Be especially cognizant of your possessions in the plaza around St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the nearby pedestrian shopping areas in Vienna’s First District These crimes were overwhelmingly non-violent, and seldom involved weapons. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Residential burglaries continue to be a concern, but the trend continuous in2019 and the rates reflected a slight decrease from prior years. In 2019, there were a small number of residential crimes reported involving physical violence and home invasion, though none specifically targeting U.S. citizens. Vehicle theft reports stayed on a low level in 2019. In 2019, a bicycle theft increased and was a focus for the police. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

In 2019, U.S. citizens reported occasional instances of assault by intoxicated or emotionally disturbed persons in/near bars and transit hubs; these did not specifically target victims based on nationality.

While violent crime is infrequent, when it occurs, the media covers it heavily. Robbers target merchants and residences most notably during the holiday shopping season. Armed jewelry store and bank robberies occurred occasionally this year. Violent crime within some ethnic communities, especially against women, increased in 2019.

Be alert to criminal schemes in public places such as cafes and tourist areas.

Organized crime, primarily from Serbian and Polish groups, is present in Austria, though it is usually non-violent and involves burglary and property theft.

Credit card fraud is less prevalent than in the U.S. because Austrians typically purchase goods and services using cash or bank transfers instead of using credit cards. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime in Austria generally follows worldwide trends. Austrian law enforcement has dedicated additional personnel towards cybercrime prevention, resulting in the recent establishment of a cybercrime taskforce.

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Austria has a substantial network of highways and roads, all in generally excellent condition. Traffic typically flows in an organized manner. In large cities, complex tram and bus systems share city roads with cars, creating unique driving hazards. The large network of mountain roads requires good, attentive driving skills.

Be alert when you drive through autobahn construction zones, particularly on the A-1 East/West Autobahn. Reduced lanes and two-way traffic in these zones have resulted in several deadly accidents in recent years. Find traffic information and road conditions on the English-language radio channel located between 91-105 FM depending on the locale. Reach emergency roadside help and information by dialing 123 or 120 for vehicle assistance and towing services.

Under normal conditions, the speed limit in towns is 50km/h; on country roads, it is 100km/h; and on the Autobahn (highways), it is 130km/h. Electronic radar detectors are located on all autobahns, motorways, and in cities to assist the police with speed enforcement. Austria employs cameras in controlled speed zones, and tickets drivers for speed violations automatically. All vehicles on the Austrian Autobahn must have a toll vignette (sticker) for passenger vehicles or a toll transponder for heavier commercial vehicles. Purchase vignettes at gas stations, local Tabak-Traffik tobacco shops, or online.

The legal limit for blood alcohol is 0.05%. Fines for violating this limit range from 218€ to 3,634€, and result in the suspension of the driver's license. Drivers may not use a hand-held cell phone while driving or turn right on red.

Cars on Austrian motorways must leave an emergency corridor, even when no emergency vehicle is approaching. When traffic stops, create an emergency corridor in between the far-left lane and all others to the right.

A U.S. driver's license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. Authorities require an international driving permit or an official translation of the U.S. driver's license, obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (ÖAMTC or ARBÖ). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.

During heavy congestion on highways, when traffic slows significantly, Austrian law mandates that motorists create a lane for emergency vehicles to pass. The lane forms to the inside of the far-right lane of traffic.

During the winter, roads in alpine areas may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches, which may block some minor mountain passes for prolonged periods. Winter tires or appropriately rated all-season tires are required on cars during the fall and winter months. Carry snow chains in winter; doing so may be compulsory in some areas. Drivers receive substantial fines for failure to use winter tires on a vehicle between November 1 and April 15. Car insurance becomes void if a vehicle is in a wintertime accident without winter tires.

Authorities may arrest, fine, and/or charge with attempted auto theft any drivers attempting to enter countries listed as “prohibited” on a car rental contract.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transit systems are excellent. Most operate on the honor system, with random checks by plainclothes ticket-enforcement officers. Fines for riding without a validated ticket can be up to 100€ and must be paid on the spot. Be especially cautious when walking near tram tracks, as trams are nearly silent and strike several pedestrians and vehicles each year. Beware of pickpockets on public transportation, on trains, and in train stations. Transport coming into and out of the city center and trains that run between Vienna and Budapest, Prague, and Rome are of particularly high risk.

Do not leave bags unattended.

Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Austria’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Austria’s air carrier operations.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Vienna as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There have been no recent terrorist attacks in Austria, but travelers should take the potential for terrorist-related incidents seriously. And while there is no prominent homegrown Islamist group in Austria, international groups such as ISIS and Hamas have received support from some Austrian Muslim extremists. Austrian citizens and residents have fought in Syria and Northern Iraq with extremist groups over the past several years. As of early 2019, Austrian authorities reported knowing about 320 foreign fighters with Austrian ties. Sixty of these individuals died, 60 faced issues with authorities at the Austrian border and traveled back to Syria, and 90 have returned to Austria from the war zone. Of these 320 foreign fighters, 40% have an Austrian passport, and 40% are from the Russian Federation (mostly Chechens). The threat of extremist violence from these individuals is of growing concern to authorities.

Austria is a transport and finance hub, and various international terrorist groups and individuals operate in country, using it as part of their support base. Since 2016, Austrian authorities have enhanced efforts to counter incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism and to combat the problem of foreign terrorist fighters. In February 2018, Austria convicted three men for establishing an ISIS-affiliated cell in with the objective of attacking a police station in St. Pölten. Authorities have also confirmed ongoing radicalization efforts by violent Islamist extremist groups in the country. In March 2019, authorities arrested a 42-year-old Iraqi ISIS sympathizer in Vienna in connection with failed terror attacks on railways in Germany. Due to this heightened threat, government surveillance of potential radical groups has increased.

Religiously motivated extremism also presents a potential threat to European security. Terrorist attacks on soft targets around the world underscore the concern of an ever-increasing transnational terrorist threat. Be alert to your surroundings, especially in circumstances where you may be time/place predictable. If you detect suspicious activity, inform the police immediately.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Vienna as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Austria is a stable democracy. Groups generally are free to protest; peaceful protests concerning a variety of political causes are common in Vienna. Protests may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events. Civil disorder associated with public protests or demonstrations is rare, but does occur. Protest organizers must request to protest permit from the Vienna city government at least 24 hours in advance. The permit delineates the parameters of the protest and advises the police of the planned activity. Police control for planned demonstrations is consistently very good. However, the possibility exists of any demonstration becoming violent, so travelers should avoid them when possible, especially when rival groups will be present. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Anti-U.S. Sentiment

Anti-U.S. sentiment is not common in Austria. However, in 2019 there were 10 demonstrations at the Bilateral Chancery and one at the U.S. Consulate from a variety of groups. Pro-Israeli, Palestinian, and Kurdish groups demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy during 2019. All demonstrations were peaceful and concluded without violence.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Austria experiences a number of deadly landslides and avalanches each year, including one that killed several U.S. skiers in 2015. Groomed ski areas monitor for avalanche danger, and authorities bring down potential avalanches under controlled conditions. If participating in winter sports outside of controlled areas, receive avalanche avoidance training, heed avalanche danger cautions, monitor weather conditions, and carry rescue/survival gear.

Air pollution results from emissions by coal- and oil-fired power stations and industrial plants, and from trucks transiting Austria between northern and southern Europe. Real-time air quality information is available online.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft

Austria maintains strict privacy laws that govern the release of personal information.

Personal Identity Concerns

The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the government generally enforces the law. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+ events in Austria. There is an established LGBTI+ community in all larger cities. While there is some societal prejudice, Austria has become more liberal with laws and social opinion concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. Anti-discrimination laws apply to LGBTI+ persons. Civil partnerships of same-sex couples are legal but not equivalent to marriage. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

In April 2019, the Interior Ministry published statistics citing approximately 1,075 neo-Nazi extremist, racist, Islamophobic, or anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, up slightly from 1,063 such incidents in 2017. An NGO operating a hotline for victims of racist incidents reported receiving approximately 1,920 complaints in 2018. It reported that racist internet postings comprised 60% of cases, and mostly targeted Muslims and migrants.

The Austrian Jewish community notes that anti-Semitism remains at a “high but stable” level. The NGO Forum against Anti-Semitism reported 503 anti-Semitic incidents during 2018. These included five physical assaults in addition to name-calling, graffiti and defacement, threatening letters, dissemination of anti-Semitic texts, property damage, and vilifying letters and telephone calls. Of the reported incidents, five concerned physical assaults, 28 threats and insults, 203 letters and calls, 51 vandalism, and 171 involved anti-Semitic internet postings. The government provided police protection to the IKG’s offices and other Jewish community institutions in the country, such as schools and museums. The IKG noted that anti-Semitic incidents typically involved neo-Nazi and other related right-wing extremist perpetrators. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

Austrian federal law mandates access to public buildings for persons with physical disabilities, greatly improving accessibility. While many stores and restaurants in Austria still lack ramp or elevator access, most tourist attractions are accessible. Find a comprehensive assessment of public buildings, including tourist sites, restaurants, cafes, and hotels in Vienna, at the Vienna Tourist Information website. Click here for information regarding accessibility in other regions of Austria. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug-related criminal activity against U.S. citizens is rare. However, the use of knockout drugs slipped into a victim’s drink has been reported both as a means of incapacitating a victim for theft of property and for disabling victims of sexual crimes. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.

In recent years, police have aggressively targeted drug and drug-trafficking related crime. Austria is a transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and South American cocaine destined for Western Europe, and increasingly a consumer of European-produced synthetic drugs.

Police Response

The police emergency lines in Austria are 133 (Austria) and 112 (inter European Union). The quality of police services is comparable in training, efficiency, and expertise to that of most U.S. cities. Police authorities are highly professional. Cooperate fully with police requests.

The federal police (Bundespolizei) maintain internal security within 80+ districts and 25+ cities, reporting to the Interior Ministry. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities and reports to the Defense Ministry. Municipal police (Stadtpolizei) maintain local security in approximately 20 locations around Austria. The Bundeskriminalamt (BKK) conducts federal investigations under the Interior Ministry’s Directorate General for Public Security

In large cities and vacation resorts, an English-speaking officer is usually available to assist crime victims. Victims of any type of crime should notify the police immediately. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

NGOs continue to criticize police for allegedly targeting minorities for frequent identity checks. Racial sensitivity training for police and other officials continue with NGO assistance.

Medical Emergencies

The medical emergency lines in Austria are 144 (Austria) and 112 (inter European Union). In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the Embassy’s medical assistance webpage.

Local hospitals will not settle accounts directly with American insurance companies. You must pay the bill to the local hospital and later claim a refund from the insurance carrier in the United States. Ensure you have adequate medical insurance that is valid for coverage in Austria. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

The Austrian Medicine Import Act generally prohibits the import of prescription drugs into Austria, however, non- European Union residents may carry medicines as part of their personal luggage, but only the quantity required during the course of the stay. Travelers may not receive medicine by mail while staying in Austria. If a particular medication is not available locally in Austria, an Austrian pharmacy may be able to order the medication prescribed by a local physician from a pharmacy in the U.S. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

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

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is an active OSAC Country Council in Vienna. Contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Vienna, or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

U.S. Embassy: Boltzmanngasse 16, 1090 Vienna; 0800-1700, Monday-Friday, except holidays.

U.S. Consulate (for American Citizen Services): Marriott Hotel, Parkring 12A, A1010 Vienna, northeast side entrance, 4th floor; 0800-1700, Monday-Friday, except holidays.

Embassy switchboard: +43 (1) 31339 0

After-hours emergency Tel: +43 (1) 31339 0

Regional Security Office: +43 (1) 31339 2221

American Citizens Services Tel: +43 (1) 31339 7535

Website: http://at.usembassy.gov/

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

OSAC Risk Matrix

OSAC Travelers Toolkit

State Department Traveler’s Checklist

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Additional Resource: Austria Country Information Sheet




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