OSAC logo

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

247 all time - 8 last 7 days

Netherlands 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses the Netherlands at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in The Hague 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.

Please review OSAC’s Netherlands-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 minimal risk from crime in The Hague and in Amsterdam. As in any large European city, visitors and temporary residents may be more susceptible to criminal targeting due to their unfamiliarity with local practices and surroundings. Tourists and visitors, while generally safe and not targeted based on nationality, should remain vigilant against petty theft. The most common crimes are pickpocketing and theft of personal property in crowded places, such as tourist areas, markets, train stations, and airports.

Most crimes in Amsterdam are related to theft (e.g. car break-ins, street robberies, and residential/hotel burglaries); the overall number of reported crimes fell in 2018. In Amsterdam, thieves tend to operate near the “red light district” and on trams between Centraal Station and the museum district. A common tactic involves pickpockets timing thefts to coincide with train/tram stops so they can exit the scene quickly.

Violent criminal confrontations and the use of weapons is still relatively rare, although serious incidents do occur. Most violent crimes, including those involving firearms, are between members of rival criminal gangs. The overall number of murders decreased from 159 in 2017 to 108 in 2018. In Amsterdam, two of the murders were gun-related assassinations occurring in public areas during the day.

Despite the decrease in murders, in 2018 Amsterdam experienced a rise in the use of explosive devices, gun violence, and knife attacks, averaging one incident a week; these incidents occurred primarily at night. Authorities attribute the attacks to organized crime posturing for profit off the drug trade, the “red light district,” and other criminal schemes.

Burglaries remain a concern for residents. Police report that many of these crimes involved surveillance of a targeted residence with entry into the unoccupied residence, sometimes through second-floor windows/balconies. Thieves target primarily small, easy-to-carry valuables. While more sophisticated thieves target higher-end vehicles for navigation systems/airbags, valuables left in plain view in any vehicle represent an attractive target for petty criminals.

Cybersecurity Issues

The Netherlands is home to the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the second-busiest Internet exchange in the world. The country has one of the world’s strongest digital infrastructure systems and is positioning itself as “the digital gateway to Europe.” The Netherlands is also developing a 5G telecommunications platform to attract significant business investment.

The Dutch government continues to see cybercrime (in all forms from professional criminals to state actors) as a serious threat to national security and public safety. The government is committed to preventing disruptive attacks and enhancing digital resiliency. The 2017 NotPetya cyber-attack impacted the operations of the Port of Rotterdam’s automated terminal, resulting in significant disruption. The government continues to allocate funding to strengthen cybersecurity and prioritize cybersecurity investments, which will afford additional protection for critical infrastructure, government systems, and industry. In 2018, the government began hiring personnel to handle complex cases, improve information sharing, and build the national network for Computer Emergency Response Teams. Implementation of new mandatory security measures for providers of vital infrastructure (e.g. banks, energy providers, and water companies) also went into effect. The Dutch have developed innovative cyber-resiliency and cyber-threat-information-sharing systems regionally and within specific industry clusters.

Both the 2018 Cyber Security Assessment Netherlands (CSAN) and National Cyber Security Agenda produced by The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provide more information regarding cyber security threats and awareness in the Netherlands.

Europol is headquartered in The Hague, and hosts the European Cyber Crime Center (EC3), serving as the European information hub on cybercrime. The EC3 develops digital forensic capabilities to support investigations in the EU and builds capacity to combat cybercrime through training, raising awareness, and delivering best practices for investigations. In addition, the EC3 has built a community of experts from all sectors of society to combat and prevent cybercrime and online child sexual abuse.

Transportation-Safety Situation

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

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Travel in, around, and between cities is possible via a highly developed national public transportation system, an extensive system of bike paths, and by automobile/motorcycle on a modern highway system. 

A valid driver’s license from the United States is valid for use in the Netherlands for up to 180 days.

Visitors and new residents should be familiar with the meaning of Dutch road signs, as these can vary significantly from those in the United States. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment has produced an English-language version of Road Traffic Signs and Regulations in the Netherlands, which provides information on driving regulations and road signage.

Driving in Amsterdam can be a challenge for visitors and new residents due to the vast number of cyclists and the extensive tram network that runs throughout the city. Additionally, the city center includes multiple car-free and one-way streets along the canals.

The Netherlands has strict laws regarding drinking and driving, allowing only 220 micrograms per liter of exhaled breath or 0.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. If a driver has had a license for under five years, the alcohol blood limit is 88 micrograms per liter of exhaled breath, or 0.2 grams per liter of blood. It is also illegal to ride a bicycle when over the limit. Fines for biking while drunk range up to €140. Police have the authority to confiscate a vehicle if the driver is caught driving at excessive speeds or while over the alcohol limit.

Authorities enforce speed limits strictly via radar and through a nationwide network of traffic cameras/radar units. The maximum speed limit on highways is 130 km/hr, with a highway speed limit of 100 km/hr in most urban areas. Secondary roads and some urban-area highways have a speed limit of 80 km/hr. The speed limit in towns and cities is either 70 km/hr or 50 km/hr, with 30 km/hr zones in smaller residential areas. The government has reduced speed limits on certain roads near cities to reduce air pollution. Some electronic speed limit signs allow authorities to implement variable speed limits depending on traffic conditions.

Bicyclists should wear helmets. Helmets are mandatory for motorcyclists and individuals operating 50cc (or above) scooters with a speed over 20 km per hour. This requirement also applies to high speed E-bikes.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation in the Netherlands is modern, safe, and convenient. Lanes in the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams, and taxis. Pedestrians should be mindful of trams. Serious – and sometimes fatal – accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists colliding with trams occur each year.

Rail transportation is often a convenient alternative to driving, particularly in the areas around Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Rail network information is available online.

Other Travel Conditions

Pedestrians should not walk along bicycle paths, which are often adjacent to the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement. Bicyclists and pedestrians should be particularly cautious during the winter months, when paths, roads, and especially bridges can be icy and extremely slippery. Accidents involving bicyclists and vehicles, or bicycles alone, are common and can result in serious injury.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is moderate risk from terrorism in The Hague and Amsterdam. International terrorism continues to be a considerable concern in the Netherlands. Terror attacks and terrorism-related arrests in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in 2018 have resulted in increased vigilance throughout western and central Europe. Both al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have indicated their intention to carry out attacks in European countries, including the Netherlands. Although the Dutch government is currently unaware of any attacks being prepared, it acknowledges that Islamist extremists continue to view the country as a target.

The Dutch government has been increasingly vigilant against radical Islamist groups and their surrogates, who have demonstrated continued intent and aspiration to operate on Dutch soil. As demonstrated by the August 31 terror attack, which injured two Americans at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, the terrorist threat posed by radicalized actors remains. The Dutch government assesses that the current threat of international terrorism against the country is “substantial,” the second-highest possible ranking, meaning that there is a real chance of an attack in the Netherlands. The threat level has been at “substantial” since March 2013. For additional information regarding the Dutch government’s assessment, visit the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security - National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism website.

As of December 2018, the National Intelligence Service (AIVD) estimated around 310 people have traveled from the Netherlands to Syria and Iraq for purposes of fighting with extremists, 85 of whom have been killed. The number of returning foreign fighters is around 55, and the number of individuals from the Netherlands who remain in Syria and Iraq is approximately 135. The whereabouts of another 35 individuals remain unknown.

The Netherlands continues to respond to the global terrorist threat in the areas of border and transportation security, counterterrorist financing, countering violent extremism (CVE), and bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. The Dutch national counterterrorism strategy combines preventive and suppressive measures. The government is working to establish a Passenger Information Unit that will require airline companies to provide passenger information for the purposes of combatting serious crime and terrorism.

Significant law enforcement and judicial actions in 2018 related to counterterrorism included:

  • On December 29, Rotterdam police arrested four persons for planning a terrorist attack; a fifth member of the group was arrested in Germany.
  • On September 27, police arrested seven persons in Arnhem, Rotterdam, Huissen, and Vlaardingen suspected of planning a large terrorist attack with automatic weapons, bomb vests, and a car bomb at a large event in the Netherlands. One of the arrested suspects is an Iraqi living in Arnhem, who had previously attracted police attention when attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS.
  • On August 31, an Afghan male with German refugee status stabbed two American tourists at Amsterdam Centraal Station. The police shot the attacker, who stated he committed the attack because of perceived insults to Islam in the Netherlands.
  • On July 23, police shot a Syrian male after he stabbed three individuals near a train station in The Hague. The Department of Justice is considering terrorism charges.
  • On June 26, a van drove at high speed into the headquarters for De Telegraaf newspaper in Amsterdam, apparently in response to an article published about outlaw motorcycle gangs.
  • June 22, an anti-tank rocket hit the Amsterdam headquarters of Panorama magazine. Police arrested one male suspect connected to a motorcycle gang – the Motorclub Caloh Wagoh MC Main Triad.
  • May 31, police shot a male Syrian refugee after he had killed a police dog with an ax.
  • April 16, police arrested four Moroccan-Dutch males living in Oudenbosch, Roosendaal, and Belgium for planning an attack at the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. Police raided houses in Oudenbosch, Roosendaal, Sprundel, Essen, and Antwerp.

 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in The Hague and Amsterdam. Given the diversity of the population, political events that take place around the globe often result in demonstrations and protests in the Netherlands, particularly in The Hague, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam. Protests intended to be peaceful can quickly become confrontational and violent. Avoid areas of demonstrations if possible, and exercise caution. In The Hague, most protests are held at the Malieveld adjacent to Centraal Station. Typical demonstration points include embassies, Parliament, the Foreign Ministry, and the Peace Palace. Protests in Amsterdam are common at the Museumplein – near the U.S. Consulate General– and at Dam Square. Most protests do not lead to any civil disorder.

Written notice for demonstrations are usually submitted to, and approved by, local authorities. The authorities can impose conditions or even ban an event if they believe it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, or serious disruption to the life of the community.

There have been a number of sporadic violent confrontations between right- and left-wing extremists. These have prominently occurred at rallies organized by the extreme right.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Though religious/ethnic undertones exist in some protests, these messages are usually the result of outside factors and not religious or ethnic tensions within the Netherlands. Religious institutions, including those of the Jewish and Islamic communities, have been the target of vandalism, graffiti, and isolated threats.

In the Netherlands, there is occasional tension between local authorities and certain mosques over accusations of radicalization and funding, in particular from foreign states.

Within the Turkish-Dutch community, there are threats and clashes between supporters of the Turkish government, opposition groups, and Kurdish causes

Post-specific Concerns

Drug-related Crimes

U.S. citizens have died or been injured while using marijuana, hashish, and other “soft drugs.” Marijuana is a controlled substance, and possession is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine. Authorities tolerate the use of illegal “soft drugs” when bought in small quantities for personal consumption at licensed “coffee shops.”

“Coffee shops” are a haven for petty criminals who prey on tourists and those under the influence of drugs. People who visit “coffee shops” have been victims of pickpocketing, identity theft, sexual assault, and other crimes. Marijuana in the Netherlands may contain higher levels of THC than usually found in the United States, which can exacerbate the drug’s effects and cause a greater impairment than expected. Additionally, many “coffee shops” and other locations sell other illegal, hard drugs. Visitors are cautioned against using illegal drugs, and should pay particular attention to the use of GHB and Rohypnol (so-called “date-rape” drugs), which can be mixed with beverages, rendering the victim vulnerable.

Street sales of cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy) are common in Amsterdam, and dealers will approach tourists. Heroin is also available, but less common. Many street dealers also sell counterfeit drugs that can be harmful.

The port of Rotterdam continues to be a transit point into Europe for cocaine coming from Central and South America. Drug traffickers in the Netherlands also continue to be involved in the production of synthetic opioids, which are trafficked to the United States and to neighboring European countries. During the last quarter of 2017, the Netherlands was the intended recipient of approximately 20 tons of cocaine. Other factors indicate that drug traffickers in the Netherlands are also becoming involved with synthetic opioids trafficked to the U.S. via the Dark Web. 

In 2017, the Dutch National Police reported at least 28 drug-related murders and eight murders connected to corruption and organized crime. 

Police Response

Police response and capabilities are comparable to other Western European countries. The police are widely seen as professional and have low tolerance for corruption.   

Smaller police stations close to the public during evening hours. The police strive to arrive on the scene of an emergency within 15 minutes for at least 90% of calls. Generally, police will not respond to traffic accidents unless there are injuries or a crime reported, such as a hit-and-run or driving under the influence.

Crime Victim Assistance

The emergency telephone number is 112 and is for all emergencies. Operators answer in Dutch, but most speak English. The telephone number for non-emergencies or police assistance is 0900-8844.

Victims can file a police report at any police station in Dutch. In most cases, police request that victims file reports online.

American citizens arrested or detained by the police, or who are victims of crime, may seek assistance from the American Citizens Services (ACS) unit of the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam, which provides all consular services throughout the Netherlands. If you need to contact the Consulate about any emergency involving a U.S. citizen, please call: +31(0)20 575 5309 between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM. Outside of business hours, please call the Embassy duty officer at: +31 (0)70-310 2209. These numbers are NOT for regular services or visa inquiries.

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

Medical Emergencies

Modern medical services and facilities are widely available. The national emergency number is 112. If the situation warrants, seek assistance from a hospital. Hospitals are staffed and equipped to deal with emergencies.

The national poison hotline is +31 (0)30-274-8888.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The Netherlands Association of Hospitals has compiled a list of all Dutch hospitals at www.ziekenhuis.nl.

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

For non-emergency medical assistance, consult a general practitioner (huisarts) before attempting to obtain non-emergency medical treatment from a specialist. Medical specialists will generally only see patients referred to them by a huisarts. If staying in a hotel, the reception desk will direct you to the doctor assigned to that hotel. If staying with friends/family, contact their huisarts. The U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam maintains a list of medical professionals who can assist U.S. citizens in finding a doctor or hospital. Access this link through the U.S. Consulate General website.

The Hague area has its own after-hours medical service (SMASH) that is available for non-emergency medical situations. A SMASH medical appointment can be made at: +31 (0)70-346-9669. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has its own 24-hour medical services office at: +31 (0)20-649-2566. The service center is located on the upper floor near check-in counter 16 of Terminal 2. The huisarts phone number for Amsterdam is +31 (0)88-003-0600 and for Rotterdam is +31 (0)90-513-8039. They provide equivalent after-hour urgent care as SMASH.

Insurance Guidance

Prior to traveling, confirm with your medical insurance company whether their policy applies overseas, and whether it will cover emergency expenses. U.S. citizens who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be essential when a medical emergency occurs. Emergency services (including transportation by ambulance) require fees; patients will be billed for any services rendered.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Netherlands has an active OSAC Country Council, which is the oldest continuously active OSAC chapter in the world. For more information, please contact TheHagueOSAC@state.gov. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information

Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy The Hague

John Adams Park 1

2244 BZ Wassenaar, NL

Office Hours: 0815-1700

U.S. Consulate General Amsterdam

Museumplein 19

1071 DJ Amsterdam

The Netherlands

Office Hours: 0830-1630

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

If calling from outside of the Netherlands, please omit the “0” after the +31 country code.

The Hague and Amsterdam are +6 hours EST.

U.S. Embassy Switchboard: +31 (0)70-310-2209

Website: https://nl.usembassy.gov/

U.S. Consulate General Amsterdam

U.S. Citizens with emergencies, call 020-575-5309

Outside of office hours, contact 070-310-2209

Outside of Netherlands: +31 (0)20 565-5309 or +31 (0)70 310-2209

Website: https://nl.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulate/amsterdam/

Embassy Guidance

All citizenship, American Citizen Services, and visa services for the Netherlands are handled at the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam.

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

Additional Resources

Netherlands Country Information Sheet

Processing

Warning

Error processing!