Macedonia 2011 OSAC Crime and Safety Report
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Overall, crime in the Republic of Macedonia is generally lower than most major cities in the United States. Macedonia has not experienced any incidents of large-scale public violence in recent years, although there have been a small number of murders and robberies involving gunfire in public areas. However, infiltrations from Kosovo by heavily-armed groups in April and May of 2010 raised significant public safety concerns as large quantities of arms and explosives were discovered. Macedonian police remain vigilant to the threat posed by these armed groups.
Occasional public demonstrations take place in Macedonia, but these demonstrations are generally peaceful and have not resulted in any violence. None of these potential risks to public safety have targeted U.S. citizens or interests, but travelers should be aware of current events and their surroundings in order to best maintain their safety.
U.S. travelers should take the same precautions against becoming crime victims as they would in any U.S. city. Violent crime against U.S. citizens is rare. Pick-pocketing, theft, and other petty street crimes do occur, particularly in areas where tourists and foreigners congregate. Do not leave valuables, including cell phones and electronic items, in plain view in unattended vehicles. You should securely lock the windows and doors of your residence when it is not occupied. Organized crime is present in Macedonia; organized criminal activity occasionally results in violent confrontations between members of rival organizations. ATM use is generally safe; however, travelers should take standard safety precautions.
Pickpockets remain a problem in the Skopje city center, including the Main Square (“Ploshtad”), the City Center Mall (“Trgovski Center”), and the Old Town areas. Pedestrians should be aware of their belongings and surroundings at all times. Pickpockets use various diversionary tactics to distract victims; one method involves groups of children swarming around the potential victim and asking for money to ascertain the location of the potential victim’s wallet. Victims of pickpocketing should report the crime to police and cancel their credit cards as soon as possible
Counterfeit goods and pirated movies are widely available; purchasing these items is a crime both in the U.S. and Macedonia.
Although taxis are a common form of transportation, it is recommended that the traveler use a legitimate, metered taxi to avoid conflicts arising from the bill.
Thefts and Robberies: 2009 and 2010 (all crimes below involved use of weapons)
Bank Robberies 6
Break ins in exchange offices 7
Robberies of sports betting houses 25
Robberies of casinos and lottery clubs 3
While in Macedonia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Driving safely in Macedonia requires excellent defensive driving skills. Many drivers routinely ignore speed limits and other traffic regulations, such as stopping for red lights and stop signs. Drivers may make illegal left turns from the far right lane or drive into oncoming lanes of traffic. The combination of speeding, unsafe driving practices, poor vehicle maintenance, the mixture of new and old vehicles on the roads, and poor lighting contributes to unsafe driving conditions. Drivers and passengers should always wear seatbelts in Macedonia. Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution when crossing the street, even when using crosswalks, as local drivers rarely slow down or stop for pedestrians.
A valid U.S. driver’s license in conjunction with an International Driving Permit is required for Americans driving in Macedonia. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are generally posted. Most major highways are in good repair, but many secondary urban and rural roads are poorly maintained and lighted. Horse-drawn carts, livestock, dead animals, rocks, or other objects are sometimes found in the roadway. Some vehicles are old and lack standard front or rear lights. Secondary mountain roads can be narrow, poorly marked, lacking guardrails, and quickly become dangerous in inclement weather. Overall, public transportation in Macedonia is dilapidated. Roadside emergency services are limited.
The Ministry of Interior provided the following statistics on vehicle accidents in Macedonia:
2010: 4,226 accidents, 45 persons killed, 2,802 persons injured
2009: 4,357 accidents, 57 people killed, 3,011 persons injured
Traffic accidents involving material damage only (these statistics do not include the above figures)
2010: 8,027 accidents
2009: 10,584 accidents
In case of emergency, drivers may contact the police at telephone 192, the Ambulance Service at telephone 194, and Roadside Assistance at telephone 196.
Significant political violence against American interests occurred twice in Macedonian history, in 1999 and 2001. On March 25, 1999, over 2000 demonstrators converged on the U.S. Embassy (old site) to protest the NATO airstrike on Yugoslavia. The demonstration quickly turned violent and resulted in over $750,000 damage to U.S. government facilities.
On July 24, 2001, protestors entered the U.S. Embassy (old site) setting fires and damaging property in response to the West’s response to a rebellion by ethnic Albanians.
Now, the potential for political violence revolves around two major issues: the commonly referred to “name issue” and ethnic tensions between Macedonians and Albanians.
Demonstrations and public protests occur frequently. Groups from the Bankruptcy Workers to the Wine Growers and Tobacco Farmers demonstrate frequently in front of the parliament and government building. Demonstrations and rallies are generally peaceful. However, travelers are cautioned to avoid these gatherings.
According to the Institute of Earthquake Engineering, “the territory of Macedonia, situated in the Mediterranean seismic belt, is quoted as an area of high seismicity. In the seismic history of Macedonia, the Vardar zone appears as a region where earthquakes occur quite frequently, and the Skopje region is considered to be the most mobile part of the Vardar zone”. Travelers should utilize guidelines on the following websites to plan for such an event.
Police support for foreigners who are victims of crime is very satisfactory. A major concern when requiring police/fire/ambulance assistance is the language barrier. In case of emergency, drivers may contact the police at telephone 192, the Ambulance Service at telephone 194, and Roadside Assistance at telephone 196, U.S. Embassy Skopje (American Citizen Services) + 389-02-310-2000.
For all medical emergencies, dial 194.
REMEDIKA General Hospital
16th Makedonska Brigada Street. Zelezara.
Telephone number: +389 2 2603 100
Skupi Street 5A.
Telephone number: +389 2 3099 500
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
- Vary your routes and times to and from work/home and other sites.
- Keep your doors locked and windows closed -- residence and vehicle.
- Check the interior and exterior of your vehicle prior to entering and look for things that are irregular or abnormal.
- Be alert to what is going on around you
- Schedules that are the most predictable leave you the most vulnerable. Are you unpredictable when possible in both your work and social schedules?
- In traffic, always attempt to leave space in which to maneuver. Always leave yourself an exit and be prepared to take evasive action at any time?
- If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to find the nearest safe area – Embassy, police station or public place (do not go home). Where is the nearest safe area between your home/work and or other sites?
- Do not inadvertently provide personal information online including blogs, Facebook, etc.
U.S. Embassy Skopje Contact Information
21 Samoilova Street
+389 – 2 – 310-2000
OSAC Country Council
Please contact OSACSkopjeConference@state.gov or DS_RSO_Skopje@state.gov