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Poland 2011 Crime and Safety Report

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Poland  2011 OSAC Crime and Safety Report

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

2010 Statistics from the Polish National Police

According to Polish Police sources, 2010 showed a continued decrease in overall crime in Poland.  The total number of crimes decreased by 3 percent from 2009.  In addition, successful prosecution of criminals is also on the rise, with a 1.2 percent increase from 2009 and a 20 percent increase since 2000.

For specifics of the 2010 crime report from Polish National Police, see here (link in Polish):

http://www.policja.pl/portal/pol/1/61722/Stan_bezpieczenstwa_w_Polsce_w_2010_roku.html

General

The U.S. Department of State rates Warsaw as “Low” threat for crime; Krakow is rated “Low” as well.  Overall, crime is down in Poland, with significant decreases since 2000.  During recent meetings with police contacts in various Warsaw districts, Embassy Warsaw’s Regional Security Office (RSO) has learned that violent crime was down in the city during 2010.  For example, Wilanow, the Warsaw district in which most Mission staff live, reported no homicides in the year.

Practical advice for avoiding being a crime victim is to carry only the money, credit cards, or valuables necessary.  Do not draw unwanted attention and/or advertise your foreign status or appear to be affluent.  Leave expensive or flashy jewelry at home, and do not display large amounts of money.  Enjoy an evening out with a friend, not alone.

Most people are very comfortable moving about in public areas in Poland.  Growing numbers of Poles speak English, if not on a conversational level, well enough to help with small problems.

Before visiting Poland, please review the latest U.S. Department of State worldwide caution and the latest consular warden message at www.poland.usembassy.gov under "U.S. Citizen Services".

Crime Threats

Pick pocketing is common throughout Poland, and one of the most frequently reported crimes.  Most pick pocketing incidents occur on public transportation.  At train stations, where many people are vulnerable, carrying cumbersome luggage and other articles, a group of thieves inconspicuously jostle their victim and the wallet is deftly lifted, money removed, or other valuables taken.  Some victims have reported the use of sharp instruments to cut through purses and backpacks. Crowded public buses and trams also attract pickpockets.  In 2010, no Mission personnel in Warsaw reported being the victim of a pickpocket.  In Krakow, one family member of a Mission employee reported the pickpocket-style theft of her cellular phone.  Anecdotal reporting indicates that high-cellular phones such as Apple’s iPhone are particularly attractive to thieves.  From September 2009 to December 2010, 33 American Citizens reported stolen passports, some in conjunction with stolen purses or bags.  Additionally, several American citizens reported being the victim of pickpocketing around the most popular tourist attractions in Krakow, many in the old town area including the Rynek Glowny and Wawel Castle.

Theft continues to be the crime category in Poland that impacts Official American citizens the most.  However, assaults do occur on very rare occasions.  The majority of these types of crimes occur when individuals have been patrons of a late night establishment.  The crimes generally take place between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.  As a precaution, if you are enjoying an evening out, travel in a group and remain aware of your surroundings at all times. 

Residential break-ins are on the decline.  Recently burglars are robbing homes without effort by entering through an unlocked front door or by a ruse of some sort.  An American family in Warsaw was recently approached by an individual claiming to be from the gas company.  The family allowed entry into the home without verifying his identity.  Luckily, nothing was taken and the individual left without incident.  The RSO section recommends that all workers’ credentials be verified before allowing entry into the home.  In Krakow, an American citizen reported that her apartment was burglarized while she was sleeping by someone who entered through her unlocked front door.

One Mission household in Krakow was the victim of a residential burglary in 2010.  The suspect(s) enter the home by cutting through a window screen in an open window on a hot night.  Several other American citizens reported similar break-ins.  The common factor in all was the stealth of the burglars.

Road Safety

RSO Warsaw highly recommends that you follow the links for general Road Safety abroad, available on http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1179.html

Poland’s road system is considered one of the poorest in Eastern and Central Europe.  There is a concerted effort to build newer and more efficient roads; however, this is a long-term project.  After an accident in 2010 in which 16 people were killed in a minibus, various media outlets highlighted Poland’s road network as being the most dangerous in Europe.

Throughout 2010, there were reports of attempted highway robberies in the border area with Germany.  Reports primarily have come from the stretch of highway A4 (also known as the E-40) between the Polish-German border and the town of Boleslawiec.  Most of these were reported by U.S. military personnel transiting the area.  In general, dark colored cars, often with a single occupant, drive up behind vehicles and flash their lights at them, sometimes using emergency flashers and in one case, using a detachable red flashing light on the roof.  Often the driver will lean out of the vehicle and wave his arms in an attempt to signal the potential victim to pull over.  These individuals try to pull one of several scams.  These include trying to sell imitation jewelry, as well as other counterfeit goods.  They may also ask for 100 EUR for fuel, claiming they are about to run out of gas.  Polish police and border guards stated that to their knowledge, there have been no incidents of violence or injury when people have stopped.

To drive in Poland, you must have an International Driving Permit (IDP) obtained prior to departure from the United States, as well as a U.S. driver's license. A U.S. driver's license alone is not enough, and U.S. citizens cannot obtain IDPs in Poland.  Only two U.S. automobile associations, the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA), have been authorized by the U.S. Department of State to distribute IDPs.  Polish roadside services, while not at U.S. standards, are rapidly improving.  Polski Zwiazek Motorowy Auto-Tour has multilingual operators and provides assistance countrywide 24/7; they can be reached by calling 19637, 22-532-8427, and 22-532-8433.  Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats, and children under the age of 10 are prohibited from riding in the front seat.  You must use headlights at all times, day and night.  The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited, except when using hands-free models.

There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on Polish roads.  Driving, especially after dark, can be hazardous.  Roads are generally narrow, poorly lighted, frequently under repair (especially in the summer months), and are often also used by pedestrians and cyclists.  The Ministry of Infrastructure has a program called “Black Spot” (Czarny Punkt), which puts signs in places with a particularly high number of accidents and/or casualties.  These signs have a black spot on a yellow background, and the road area around the “black spot” is marked with red diagonal lines.

Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents.  Polish laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol (defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent or higher) 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 or, in the case of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, up to twelve years.

Driving in the mountainous regions in southern Poland in the winter months can be extremely dangerous, as the roads tend to be narrow and twisty with narrow shoulders.  Drivers should consider snow tires and tire chains if planning to drive through the mountains in the winter.  Drivers should also be aware that neighboring countries, for example Czech Republic, have laws requiring winter tires on vehicles in the winter months.

Political Violence

Historical perspective

Poland has a history of social protest, and Poland's citizens exercise their right to protest frequently.  Rhetoric is often heated between the various political parties.  In addition, a political figure was killed in October2010, prompting a review of some procedures regarding protection of public officials.  Despite this, overall Poland has little actual violence associated with its political parties or social interest groups.

Regional terrorism and organized crime

Poland is the easternmost border in the Schengen Zone, and as such, is the entry point into “Schengen Europe” for some illicit activities.  Organized crime has declined since its heyday in the late 1990s, but still is active.  Various elements operate across borders in drug-trafficking, cyber-crime, vehicle thefts, and alien smuggling/human trafficking groups.  Law enforcement sources in Chicago and New York, among other cities, have described various alien smuggling/human trafficking groups with connections to Poland.

International terrorism or transnational terrorism

Poland has no indigenous terrorism, and no known terrorist organizations have been identified as operating inside Poland.  However, Poland was part of the coalition in Iraq, and Polish troops participate in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. This has led many to speculate that Poland may become a target for terrorist operations in the future.  Also, any American presence presents a possible political or terrorist objective for international terrorist organizations.  Poland's western neighbor, Germany, continues to deal with terrorist acts, both planned and executed.  As of yet, none of these acts or plans have found their way to Poland.  The latest U.S. Department of State Worldwide Caution should be reviewed as a guide on international and transnational terrorism operations against U.S. targets.

Civil unrest

Demonstrations are a regular fixture of the Polish political scene but are, for the most part, orderly and peaceful.  Demonstrations regularly occur in Warsaw and are concentrated around Polish government offices.  During the winter, these activities taper off, but spring and summer bring a large number of events.  Demonstrators are typically vocal but law-abiding, and events involving 15 or more people require permits in advance from the government.  The average size of a demonstration in Warsaw last year was several hundred people and occurred on average, twice monthly.  Police provide more than enough manpower for escort and traffic/crowd control. 

2010 saw a few large demonstrations with counterdemonstrations.  Perhaps the largest surrounded the EuroPride parade in July, where marchers were met with 3 different counterprotests.  The participants for all these events were far lower than anticipated on all sides, and there were no major issues of violence or disorderly conduct. 

In addition, there were large-scale public events surrounding the April 2010 crash in Smolensk.  These were generally in support of the victims and their families and were without incidents of violence.

Strikes occur once or twice a year, rarely last more than a few days, and seldom have any negative effect on public services or infrastructure.

Embassy Warsaw is located at the nexus of much political demonstration activity, as it is located near the prime minister’s chancellery, the Polish Parliament, various government ministries, and other embassies.  While few demonstrations are directed against the United States, the Embassy lies along the path often used by demonstrations and as such, can be affected by rerouting of traffic, noise, or other activity.

Demonstrations in Krakow are much more infrequent and typically much smaller when they do occur than in Warsaw.  The U.S. Consulate General in Krakow is located on a street with German and French Consulates in close proximity.  Occasionally, small demonstrations against the German Consulate have briefly taken place but normally have little impact on Consulate operations.

Post-Specific Concerns

Natural disasters

Poland has experienced relatively few natural disasters, with the exception of flooding.  Poland experienced numerous floods in 2010, resulting in the loss of life as well as millions of dollars worth of agricultural and property losses. Most of this was focused in the southeast of Poland, but also stretched up the Vistula past Warsaw and affected areas near the Tri-Cities are of Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia.  At various points in time during this flooding, many of the bridges in Krakow were closed due to high water, and travel throughout southern Poland was significantly disrupted.

Industrial and transportation accidents

Poland also has a low rate of industrial and transportation accidents.  Poland has a highly developed rail system, and the number of rail accidents is quite low.  However, as mentioned, Poland does have one of the highest road fatality rates in Europe, and there have been several incidents involving bus accidents on Polish highways.

Air travel incidents are also relatively rare.  However, the April 10, 2010 crash of the Presidential plane in Smolensk, Russia took the lives of the President, the First Lady, and 94 other passengers, including many military, government, and civil society leaders.  As of this writing, the investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.

Kidnappings

Although there are occasional reports of kidnappings, there is a very low incident rate overall.  There is no record of any expatriate or official American being the victim of a kidnapping or kidnapping attempt on record with the Embassy, the Consulate General in Krakow, or the American Chamber of Commerce.

Drug and Narcoterrorism

There is a negligible threat of drug violence and narcoterrorism.  Most violence involved with drug trafficking takes place among those involved in this illegal activity, and innocent bystanders are rarely, if ever, victims of violent activity associated with these groups and individuals.  Poland is primarily used as a drug trans-shipment country for the rest of Europe.  Domestically, amphetamines, marijuana, and MDMA are primarily the drugs of choice by users. There are no known reports of narcoterrorism in Poland at this time.

Police Response

For  assistance if you become a victim of a crime, use the following emergency numbers:

Police                                      997

Fire                                          998

Ambulance                              999

General Emergency                112

In an emergency with a Polish-speaking person, call the Police at 997 or 22-826-2424, Fire Department at 998 or 22-595-7000, or Ambulance Service at 22-602-1500, depending on your emergency and what assistance is needed.  If no Polish-speaking person is available please call the American Embassy/Consulate at the numbers below for assistance.

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 take a bi-lingual friend along for translation.

American Embassy Warsaw is open weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 22-504-2000 and after-hours, weekends/holidays at 22-504-2639;

Or

Consulate General Krakow is open weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.at +48-12-424-5100 and after hours, weekends/holidays at the duty officer cell phone, +48 601 483-348.

Americans who have been victims of a crime should contact the American Embassy (or in southern Poland the Consulate General), after the event, to determine if further services are available.

How to handle incidents of police detention, corruption, bribery, or harassment.

The majority of police officers are professional and cooperative.  Fines for traffic violations can be collected by a police officer from non-residents transiting through Poland at the scene.  Reports of lower ranking patrol police officers soliciting bribes during routine traffic stops have been on the decline, and the Police have taken steps to prevent such nefarious activity. 

Motorists that experience such activity should clearly communicate to the police officer that any irregularities would be reported to the Embassy.  Obtaining information such as the time, location, badge, and name of the officer or tag number of the police vehicle involved is important. Drivers are encouraged to follow established traffic regulations and should not pay bribes.

Medical Emergencies

The following is a list of the major hospitals in Warsaw, Krakow, and Poznan.  It is not a complete list of all health care providers:

Adult Care

Warsaw

"Woloska" Hospital (Centralny Szpital Kliniczny MSWiA)

Ul. Woloska 137 Warsaw

Ambulance - 022-508-1500

Emergency Room - 022-508-1510

Switchboard - 022-508-2000

"Banacha" Hospital (Centralny Szpital Kliniczny Akademii Medycznej

Ul. Stefana Banacha 1A Warsaw

Emergency Room - 022-599-1155

Switchboard - 022-599-1000

Institute of Cardiology-Hospital (Instytut Kardiologii) (provides care for cardiac problems only)

Ul. Alpejska 42, Warszawa-Anin

Admissions Room - 022-343-4100

ICCU - 022-343-4314, -4300, -4477

Switchboard - 022-343-4600

Poison Control - Warsaw Acute Poison Control Center (Stoleczny Osrodek Ostrych Zatruc) Praski Hospital

Al. Solidarnosci 67 Warsaw

24 Hour Contact - 022-619-6654, -0897

Admissions Room - 022-619-1979 or 022-818-5061 ext. 1239

Krakow

Ludwik Rydgier VOIEVODSHIP SPECIALIST HOSPITAL (Wojewdzki Szpital Specjalistyczny im. Ludwika Rydgieraos)

ZLOTEJ JESIENI 1, 31-826 Krakow

Switchboard - (12) 6468-000, -111

Admissions Room - (12) 6468-274, -324 or -680

University Hospital of Krakow

(Szpital Uniwersytecki w Krakowie-Katedra i Klinika Chor. Wewnetrznych)

ul. SKAWINSKA 8, 31-056 Krakow

Switchboard - (12) 430-5266, -5278, -5289

Poznan

Hospital of the Ministry of Interior (Szpital MSWiA)

ul. Dojazd 34

60-631 Poznan

Emergency Ward - (61) 8464 641; (61) 8464 650; (61) 8464 500; (61) 852 2525

Medical University of Poznan Hospital no. 2

(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr. 2)

Przybyszewskiego 49

60-355 Poznan

Telephone - (61) 869 1100

Contact:   prof. Michal Drews   (surgery)

Phones:  work: 869 1275 home: 867 1414 mobile: 0601 703092

Prof. Krzysztof Linke  (gastrology, internal medicine)

Phones:  work: 8691 343 home: 822 7977 mobile: 0601726526

Pediatric Care

Warsaw

"Litewska" Hospital (Samodzielny Publiczny Dzieciecy Szpital Kliniczny)

Ul. Marszalowska 24 Warsaw

Admissions Room - 022-522-7344

Switchboard - 022-522-7455

Institute - Children's Health Center Memorial Hospital

(Instytut Q Pomnik Centrum Zdorwia Dziecka)

Al. Dzieci Polskich 20, Warszawa-Miedzylesie

Admission Room - 022-815-2519, 022-855-7444

Krakow

University Pediatric Hospital

(Uniwersytecki Szpital Dzieciecy Polsko-Amerykanski Instytut Pediatrii, Collegium Medicum UJ)

ul. WIELICKA 265, 30-663 Krakow Switchboard - (12) 658-2011

Poznan

Medical University of Poznan Hospital no.5

(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr 5)

ul./street: Szpitalna 27/33

60-572 Poznan

Telephone - (61) 849 1200

Contact:  Prof. Andrzej Jankowski (pediatrician)

Phones: work: (61) 847 5228 home: (61) 847 5381

mobile: 0601 563434

Air ambulance services

American Air Ambulance provides worldwide air ambulance services for people needing medical attention.  The phone number for all air ambulance questions is: 800-863-0312 or 941-536-2002.  Please refer to their website www.americanairambulance.com for more information.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

 Alert our constituents to any crimes or scams that are unique or especially frequent in your region.

To reduce your chances of being targeted by pickpockets, do not carry open purses or backpacks with money or valuables that are easily accessed.  Do not display large amounts of money. Separate money, credit cards, and valuables, and carry them in different locations on your person.  Keep the telephone numbers for your credit card companies in a separate location so they can be quickly canceled if they are lost or stolen.

While at restaurants or bars, remove your wallet from jacket pockets if you hang your jacket on the back of a chair.  Also, many restaurants and bars strongly encourage patrons to use a coat check; if you do, ensure that nothing valuable is left in your pockets.  Purses should be kept on your lap, or on the floor between your feet.

It is recommended that purses be carried with the strap over your head and one shoulder and with the bag held across your chest in front of your body.  This will make you more prepared than if it is yanked from your shoulder or pulled from your hand.

If you recognize that you are being targeted, make a lot of noise, scream, or shout. Frequently this will scare criminals away or cause others to come to your aid.  Sometimes undercover police will ride public transportation to catch pick pockets and thieves.

Be sure to use "radio taxis" or those whose company phone number and name are printed 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.

Credit card fraud can be a problem in Poland, as in other countries.  Shoppers should only carry the credit cards they need, not let credit cards out of their sight, and ask for copies of "voided" transactions or any copies not necessary for their transaction.  Never write or attach a pin number on a credit or bankcard.

ATM skimmers have been reported in some areas of Poland.  The best way to avoid skimmers is to use ATMs that are attached to banks and are located inside bank vestibules.  One American citizen reported being a victim of ATM card skimming believed to have occurred at an ATM in the Katowice Airport.

It is always a good idea to inspect the ATM machine prior to using.  Look for anything out of the ordinary.  Look for areas cameras might be and see if key pads look like they have a separate plate.  Inspect the card insert slot and see if added attachment has been added.  Always cover the key pad with your other hand when entering your PIN to prevent cameras that may be hidden in the light housing from capturing your PIN.

Best security practices

There are no specific areas of Poland that are “off limits” to official American travelers.  However, it is always recommended to travel in pairs, especially after dark or in nightclubs, discos, and bars, as well as in obvious high tourist areas, such as the Rynek Glowny in Krakow, or Warsaw’s Old Town.

Further Information

U.S. Embassy contact numbers:

Senior Regional Security Officer -+48-22-504-2107

Embassy Operator -               +48-22-504-2000

Medical Unit -                          +48-22-504-2788

Consular Affairs                      +48-22-504-2784

Political/Economic Section     +48-22-504-2631

Marine Post One                     +48-22-504-2639

Consulate General Krakow numbers:

Regional Security Officer -     +48-12-424-5141

Consulate Operator -              +48-12-424-5100

OSAC Country Council

Warsaw has an OSAC Country Council that meets on an irregular basis.  The Point of Contact for the Country Council is the Embassy Warsaw Regional Security Office, who can be reached at the following numbers:

Regional Security Officer Brian K. Cook at +48-22-504-2107 or rsowarsaw@state.gov

Krakow is in the process of starting an OSAC Country Council.  RSO Krakow in conjunction with the American Chamber of Commerce hosted an introductory meeting in April 2010.  The Point of Contact for the Country Council in southern Poland (Krakow) is Consulate General Krakow Regional Security Officer Eric A. Kriley, who can be reached at +48-12-424-5141.