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India 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report: Hyderabad

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India 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report: Hyderabad

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The Greater Hyderabad metropolitan area contains approximately 8 million people, making it the fourth largest urban area in India.  While much of the crime in Hyderabad is generally non-violent, Hyderabad does experience a full range of criminal activity.  Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common, particularly on trains or buses.  Pickpockets can be very adept, and women have reported having their bags snatched, purse-straps cut, or the bottom of their purses slit without their knowledge.  Additionally, there are frequent snatchings of gold chain necklaces, which are often yanked from victim’s neck by criminals passing by on motorcycles.  Violent crime against foreigners has traditionally been uncommon.

As a U.S. citizen’s purchasing power is comparatively large in India, you should exercise modesty and caution in your financial dealings to reduce the chance of being a target for robbery or other crime.  Gangs and criminal elements operate in major cities in India and have sometimes targeted unsuspecting business travelers and their family members for kidnapping.

Theft of U.S. passports is quite common, particularly in major tourist areas, on overnight trains, and at airports and train stations.  If you are traveling by train, you are urged to lock your sleeping compartments and take your valuables with you when leaving your berth.  If you travel by air, you need to be particularly careful with your bags in the arrival and departure areas outside airports.

U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India.  Women continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men.  Known as “Eve-teasing,” these incidents can be quite frightening.  While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, according to the latest figures by Indian authorities, rape and other crimes against women are the fastest growing crimes in India.  Andhra Pradesh police have cited a 9% increase from 2010 to 2011 in the category of crimes against women.  Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underline the fact that foreign women are also at risk and should exercise vigilance.

Visitors to India, especially women, should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding using public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions; restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues; and avoiding walking in isolated areas alone at any time of day.  If you are a woman traveling in India, you are advised to respect local dress and customs.  Ensure that your hotel room number remains confidential, and insist that the door to your hotel room have chains, deadlocks, and spy-holes.  In addition, only hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially during the hours of darkness.  It is preferable to obtain taxis from hotels and pre-paid taxis at airports rather than hailing them on the street. If you encounter threatening situations, you should call “100” for police assistance.

Scams

Major airports, train stations, popular restaurants, and tourist sites are often used by scam artists looking to prey on visitors, often by creating a distraction.  Beware of taxi drivers and others, including train porters, who solicit travelers with "come-on" offers of cheap transportation and/or hotels. Travelers accepting such offers have frequently found themselves the victims of scams, including offers to assist with transfers to disproportionately expensive hotel rooms, unwanted "tours," unwelcome "purchases," and even threats when the tourists try to decline to pay. 

You should exercise care when hiring transportation and/or guides and use only well-known travel agents to book trips.  Some scam artists have lured travelers by displaying their name on a sign when they leave the airport.  Another popular scam is to drop money or to squirt something on the clothing of an unsuspecting traveler and during the distraction to rob them of their valuables.  Tourists have also been given drugged drinks or tainted food to make them more vulnerable to theft, particularly at train stations.  Even food or drink purchased in front of the traveler from a canteen or vendor could be tainted.  To protect against robbery of personal belongings, do not to accept food or drink from strangers.

Some vendors sell carpets, jewelry, gemstones, or other expensive items that may not be of the quality promised.  Deal only with reputable businesses and do not hand over your credit cards or money unless you are certain that goods being shipped are the goods you purchased.  If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is best avoided.  Most Indian states have official tourism bureaus set up to handle complaints.

A growing number of foreigners have fallen prey to property scams, usually being convinced to invest in property along with an Indian partner.  Rarely do the partnerships survive.  The trend has the Indian partner eventually using a pretext to make a claim on the entire property, generally after construction or restoration is complete or to offer the foreign partner an inadequate sum to buy out their share. Lacking knowledge of the Indian legal system in order to fight for what is rightfully theirs, the foreign partner often loses considerable sums of money.

You should be aware of a number of other scams that have been perpetrated against foreign travelers, particularly in Goa, Jaipur, and Agra.  The scams generally target younger travelers and involve suggestions that money can be made by privately transporting gems or gold (both of which can result in arrest) or by taking delivery abroad of expensive carpets, supposedly while avoiding customs duties.  The scam artists describe profits that can be made upon delivery of the goods, and require the traveler to pay a "deposit" as part of the transaction.

Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.

Road Safety

Roads in Hyderabad are in moderately good condition, but the city's infrastructure struggles to keep pace with its rapid growth. There is traffic congestion throughout Hyderabad.  Accidents are common due to lack of traffic enforcement and general disregard by drivers for traffic laws.  Traffic congestion generally limits the number of high speed traffic accidents/fatalities.

Political Violence

Historical perspective

Coordinated attacks in Mumbai in late November 2008 targeting areas frequented by Westerners highlighted the risk of U.S. citizens becoming intended or unintended victims of terrorism in India. 

Hyderabad has seen a number of terrorist attacks, including the bombings of the Mecca Masjid Mosque in May 2007, the Lumbini Amusement park in August 2007, and Gokul Chat restaurant in August 2007.  Areas generally targeted included crowded, public venues.  While it is believed that U.S. citizens and foreigners, in general, were not specifically targeted in the Hyderabad attacks, do not be complacent and be watchful for any unusual or suspicious events.   

Civil unrest and demonstrations in India, especially in Hyderabad, can occur frequently and become occasionally violent.  The issue of separation of the state of Andhra Pradesh into a Telangana region dates back approximately 40 years, but has resurfaced over the past few years.  Pro-Telangana supporters have ordered the shut-down of government services, businesses, and schools and have taken to the streets in protests.

Regional terrorism and organized crime

The most common regional terrorist threat is from the Naxalite/ Maoist movement within India.  On Sept. 15, 2011, Indian news media reported that the Indian Union home minister stated that left Wing Extremism (naxalism) is the most violent movement in the country, and that the Communist Party of India (CPI Maoist) is the most violent organization in the country.

The Naxalites have a long history of conflict with state and national authorities, including frequent attacks on local police, paramilitary forces, and government officials.  Within India, the Naxalites have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but they have attacked symbolic targets and targeted civilians suspected of cooperating with police and government officials.  The primary Naxalite group is represented by the Communist Party of India (Maoist).  Within Andhra Pradesh, Naxalite violence is primarily concentrated in the rural areas near the border with the states of Odisha (aka Orissa) and Chhattisgarh.  

There continues to be concern regarding violence from indigenous Islamic radical groups, most notably the Indian Mujahideen (IM).  IM is believed to be a compilation of native Indians belonging to various groups such as the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).  On Sept 15, 2011, the U.S. officially designated IM as a global terrorist organization with links to Pakistan. IM maintains close ties to other U.S.-designated terrorist entities including Pakistan-based Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), and Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI).  IM's stated goal is to carry out terrorist actions against non-Muslims in furtherance of its ultimate objective -- an Islamic Caliphate across South Asia.  IM has been implicated in a number of attacks, including the July 13, 2011 coordinated bombings in Mumbai (26 killed; 130 injured), the bombing of the Delhi High court complex on September 7, 2011 (13 killed; 75 injured), the December 2010 bombing in Varanasi, and the serial bombing attacks in Delhi in September 2008. 

Because of the number and diversity of terror attacks in India in the past, Americans in India should be vigilant about security at all times. They should monitor local news and consider the level of security when visiting public places, such as religious sites, hotels, restaurants, or entertainment and recreation venues.  U.S. citizens should keep a low profile, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and maintain valid travel documents. Travelers should plan on added time to account for increased security, especially at hotels and airports.  American citizens should exercise vigilance when in the vicinity of government installations, visiting tourist sites, or attending public events in Hyderabad.  People should be aware of their surroundings and be alert for unattended bags or packages in these areas.  Move away from and report any unattended bags to officials.

International terrorism or transnational terrorism

Anti-Western terrorist groups, some on the U.S. government's list of foreign terrorist organizations, are active in India, including Islamist extremist groups such as Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e Taiba (LT or LeT), and Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI).  The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups are planning attacks that could take place in locations throughout India.  A report by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) submitted to Congress in November 2011 suggested that India remained the “primary target” of LeT. 

Past attacks have targeted public places frequented by Westerners, including luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas.  Attacks have taken place during the busy evening hours in markets and other crowded places, but could occur at any time. 

In September 2011, a briefcase bomb was planted outside of the Delhi High court, killing 13 and injuring 75.  In July 2011, coordinated blasts rocked crowded areas of Mumbai.  The first device was planted on a motorcycle at Khau Gali in south Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar; the second device at an Opera House; and a third device on an electric pole at a bus stand.  In December 2010, an explosive device detonated at Shitla Ghat in Varanasi during evening "aarti," or prayers, killing two persons and injuring 30, including several foreigners.  In February 2010, an explosive device detonated at a café in Pune, Maharashtra, killing 10 people, including two foreign nationals, and injuring 50.  Beginning in May 2008, several coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in major cities throughout India, to include New Delhi, culminating in the November attacks in Mumbai where over 170 people were killed, including six U.S. citizens.

U.S. citizens are urged to always practice good security, which includes maintaining a heightened situational awareness and a low profile.  While traveling in India you are advised to monitor local news reports, vary your routes and times in carrying out daily activities, and consider the level of security present when you visit public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, and entertainment and recreation venues.

Civil unrest

Beyond the threat from terrorism and insurgencies, demonstrations often cause inconvenience.  Large religious ceremonies that attract hundreds of thousands of people can result in dangerous and often life-threatening stampedes.  Local demonstrations can begin spontaneously and escalate with little warning, disrupting transportation systems and city services and posing risks to travelers.  In response to such events, Indian authorities occasionally impose curfews and/or restrict travel.  You are urged to avoid demonstrations and rallies as they have the potential for violence, especially immediately preceding and following elections and religious festivals (particularly when Hindu and Muslim festivals coincide). Tensions between castes and religious groups can also result in disruptions and violence.  In some cases, demonstrators specifically block roads near popular tourist sites and disrupt train operations in order to gain the attention of Indian authorities; occasionally vehicles transporting tourists are attacked in these incidents.  India generally goes on “High Alert” status prior to major holidays.  Additionally, destruction and/or damage of public municipal transportation is common during bandhs, which usually call for the total shutdown of all services for some period of time (usually for a day) as a political protest.  You should monitor local television and print media and contact the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. Consulate for further information about the current situation in areas where you wish to travel.

Religious violence occasionally occurs in India, especially when tensions between different religious communities are purposefully exacerbated by groups pushing religiously chauvinistic agendas.  Violence against Indian Christians in a remote part of Orissa in 2008 resulted in the displacement of thousands of villagers and the deaths of 40 people.  There are active "anti-conversion" laws in some Indian states, and acts of conversion sometimes elicit violent reactions from Hindu extremists.  Foreigners suspected of proselytizing Hindus have been attacked and killed in conservative, rural areas in India in the past.

In December 2010 and January 2011, sporadic civil unrest erupted in the south-central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh over the contentious issue of creating a separate state called Telangana within Andhra Pradesh.  Violence had erupted the previous December and January, as well.  In March 2011, pro-Telangana groups organized a “Million March” to Hyderabad.  Although only several thousand turned out, the protests turned violent with acts of vandalism throughout the city.  In September 2011, a general strike demanding a separate Telangana state forced government services, businesses, and schools to close for several weeks.  Until the issue is resolved definitively, there may continue to be tension, especially in the Telangana Region of Andhra Pradesh, which includes the districts of Rangareddi, Warangal, Medak, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Khammam, Nalgonda, and Mahbubnagar.  American citizens should avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and large crowds of any kind.  The campus of Osmania University in Hyderabad has been the site of recurring civil disturbances regarding the Telangana statehood issue.  U.S. citizens resident or traveling in Andhra Pradesh are reminded to monitor the situation via media sources, including TV and radio and via the Internet.

Post-Specific Concerns

Natural disasters can and do occur in the region.  During the monsoon season from June to September, parts of Andhra Pradesh can receive particularly heavy rainfall.  In September 2001, flooding from heavy monsoon rains killed hundreds and displaced millions in northern and eastern India.  In December 2011, Cyclone Thane hit Tamil Nadu in southern India, killing 46 people. In the 2009 monsoon season, heavy rains created flooding in the districts of Kurnool, Nalgonda, Krishna, Guntur and Mahbubnagar, which lead to the death of at least 250 people and the displacement of approximately 750,000 people.  Caution should be exercised in traveling in these districts during the monsoon season.  In terms of Hyderabad, streets can see temporary, low-level flash flooding that hampers travel and causes heavy traffic congestion and delays.  

Drugs and Narco-terrorism

Most of the drugs that are illegal in the United States are also illegal in India.  In fact, some Indian drug laws are stricter than those in the United States.  Indian officials conduct major anti-drug operations especially at transportation hubs such as airports and train stations.  Undercover Indian narcotics officers frequent clubs and hotels in attempts to apprehend drug users and dealers.

Police Response

Where to turn for assistance if you become a victim of a crime and local police telephone numbers:

Police response in the city of Hyderabad is variable.  The Hyderabad police do an effective job managing large scale protests and can be responsive to security requests.  However, overall police assistance is mediocre by western standards, with a typical response time of 30 minutes or longer.  Even when a suspect is arrested, the length of time it may take for a case to be heard in court is often several years.

American citizens needing immediate police assistance should call the Police Helpline by dialing 100 from any phone.  An additional emergency number, “112,” can be accessed from mobile phones.   Further information on the Hyderabad Police can be found at www.hyderabadpolice.gov.in.

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

In case of police detention or harassment, please contact U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad at +91-40-4300-8300.

Medical Emergencies

Contact information for local hospitals and clinics

Emergency medical services in Hyderabad are available, but vary in quality.  For medical emergencies, the number for ambulance service in Hyderabad is 102 (local) for a government ambulance or 108 for an ambulance from Emergency Management and Research Institute, a private company that works in conjunction with the local government.  The fire services can be reached by calling 101.  Note that ambulances in India are not equipped with state of the art medical equipment.  Local traffic does not always yield to emergency vehicles.  Emergency medicine and trauma care remain below western standards, though some institutions are taking steps to improve their capabilities. 

Air ambulance services

Air ambulance services are available, with reputable companies out of New Delhi and Singapore. 

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

•      Use the same common sense when traveling overseas that you would at home.  Be especially cautious in areas where you are likely to be victimized.  These include train stations, tourist sites, market places, festivals, and marginal areas of city. 

•      While walking, avoid short cuts, narrow alleys, poorly-lit streets, and traveling alone at night.

•      Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances. 

•      Generally keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments. 

•      Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.

•      Beware of strangers who approach you, offering bargains or to be your guide. 

•      Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid purse-snatchers. 

•      Try to seem purposeful when you move about.  Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going.  When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority. 

•      If you are confronted by someone trying to rob you, give up your valuables.  Your money and passport can be replaced, but you cannot.

•      Plan:  Know where you are going.  Have ground transportation prearranged at your destination.  Have the phone numbers of local friends and contacts readily available and/or saved to your mobile phone.  If you schedule a meeting with a potential client, research the company and the individual with whom you are meeting.  Meet in a public place, such as a restaurant.  Prefer pre-paid taxi booths for hired transportation.  Preplan your destination regarding your stay and tourism.  Never take the advice of taxi drivers regarding your stay or tourism in Hyderabad.  Do not attempt to drive in rural areas after dark.
Keep your hotel door locked at all times.  Meet visitors in the lobby.  Do not leave money and other valuables in your hotel room while you are out.  Use the hotel safe.  Let someone know when you expect to return if you are out late at night.  Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room. Know how to report a fire.  Be sure you know where the nearest fire exits and alternate exits are located.  Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit.  This could be a lifesaver if you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.

 •     Public Transportation:  Buses and trams are overcrowded and poorly maintained.  Crime is covert and involves pick-pocketing while patrons are using public buses.  Travelers are strongly advised to use metered taxis or hotel vehicles for transportation in and around the city.  If a metered taxi is not used, travelers should agree on the fare prior to embarking on the journey.  Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings, and beware of unmarked cabs.  Theft aboard trains along popular tourists' routes has occurred.  Do not accept food or drink from strangers.  Criminals can drug food or drink offered to passengers.  Where possible, lock your compartment.  If you must sleep, position your luggage in manner so that you are awakened if someone attempts to tamper with the luggage.  Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way.  Extra police are often assigned to ride trains on routes where crime is a serious problem.

  • Money:  Visitors from the U.S. often have greater purchasing power compared to that of the general population in India. Travelers should always exercise modesty and caution in their financial dealings to reduce the chance of being a target for robbery or other serious crime.  Do not flash large amounts of money when paying bills.  Make sure your credit card is returned to you after each transaction.  Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets, or purchase souvenirs.  Do not change money on the black market.  If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police.  The Consulate General can assist you with understanding local police procedures.  Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims.
  • Vehicles Break-Ins:  Vehicle thefts are infrequent, but proper security measures should be taken.  Vehicles should be locked at all times.  Also, it is recommended that travelers hire a professional driver when visiting the region.  Driving in Hyderabad can be highly stressful and difficult for most foreigners to adjust to safely.
  • Residential Burglaries:  Burglaries tend to occur when there are security vulnerabilities.  It is recommended that all American residents install window grilles and solid core doors with deadbolt locks on exterior doors.  Proper perimeter walls and, if necessary, guards should be in place at residences.
  • Local Market and Tourist Sites:  Criminal acts can occur at local markets and tourist areas.  Foreigners are favorable targets because they often carry a considerable amount of cash and are easily distracted by the sites.  Exercise good personal security and situational awareness when visiting these venues.
  • Hyderabad Airport:  Crime is not common at the airport due to the strong police presence.  Upon leaving the airport building, passengers should take precautions because of the large crowds and chaotic atmosphere, which is ideal for pickpockets.  Passengers are also cautioned when coming out of the airport to stay away from anyone offering cheap residential accommodation or transportation.
  • Photographs:  Refrain from taking pictures of Indian Government facilities, train stations, airports, power plants, or other key sites receiving protection from the Government of India. 

Information for Victims of Crime

If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate (see the U.S. Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates ).  If your passport is stolen, we can help you replace it. You should immediately report the theft or loss to the police in the location where your passport was stolen.  A police report, called an FIR (First Information Report) is required by the Indian government in order to obtain an exit visa to leave India in the event of a lost or stolen passport.  Although the Embassy or Consulate is able to replace a stolen or lost passport, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) are responsible for approving an exit visa.  This process can take three to four working days.

For violent crimes such as assault and rape, we can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and help them send you money if you need it. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.  If you are a victim of crime in India, you need to obtain a copy of the police report (FIR) from local police at the time of reporting the incident.  A copy of this report is helpful for insurance purposes in replacing lost valuables.  Local authorities generally are unable to take any meaningful action without the filing of a police report. 

In India, the local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is “100.” An additional emergency number, “112,” can be accessed from mobile phones.

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen.  Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own.  In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you.  In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail.  These criminal penalties will vary from country to country.  While you are physically overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply.  If you do something illegal in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help.  It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.  It is also important to note that there are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States.  For example, you can be prosecuted in the United States if you buy pirated goods, engage in sexual conduct with children, or use or disseminate child pornography in a foreign country even if those activities do not happen to be illegal in that country.

If you are arrested in India, you have a right to notify, or have officials notify, the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate upon your arrest.  Insist on this as a right since it is often overlooked. Though the Embassy and Consulates may not intervene in legal matters they can provide information on lawyers, the local justice system, can visit you on a regular basis if you are incarcerated, and can serve as a liaison with parties approved by you, the incarcerated individual.

Further Information

U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad, India

24-hour switchboard: +91-40-4033-8300

Website: http://hyderabad.usconsulate.gov/contact.html

OSAC Country Council

For more information on the Hyderabad OSAC Country Council, please see https://www.osac.gov.