Kuwait 2013 Crime and Safety Report
Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; Religious Terrorism; Stolen items; Oil & Energy; Extreme heat/drought; Improvised Explosive Device; Financial Security; Faith-based Organization; Bribery; Assault; Murder; Fraud; Drug Trafficking
Near East > Kuwait > Kuwait City
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State assesses the current threat level for crime to be “Low,” although official crime statistics for 2012 have not yet been published. Media reporting indicates there has been an increase in crime incidents in 2012 compared to previous years.
According to media reports, a crime is committed in Kuwait every 30 minutes with an increase in violent crimes such as assaults and homicide for 2012 compared to previous years. An unusual and high-profile violent crime occurred in December 2012 in an upscale shopping mall where a group of males stabbed another male reportedly over a parking space dispute. At least two stabbings took place the following weeks also drawing public attention, one of them on the popular Gulf Road in Salmiya.
The third country national (TCN) community, including approximately 50,000 U.S. citizens, comprises approximately two-thirds of the population. It is probable, particularly among TCN victims of lower income/status, that a high percentage of crimes in the TCN community go unreported.
Violent crime also occurs between Kuwaitis and/or by Kuwaitis against foreign workers such as domestic staff but often goes unreported or is not investigated fully.
Comparing 2012 and 2011 statistics up through the third quarter respectively, 1,356 assaults were reported in 2012 compared to 1,283 assaults in 2011. In addition, 449 assaults resulting in severe injuries were reported in 2012 compared to 368 reported in 2011 through the third quarter. There were 39 homicides compared to 37 during the same time period.
Other reported crimes include, but are not limited to, various types of immigration and residency fraud, ATM/credit card theft, white collar fraud, embezzlement, possession or trafficking of illegal narcotics, and property theft.
Most travelers are not impacted by crime provided they practice personal security measures to mitigate the possibility of becoming a victim. Some fall into a sense of complacency and do not practice personal and residential safety measures that would normally be taken in the United States.
There have been reported and anecdotal incidents of harassment and sexual assault of TCN/expatriate women. Crimes of rape are perceived not to be enforced fully. Women traveling alone have been harassed while driving and when out and about, even at upscale shopping malls.
There are reports of petty thefts in the popular outdoor markets or shopping malls frequented by tourists and Westerners. The opportunity for such crimes exists, especially in high-traffic shopping areas.
There have been very few reported incidents of ATM/credit card fraud; however, the potential of becoming a fraud victim is increasing.
Overall Road Safety Situation
The most dangerous daily threat that residents face comes from driving. There were approximately 75,000 traffic accidents in 2011. During the first half of 2012, 44,000 traffic accidents were reported. The final 2012 official traffic statistics have not yet been published. Speed is the primary cause for traffic fatalities.
Kuwait has an excellent highway system, but many drivers drive their vehicles in excess of 100 miles per hour and weave through traffic at high rates of speed. The danger posed by these high-speed drivers is compounded by many others who drive well below the speed limit and across all lanes of traffic, increasing the chances for accidents.
A good general rule to follow while driving is to avoid driving in the number one (far left) lane on highways, as this lane normally has the drivers traveling the fastest. These number one lane drivers may exhibit aggressive behavior, such as by flashing their headlights rapidly or tailgating in order to get the slower driver to move to the right, if blocked. Night driving is particularly dangerous because some drivers do not turn on their headlights.
Road rage, pursuit, extremely aggressive and reckless driving, and vehicle gamesmanship -- in which vehicles play a form of high-speed cat and mouse on the freeways -- often end in disaster when a vehicle is forced off the road or has a collision with another vehicle on the crowded highways. A common sight is to pass the remnants of a horrific accident, usually in the form of a mangled car chassis, alongside the highway.
The MOI has taken proactive steps toward increased traffic law enforcement and has begun implementation of traffic safety measures such as camera and radar systems and delivering public awareness campaigns. The use of seat belts is mandatory. The use of handheld devices while driving is illegal, but the law is frequently ignored. Non-payment of traffic and parking fines may result in travel bans for individuals.
Drivers must remain on the defensive and alert to the hazards posed by others that neglect to yield in merges, cut across lanes to exit, drive aggressively and at excessive rates of speed, pass on shoulders, and often operate without headlights at night.
If involved in a motor vehicle accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that the individuals immediately notify the police and to file a report. There are no Good Samaritan laws, so assisting at the scene of an accident may expose the responder to liability. Kuwaiti nationals are often perceived to be afforded preferential treatment by the police, including when the police are called to resolve a traffic accident or criminal matter.
Public intoxication and driving while under the influence of alcohol are treated as serious offenses, and because alcohol is illegal, any trace of alcohol found in the blood is unlawful. Offenders will be detained, arrested, and if found guilty, serve a prison sentence, pay heavy fines, and/or be deported.
The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates a bus service that is used by mostly the low-income TCN labor force.
Marked taxis are widely available at major hotels.
Vehicle break-ins occasionally occur when valuables are left in plain view.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Kuwait is a close partner and major non-NATO ally of the United States. The relationship has been particularly close since the U.S. role in the 1991 liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Where there are disagreements with U.S. policy, these usually manifest through Kuwaitis’ exercise of free speech in the vibrant local media and in traditional diwaniyas--social gatherings where issues are openly discussed. The close partnership between the United States and Kuwait yields excellent cooperation on matters of mutual interest.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There have been no lethal attacks on U.S. personnel since 2002; however, the U.S. Department of State continues to assess the terrorism threat to be “High.” The U.S. Embassy continues to receive threat information indicating that official and private U.S. citizens may be targeted for terrorist attacks. Soft targets (such as shopping malls, hotels, and restaurants) can be considered vulnerable to terrorist attack, although many are making improvements to their perimeter and internal security.
Kuwaiti law permits freedom of assembly as long as organizers of public gatherings of more than 20 persons obtain advance approval from the MOI. Several demonstrations and marches took place in 2012 related to political and social issues. For example, Kuwaitis organized both unlicensed and licensed demonstrations and marches to protest a new electoral law. The MOI exercised restraint during unlicensed demonstrations and marches and, when necessary, used non-lethal measures to disperse protestors who were disrupting residential neighborhoods and traffic. Bidoons (stateless residents) also held unlicensed demonstrations demanding citizenship rights. Controlled and generally peaceful demonstrations also took place in front of the U.S. Embassy.
The U.S. Embassy notes that participation by non-Kuwaiti citizens in demonstrations is illegal.
Apart from periodic sandstorms and rain, road conditions and weather are favorable most of the year.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Kuwait has vast oil fields, oil refineries, water desalination plants, ammonia plants, and other industries. Health and safety standards are generally not up to Western standards; thus, workplace accidents may be common.
Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones
Exercise care and caution before chartering any local watercraft, such as dhows or motor boats, for recreational excursions, particularly when operating close to shore in congested waterways. There may not be life jackets accessible or available on vessels, for example. Further out from the coastline, the Gulf’s waters are heavily traversed by commercial and military vessels. It is not unusual to be stopped by the Kuwaiti Coast Guard.
The following areas are considered off-limits for official U.S. government personnel who must seek special permission to travel in these areas in order to conduct official duties: Kuwait/Iraq border – north of Mutla’a Ridge, the tank graveyard (Near Ali Al Salem base), and the city of Jahra.
Unexploded bombs, mines, and other ordnance from the 1991 Gulf War remain present in some desert areas. U.S. Embassy Kuwait urges caution if traveling off paved surfaces outside of Kuwait City. Unexploded ordnance has also been discovered in piles of sand used at construction sites, including at Camp Arifjan, the largest U.S. military facility in the country. During the cooler months (October-March), Kuwaitis head to the desert to camp. Many of these campgrounds are located very close to the major roadways, but some Kuwaitis travel long distances from built up areas to camp in relative isolation. Camping in well-used areas mitigates some risk of contact with unexploded ordnance, but camping or outing invitations to areas far from population centers should be politely declined because of the higher chances of contacting unexploded items.
In 2012, authorities at the maritime ports and Kuwaiti International Airport seized large quantities of illegal narcotics and alcohol due to enhanced monitoring and enforcement measures.
Police checkpoints are not unusual. Uniformed and plainclothes police have the authority to make traffic stops but must identify themselves with their police identification credentials, which has both Arabic and English written on it. The RSO advises individuals to remain in their own vehicles with the doors locked and to lower the window only enough to receive the person's police identification. While checking the credentials, individuals are advised to use their mobile phone to alert his/her sponsor or a trusted person of the situation. Ask the sponsor or trusted person to come and meet them. U.S. citizens should inform the officer of their nationality. Individuals are advised against riding in police vehicles but, if instructed, should agree only to follow the officer in their own vehicle to a police station. Before going to the police station, request that the officer specify the name of the police station, keep the mobile phone connected so the sponsor or trusted person can know and hear the destination. Lastly, relay the license plate number, the make, model, and color of the officer's vehicle to your sponsor or trusted person on the phone, if at all possible.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens in Kuwait are subject to the country’s laws and regulations, which can differ significantly from those in the United States. Violating Kuwaiti law can result in the detention, arrest, prison sentence, fines, and/or deportation. Examples of crimes include: possession, use, or trafficking of illegal narcotics, pork, firearms, counterfeit goods, and alcohol. Non-payment of traffic violations or other outstanding debts owed to Kuwaitis may result in travel bans preventing individuals from exiting Kuwait.
If arrested or detained, U.S. citizens should request to speak with a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy through the switchboard operator at (965) 2259-1001. Do not assume your arrest has been reported to the U.S. Embassy. A consular officer will visit the U.S. citizen within 24 to 72 hours of the initial notification. A local attorney will be required to assist in any civil or criminal proceeding. For a list of attorneys who have worked with U.S. citizens, please visit the Embassy’s webpage: http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/service/attorneys-for-u.s.-citizens.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
Dial 112 from any telephone to contact emergency services: police, fire, and ambulance services. Police response to requests for assistance to Americans is generally good. U.S. citizens who do not speak Arabic should request assistance from a bilingual Arabic/English switchboard operator. Be mindful that emergency switchboard operators do receive prank calls frequently and may hang up, if they do not understand the caller. In such cases, callers are advised to call again.
The Kuwaiti police accept crime reports at the police station with jurisdiction over the area where the crime occurred. If filing a crime report, it is advisable that the U.S. citizen be accompanied by a person who speaks Arabic and/or by a local attorney. Filing a crime report can take several hours as a police investigator will take the victim’s statement orally while composing his investigative report. In all cases of abuse, the victim must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital in order to file a police report.
Various Police/Security Agencies
Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) maintains a visible police profile with uniformed and plainclothes officers deployed in key locations for response and deterrence. Each district and governorate has police stations operating under the direction of the MOI Directorate of Public Safety.
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics
There are many government and private medical facilities available. Medical treatment costs are comparable or more expensive than in the United States. The following hospitals that have been successfully used by official U.S. government personnel for routine and/or emergency care:
Al Amiri Hospital – 2245-0005, 2245-1442, 2245-0080
International Clinic - 2574-5111, 1886677
Al-Salam Hospital – 2223-2000/2222
Mubarak Al Kabir Hospital - 2531-2700 / 2709
Al-Sabah Hospital – 2481-2000, 2481 - 5000
Hadi Clinic - 2531-2555
Dar Al Shifa Hospital - 1802-555
New Mowasat Hospital - 2572-6666
Kuwait Dental Clinic - 2575-9044 / 45 / 46
Al-Fozan Dental Center - 2261-9557 / 2262-4152
Balsan Dental Center - 2575-5737 - 25755747
U.S. citizens are urged to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and whether they will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Most hospitals and doctors accept major credit cards; otherwise, cash is accepted up front for services rendered. Patients will need to go through their insurance companies to get reimbursed.
Local ambulance service is available by dialing 112. Most ambulances do not carry life-saving equipment. Always have an understanding of where you are located in case an emergency situation arises. Without addresses and street names, places are difficult to find. You may cite the number on the nearest streetlamp post to the switchboard operator to assist the ambulance in locating you.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Travelers should consult http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/kuwait.htm for further medical reference.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices
Although several districts are known to have high incidences of crime, only a few areas are of sufficient concern that official Embassy personnel are asked to exercise particular caution when visiting. The RSO recommends avoiding the following areas, especially during nighttime hours, as they have been identified as high-crime areas: Jleeb Ash Shuyoukh, Hasawi, and Abbasiya, located on the outskirts of Kuwait City International Airport.
Travelers are urged to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that they would practice in the United States. The best practice to avoid being a victim is to maintain vigilance, remain alert, and be aware of your surroundings. Criminals typically target distracted individuals as the element of surprise works in their favor. To the extent possible, vary your travel routes and times for your commute and your other activities around town. Pay attention, and if something does not seem right about a situation, leave the area. Because newcomers are more susceptible to crime when they are still getting their bearings, visitors should maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times. Keep a low profile and avoid obvious displays of wealth or nationality.
Carry only as much cash as is required for the day's business, and store the remainder (along with passports, non-used credit cards, and other valuables) in a secure location. If you must carry a large amount of cash, break it up in different pockets so you do not display it all when making a purchase.
Photographing government and public buildings, military installations, and economic infrastructure, particularly that relate to the oil industry, is against the law. Photographing women may be considered offensive.
Humiliating or insulting a person, including a police officer or a public official, is a crime similar to disorderly conduct or harassment in the United States.
While Kuwait is a tolerant country, conservative customs and dress are the norm. Harassment can be reduced if visitors behave and dress conservatively and maintain a respectful demeanor and a low profile. Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam.
Individuals are advised to avoid confrontations, refrain from making hand gestures or eye contact with other drivers, and to move away from angry, threatening, or aggressive persons. Never lead such persons back to your home or to a secluded area.
Property crimes like pick-pocketing and purse-snatching are more likely to take place in shopping areas and other high-traffic locations where foreign visitors congregate. Maximum awareness is recommended in these areas.
Use only metered and marked taxis and establish the fare in advance of entering the vehicle. Do not enter a taxi that already has other passengers. U.S. citizen passengers should always sit in the back seat, do not engage in eye contact or needless conversation, and do not permit other passengers to be picked up. Marked taxis have the driver’s name and ID number posted on the back of the driver or passenger seat. Note the information and call the police at 112 to report an incident.
Always carry a charged mobile phone and government photo identification with you at all times.
Do check the interior and exterior of your vehicle prior to approaching or entering it. Look for any suspicious items. Do not leave your valuables in plain view in your vehicle, hotel room, or elsewhere. Hotel room doors should be locked at all times, and valuables should be stored in hotel safes when available. Visitors should instruct the hotel management not to divulge their room numbers over the telephone to any callers, and instead connect the call to their rooms or to take a message.
All U.S. citizens are urged to be wary of unexpected visitors and to pay particular attention to suspicious vehicles. Any suspicious activities or vehicles should be reported to the local police as soon as possible. U.S. citizens should maintain low profiles and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion.
Avoid demonstrations and large gatherings of people. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid confrontations when out and about. U.S. citizens are strongly advised not to participate in demonstrations and avoid areas of demonstrations and large gatherings. Keep apprised of local media coverage and government official announcements.
Due to the potential for industrial accidents, Embassy employees are advised to keep Shelter-in-Place kits including several days’ stock of food and water in their residences.
U.S. citizens should keep in mind the cultural differences among the many people who coexist in Kuwait and should be cognizant that unwitting actions may invite unwanted attention. Modest dress, not engaging in “small talk”, not making constant eye contact, and maintaining a low profile may deter harassment. When traveling during hours of darkness, ensure someone knows your itinerary and preferably travel with a buddy or group at night. U.S. citizens who find themselves harassed are advised to seek safe haven in a public area immediately, contact store management or security personnel, and not attempt to go to a secluded area or drive to their residences until the situation has been resolved.
Individuals are advised to check their credit card and banking statements every month.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid frequenting areas and apartment complexes where U.S. citizens or other Westerners are generally known to congregate and live in large numbers. U.S. citizens must practice personal security, maintain a low profile, and vary routes and times for required travel, thus avoiding predictable schedules.
U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
The U.S. Embassy is located in Bayan on al-Masjed al-Aqsa Street.
The Embassy's working hours are Sunday - Thursday, 8:00am - 4:30pm. Consular services, including services for U.S. citizens as well as visa applicants, are available by appointment only. For information on all consular services, please visit: http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/index.html.
American Citizens Services appointments for routine services such as passports, notarials, and citizenship documentation may be booked online via at https://evisaforms.state.gov/acs/default.asp?postcode=KWT&appcode=1.
Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers
The Embassy Switchboard is (965) 2259-1001.
U.S. citizens requiring emergency services should contact the Consular Section at 2259-1583 for immediate assistance during business hours. In case of an emergency after business hours, call 2259-1001 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
If you have any questions, please contact the Consular Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travelers are urged to read the latest Country Specific Information for Kuwait prior to travel which can be found at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis.
Stay apprised of local and regional media coverage and developments. All U.S. citizen travelers and expatriates are strongly encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) on travel.state.gov in order to receive consular messages.
OSAC Country Council Information
Kuwait has an active OSAC Country Council, which meets bi-monthly at pre-arranged locations. To find out more about the Kuwait OSAC Country Council, please visit the Kuwait webpage at www.osac.gov.