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Armenia 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Armenia; Europe > Armenia > Yerevan

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Yerevan does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED YEREVAN AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Armenia-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Armenia is generally considered safe and relatively free of random acts of violent crime. The crime rate is lower in comparison to the U.S. and Europe. Crimes committed against Americans remain relatively infrequent and mostly involves petty theft (pickpocketing, vehicle break-ins to steal objects left visible inside). The frequency of vandalism and vehicle theft has been low.

Sidewalks are in poor condition, and stairwells are seldom illuminated and can be an area for attack. Visitors should avoid streets that are not well illuminated and be cautious when entering buildings, as they can be dark and hazardous.

Serious violent crimes can and do occur in Yerevan.

Organized crime does exist; and though it occasionally takes on violent manifestations, it normally is score settling within or between organizations. There is no significant risk of backlash against U.S. interests.

Other Areas of Concern

The Embassy recommends to its staff that they avoid casinos and the Persian (or “Blue”) Mosque.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in an ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. There are regular ceasefire violations in the vicinity of the militarized line of contact and occasionally at areas along their international border. The Embassy has restricted travel of its personnel to the Nagorno-Karabakh region and is unable to provide emergency consular services to Americans there. Due to increased tension along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in Tavush province, travel is restricted for all Embassy personnel and dependents. This area has experienced cease-fire violations, including small arms and sniper fire. Villages and their connecting border roads include, but are not limited to, Barekamavan, Azatamut, Vazashen, Paravakar, Varagavan, and Aygepar. This restriction includes the segment of the frequently traveled route between Yerevan and Tbilisi on M-16/H-26 from Azatamut through Jujevan to the Georgian border.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Vehicles are largely left-side drive, and traffic moves on the right side of the road. Besides a few well-maintained vital arteries, Armenia’s roads are often riddled with potholes and poorly illuminated. Potholes are common and are large enough to cause serious tire damage. In rural areas, paved roads can degenerate into narrow, gravel tracks. Response times for emergency services can be long, especially outside of Yerevan. Winter travel is particularly hazardous, especially at higher elevations, due to the country’s long, icy winters and mountainous terrain. Embassy personnel are forbidden from traveling on the roads outside Yerevan after nightfall.

Left turns at intersections are legal only when specifically marked, and there are no right turns against red lights. To turn left, a driver must continue straight through the light, proceed until they can make a legal U-turn at designated locations as noted by signage, and then return to the light from the opposite direction to then make a right during a green light. Caution should be used when approaching intersections. Traffic signals are sometimes out of commission and can be poorly positioned, causing hazardous conditions. Armenians often drive erratically and with little regard to local traffic laws. Drivers of expensive cars drive especially aggressively and can become belligerent if confronted. Drivers can also act particularly aggressively following traffic accidents. Be wary of drunk drivers, especially at night and on weekends. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

With the recent installation of speed cameras around Yerevan, traffic stops by police have declined. The installation of the speed cameras has also had a positive impact on lowering speeds throughout the city.

The majority of the population walks or takes public transportation. Many intersections have crosswalks and pedestrian lights, but many do not work properly or pedestrians cross against the lights. While pedestrians have the right-of-way in crosswalks, they should exercise caution. Most vehicles will not necessarily give pedestrians the right-of-way. Pedestrians are also cautioned that vehicles sometimes drive on sidewalks and against traffic. Buses, taxis, and marshrutki generally will stop anywhere with little/no notice, so pedestrians should be cautious as they step into the street. Several individuals have been seriously injured while attempting to cross the street.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation is unreliable and unsafe, especially mini-buses called marshrutki. Embassy personnel are not allowed to travel in marshrutki or aboard buses.

Taxis often drive erratically and at excessive speeds. Many taxis are not equipped with seatbelts or other safety features; and drivers sometimes lack good driving skills. Despite local norms, the Embassy urges travelers to use seatbelts. Use established taxi companies and/or professional private drivers for travel, as many unlicensed gypsy cabs operate throughout the country.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Armenia has two international airports: Zvartnots in Yerevan and Shirak in Gyumri. Zvartnots handles the vast majority of commercial flights into/out of Armenia. It is a recently-built facility with good infrastructure; however, the flight scheduling is less than ideal with many flights arriving/departing in the early hours of the morning.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED YEREVAN AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED YEREVAN AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 2, 2017.

Civil Unrest

In summers since 2013, there have been large protests on the streets of Yerevan, with smaller sympathy protests elsewhere in the country. Law enforcement has, at times, forcefully dispersed protestors, placing others in long-term pre-trial detention.

Historically, elections have typically been a cause for protest.

There have been credible claims that law enforcement committed human rights abuses against demonstrators, bystanders, and media in their crowd dispersal actions.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Armenia is located in the zone of high seismic risk (zone IV); small tremors periodically occur; and the risk of catastrophic earthquakes exists.
The most recent seismic activity was a minor 4.0 tremor in September 2015.

Armenia has made significant improvements to inform the public about the dangers of earthquakes. The 911 center at the Ministry of Emergency Situations employs English and Armenian speakers. The Ministry continues to plan and train to respond to natural disasters.

Critical Infrastructure

In 2006, new laws were implemented to ensure safer building standards, particularly higher earthquake standards; however, many buildings remain unsafe.

There is concern for an industrial or nuclear emergency from various aging Soviet industrial complexes (Metsamor nuclear power plant is located 18 miles from central Yerevan, and the city would fall within the exclusion zone if there were a release).

Economic Concerns

Investing and conducting business can be risky. A lack of transparency in the tax and customs services can have a serious and detrimental effect on how taxes and customs duties are levied and can affect the profitability of business ventures. Other pitfalls can include unscrupulous local business partners, difficulty in enforcing legal judgments, lack of protection for intellectual property rights, and an often lengthy and unproductive legal process.

Personal Identity Concerns

Armenia is a tolerant country. However, there are no laws protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, though there are no legal impediments to the organization of LGBT events. Traditional cultural attitudes result in LGBT individuals often facing de facto discrimination and harassment by state and private actors. American citizens have been the subject of LGBT threats and harassment.

Drug-related Crimes

Armenia’s drug culture is developing. Seizures of dangerous drugs at the airport and border checkpoints, particularly from the south, increase every year. The government works with partners to fight the drug trade. The potential for Armenia to develop into an active transit area for drug traffickers exists but is not yet widely exploited. Narcotic cases rose to over 1,100 cases in 2015. While drug seizures are relatively low, penalties remain fairly stiff, including jail time. Illegal drug use is prohibited. 

Kidnapping Threat

In 2013, there was one reported kidnapping of an American citizen, related to dealings with an unscrupulous business associate. Other criminally-oriented kidnaps take place but are usually of a short duration.

Police Response

Police response is generally slower than in Western countries. A mixture of reporting suggests that the police are improving in some areas, though they lack interest or willingness to investigate in some situations. Law enforcement officials often lack the sensitivity training required to investigate some crimes (domestic violence, rape). There are reports that officers use coercion during questioning and tend not to remain objective.

Law enforcement officials have identified the need for greater English language skills due to the increase in foreign contacts. Still, many law enforcement officers do not speak any English and only wish to communicate in Armenian. This adds to the difficulty in trying to communicate with policemen. New community policing programs are being implemented in Yerevan and other cities.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

There are no recent reports of physical or mental abuse of American citizens by law enforcement. According to Consular Affairs, American citizens arrested are afforded access to legal counsel and consular services. If you are detained, incarcerated, and/or harassed by local law enforcement during business hours (Mon-Fri, 9 am-6 pm), contact the American Embassy Consular Section for American Citizen Services (ACS) support. ACS may be contacted at (374-10) 49-45-85 or http://armenia.usembassy.gov/acs_emergency.html. For after-hour emergencies please call (374-10) 49-44-44.

Crime Victim Assistance

If you are the victim of a crime, immediately contact the police emergency line at 102 and/or proceed to the nearest police station to complete a police report. If further assistance is needed, contact the American Embassy Consular Section for American Citizen Services (ACS) Support.

Fire Emergency: 101
Police Emergency: 102
Emergency Medical Services (Ambulance): 103

Police/Security Agencies

The Police of the Republic of Armenia are a national police force, located in 10 mars (districts), with each having its own separate divisions to handle various criminal offenses.

The Traffic Police of Armenia is structured in a similar way and conduct policing on Armenia’s roads. Armenia lacks a Western-style patrol division. The implication of this is the lack of timely police response, particularly during the evening hours.

The National Security Service (NSS) is the government’s intelligence service. The NSS handles many crimes that involve the government (like the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation). The NSS involvement in cases is generally not highly visible.

Most private security companies provide little professional training and pay their staff minimal salaries. Private security companies are not endorsed by the RSO.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care is limited. Although basic medical supplies (disposable needles, anesthetics, standard antibiotics) are generally available, advanced medical care is not available outside the capital. Individuals with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities and services.

Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services on a “pay as you go” system and often will not release persons from the hospitals without payment in full. Food delivery services must be arranged separately.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The American Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking physicians and other healthcare specialists.

Nairi Medical Center

21 Pronyan St.

Dr. Siranoosh Martirosyan

Cell: 091-400-495

Dr. Narine Mamikonyan (English speaker) Hospital Administrator

Ph. #: 374 10 53-77-42/58-00-99

 

Emergency & Trauma Center

Erebuni Medical Center

14 Titogradyan St.

Armen Charchyan-English speaker

Tel: 374 10 47-35-72/47-24-00

Cell: (091) 41-17-88

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Armenia is home to numerous stray animals, particularly dogs and cats. Each year, there are reports from Embassy personnel of aggressive street animals. Visitors should exercise caution and not feed or pet stray animals. If bitten by an animal, contact Nairi Medical Center. Pre-exposure rabies vaccine is recommended only for those subject to occupational exposure. Post-exposure prophylaxis should be sought even in those already immunized. This is due to the large number of feral animals and the inability of the local health system to provide immunizations.

Visitors are encouraged to ensure that their immunizations are current, including vaccines for hepatitis A and B. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommend having had a tetanus/diphtheria booster within the last five years. It is recommended to carry a copy of one's immunization record.

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

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Armenia. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Yerevan or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

1 American Ave., Yerevan, Armenia.

Hours of Operation: M-F 0900-1800

Embassy Contact Numbers

Country Code: 374
Yerevan City Code: 10
Embassy Operator: 46-47-00
Regional Security Officer: 49-45-95
Embassy Health Unit: 49-43-24 / 49-43-25
Consular: 49-45-85
Post 1 Marine Guard: 49-44-44
Website: http://armenia.usembassy.gov/index.html.

Embassy Guidance

U.S citizens are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which will enable them obtain updated information on travel and security in Armenia.

Additional Resources 

Armenia Country Information Sheet