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Lithuania 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Lithuania; Europe > Lithuania > Vilnius

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Vilnius 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 VILNIUS AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

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

Crime Threats

Criminal elements typically exploit easy targets of opportunity and operate primarily in congested areas. Various crimes are reported near the train and bus stations; avoid these areas late at night. However, most reports of crime are generated in Old Town Vilnius. The congregation of tourists there leads to an influx of criminal elements. Pickpocketing and thefts from coats, purses, and bags left unattended or on the backs of chairs at restaurants/cafes are the most common threat.

Care should be taken when using ATMs. Cash transactions are preferable to credit card.

Residential thefts due to open windows, unlocked doors, and weak security features are also common. During the summer, only open windows that are not accessible from the outside.

Vehicle break-ins usually are the result of valuables being left in plain sight.

The majority of violent encounters occur between 2200-0600 hours and involve individuals who are alone/inebriated. Travel in groups, especially at night. Avoid dimly-illuminated parks and streets at night. Develop a personal plan for how you will respond to an emergency prior to one occurring.

In 2016, 55,184 criminal offences were reported, a drop of 20.4% from 2015. Criminal data analysis did show an increase in vehicle thefts, crimes that involved the use of weapons, and unauthorized possession of firearms. Violent crimes saw a decrease of 12% with 2,899 incidents reported in 2016 (3,327 reported in 2015). Theft decreased by 14.8% in 2016 with 21,833 incidents reported (25,632 reported in 2015). Domestic violence cases dropped by 20.4% in 2016, with 218 cases reported (274 incidents reported in 2015).

Organized crime exists and is the focus of several law enforcement entities. Organized crime groups are typically involved in gambling, smuggling, nightclubs/bars, cybercrimes, and financial schemes. Due to its membership in the Schengen Area and location between Belarus and Kaliningrad, which are significant sources of criminal activity, Lithuania is a transit state for smuggling activity. The State Border Guard Service has registered an increase in smuggling activity (primarily of cigarettes, alcohol, petrol) on the Kaliningrad-Lithuania and Belarus-Lithuania borders.

Travelers are warned to refuse invitations by strangers to come into local bars. This is a ploy to lure individuals into small bars where travelers are extorted for large amounts of cash with the threat of physical harm if they refuse to pay for supposedly purchased drinks. The scam is normally run by young women and men who speak excellent English.

Cybersecurity Issues

Lithuanian officials continue to report an increase in cybercrimes. In the first quarter of 2016, there were over 12,000 cyber incidents reported in Lithuania, a 13% increase from 2015.

In May 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website was the target of a Denial of Service Attack (DDoS).

Notable incidents included a coordinated cyberattack in April 2016 against Parliament’s website, websites of more than 10 Lithuanian public institutions, and websites of a number of NGOs that were under shutdown for several days.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions are generally up to Western European standards. Outside of city centers and off major throughways, road conditions often deteriorate. The roadways typically are poorly illuminated. Motorists should exercise care when driving after dark outside of city centers.

Lithuanian drivers can be aggressive; driving defensively is recommended. Travel at night by car or legitimate taxi.

Lithuania often receives an above-average amount of snow. Road conditions can deteriorate quickly with a heavy accumulation of snow. Conditions can be further exacerbated in the winter, as there are less than six hours of daylight per day.

Police have a zero-tolerance for drinking and driving, and penalties are severe. Lithuania leads the EU in annual number of accidents caused by alcohol. Police increasingly use random roadblocks, speed traps, and breathalyzer tests. Drivers in vehicles departing ferry terminals are often subjected to breathalyzer tests. As of January 1, 2017, driving with a blood alcohol content over 1.5 mils is punishable under the criminal code by fines up to several thousand Euros, arrest, or imprisonment and the revocation of the person’s driver’s license for up to 10 years.

In addition to a valid U.S. driver’s license, American citizens must possess an International Driving Permit. This permit allows driving in Lithuania for 185 calendar days; anything thereafter requires a Lithuanian driver's license.

If involved in a traffic accident, drivers are advised not to move vehicles from the accident site, as that could constitute an admission of guilt or be considered a hit-and-run violation.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation (bus, trolleybus) generally provide reliable, safe, and economical services. The bus service consists of a network of lines serving Vilnius and the suburbs. Additional urban transport systems include a transnational train system. Although there are some concerns about the consistency of timetables and speeds of travel, the public transportation system provides several alternatives to personal vehicle usage. 

Taxi companies generally provide reliable, safe, and economical services. Avoid independent cabs that do not prominently display a company name. Visitors should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Higher charges can be expected when a cab is stopped in the street or is idling at a taxi stand. Radio-dispatched taxis are often much more reliable.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has assessed the government’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation safety standards for oversight of Lithuania’s air carrier operations. 

Terrorism Threat

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

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no known indigenous terrorist organizations in Lithuania, which is not a known base of support or sympathy for terrorists. Lithuania faces the same threat of international terrorism as other European countries. Lithuania became a member of the Schengen Area on December 21, 2007. Lithuania is a staunch ally in the U.S. fight against terrorism and has implemented aggressive measures to protect itself.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

There have been a few, small, peaceful demonstrations in front of the U.S. Embassy over the past several years.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

The geo-political situation in Eastern Europe has raised concerns that events, unrest, and tension could indirectly or directly affect the Baltic countries. There is no indication of these broader regional issues extending to Lithuania, but travelers would do well to stay abreast of current events in the news and post-specific information.

Civil Unrest

Demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience are generally limited and peaceful. Recent demonstrations have protested government policy on pensions, social benefits, and education relating to minority groups, especially ethnic Poles. Demonstrations are typically identified in advance via the government’s permit process and are closely monitored by law enforcement authorities. Permits are required for public demonstrations involving more than 15 persons, and most public demonstrations are generally small, numbering less than 100 participants.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Even though statistics indicate that incidents against individuals based on race, religion, or sexual orientation/gender identity are limited, there has been an increase in reports of race-related incidents during the last few years. This uptick appeared to coincide with Europe’s refugee crisis, and though the number of reports decreased in 2016, there are still occasional comments by fringe elements of Lithuanian public society against refugees, signifying that the underlying sentiment is still present in certain elements of the population.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Falling ice from buildings can be a substantial problem in the winter and spring and has resulted in deaths, in addition to slippery roads and sidewalks.

Flooding can be an issue in low-lying areas near rivers during the spring thaw.

Economic Concerns

The main intellectual property issues are copyright infringement and the sale of counterfeit trademarked merchandise. According to industry sources, bulk distribution of counterfeit goods has dropped in recent history, but distribution of counterfeit goods by using small packages is on the rise.

Personal Identity Concerns

Small, fractional fringe element groups of neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other far-right wing extremists are present but rarely impact foreigners.

While reported incidents of violence and harassment targeting LGBT communities are rare, the LGBT community is not widely accepted. 

There have been reports of unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are singled out. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent.

Drug-related Crimes

Combating drug-related crimes is a priority for police agencies. The rate of illegal drug use has increased in recent years; however, it decreased by 11.5% in 2016. Lithuania is primarily a transit country to import/export heroin and cocaine.

Police Response

Police are professional and competent but suffer from a lack of resources and low salaries. Police skills, tactical skills, resources, and emergency response capabilities still fall short of American law enforcement standards in many respects. Police response times can vary from several minutes to an hour, depending on the nature of the call, time of day, call volume, and resource constraints. Emergency police and medical responses are often hampered by significant traffic congestion and delays. In order to respond to the needs of visitors, police concentrate most of their patrols (vehicular, foot) in tourist and highly-populated areas.

Due to the regional scope of organized crime networks and activities, law enforcement cooperate closely with counterparts in the EU, the Baltic countries, Russia, and, to a lesser degree, Belarus.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Incidents of police harassment and unjust detention are rare, but solicitation of bribes by authorities and highway police is a concern. Drivers stopped by highway police for speeding infractions are subject to official adjudication with final payment, if necessary, to be made through a bank. Under no circumstances should money be paid directly to a police officer. 

In the event a foreigner is detained or harassed by police, the person should comply with instructions. However, a request for an interpreter and a representative from the U.S. Embassy should be made immediately.

If you are an American citizen with an emergency after regular hours (5PM-8AM M-Th, 3PM-8AM Friday and anytime during weekends/holidays), please call the U.S. Embassy (+370 5) 266 5500 and ask to speak to the Duty Officer.

Crime Victim Assistance

All emergencies services -- fire, ambulance, police: 112

Visitors who become victims of crime should report it immediately to the local police station. After reporting the incident to the police, victims should contact their embassy to report the crime and request assistance, if desired. If you are an American citizen and need to report a crime and are unable to communicate with authorities because of the language barrier, please call the U.S. Embassy (+370 5) 266 5500 and ask to speak to the Consular Duty Officer.

Police/Security Agencies 

The number of police officers has dropped significantly in the last five years due to budget constraints. The number of police officers in 2016 is approximately 8,450 as compared to 9,900 in 2011.

Medical Emergencies

All emergencies services -- fire, ambulance, police: 112

Most medical services are available in Vilnius, Klaipeda, and Kaunas. The quality of these services, however, may not be up to Western standards. Outside major cities, the quality and variety of medical aid compared to the U.S. standard is much lower and more limited. 

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Up-to-date information on medical providers in Lithuania is located on the U.S. Embassy website.

Available Air Ambulance Services

In extreme cases, military or State Border Guard Service resources have been used.

Insurance Guidance

General travel insurance with medevac is always recommended. 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

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

OSAC Country Council Information

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

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

U.S. Embassy Vilnius
AkmenĊ³ g. 6
Vilnius, Lithuania LT-03106

Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0800-1800. Closed for American and Lithuanian holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Tel: (370-5) 266-5500

Fax: (370-5) 266-5510

Website: http://vilnius.usembassy.gov

Embassy Guidance

The Embassy urges all U.S. citizens, even those visiting Lithuania for a short time, to sign up with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the Embassy's Consular Section.  This is often referred to as "enrolling with the U.S. Embassy”. In the event of an emergency, the Embassy will provide information and other critical assistance to U.S. citizens. Enrollment is the only way to guarantee that the Embassy is aware of your presence in the country and is able to contact you and assist you in such circumstances. Enrollment in STEP is for U.S. citizens only.

Additional Resources

Lithuania Country Information Sheet