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Morocco 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Casablanca

Near East > Morocco; Near East > Morocco > Casablanca

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Consulate Casablanca 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 CASABLANCA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

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

Crime Threats

Crime concerns are particularly acute in major cities and tourist areas. The Moroccan government has not published statistics pertaining to crime; however, in December 2016, the Moroccan National Police (DGSN) issued a public statement indicating that 466,997 people suspected of committing crimes were arrested in 2016. According to the DGSN, this marked a 23% increase from 2015. This information does not specify the types of crimes allegedly committed. Although there is limited available information, this likely indicates that the frequency and intensity of criminal activity remains moderate.

The most common crimes are petty crimes (aggressive panhandling, pickpocketing, theft from unoccupied vehicles, robberies, purse snatching, burglaries). Criminals focus on high-traffic and high-density areas (tourist sites, markets, medinas, festivals). Criminals tend to focus on people who appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, are dressed in obviously foreign clothing, or otherwise draw attention to themselves.

Based on Consular reports, most crimes committed against Americans are reported in the tourist centers of Marrakech, Casablanca, Tangier, Fez, and Rabat. These crimes generally are pickpocketing, bag snatching, and mugging.

The use of weapons (knives, razors) has occurred in the commission of crimes; the use of firearms is very rare.

General theft and residential burglary are commonplace in low-income neighborhoods and occasionally occur in more affluent neighborhoods. Burglars generally avoid confrontation and commit break-ins during daylight hours. Many wealthier Moroccans secure their homes with perimeter lighting, security grilles, and alarm systems. Some homeowners hire security guards to protect against criminals. Americans should live in homes that are equipped to prevent unauthorized entry. This generally means having security grilles protecting accessible windows and glass doors; exterior doors should be solidly built and have a minimum of two deadlocks; single-family homes should have a perimeter wall that discourages intruders from entering the premises. Apartment dwellers should consider the possibility of intruders gaining access via adjacent balconies or structures. They should also ensure that there are functional locks or other protection for areas vulnerable to unauthorized entry.

Tourists are advised to travel in pairs/groups, drink in moderation, maintain control over drinks, and never accept drinks from strangers. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.” Visitors should avoid being out alone and during late-night or early morning hours.

Cybersecurity Issues

ATMs are generally safe to use if normal precautions are observed. 2016 witnessed several documented cases of debit/credit card fraud. In all cases, the victims reported money being withdrawn from their accounts after using their cards at ATMs or being billed for unaccounted charges to their credit cards after using them at local establishments. In 2014, police in Marrakech seized skimming equipment affixed to two ATMs before accounts were compromised. Despite these incidents, debit/credit card fraud is not a widespread problem. If you are with a friend or a colleague, have them watch the surrounding area as you focus on completing your ATM transaction.

Cybercrime remains limited to common scams requesting money upfront for promised services or chances to obtain more money with a down payment.

Other Areas of Concern

Travel to the Western Sahara is possible, though visitors should be aware of the political importance of the area to the Moroccan government. Morocco claims sovereignty over the Western Sahara and closely monitors and controls access to the territory. The area was long the site of armed conflict between Moroccan government forces and POLISARIO, which seeks independence for the territory. A cease-fire has been in effect since 1991 in the UN-administered area. U.S. citizens suspected of being participants in political protests or of supporting NGOs critical of Moroccan policies have been expelled from, or not been allowed to enter, the Western Sahara.

There are also thousands of unexploded mines in the Western Sahara and in areas of Mauritania adjacent to the Western Sahara border. Exploding mines have caused death and injury.

There have been sporadic reports of violence in Laayoune and Dakhla associated with sporting events and political demonstrations.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Moroccan roads vary from modern high-speed toll roads to secondary roads that may be poorly maintained. Speed limits are clearly marked; gendarmerie and police radar speed traps are frequent along highways and toll roads. If stopped for speeding, expect a fine. Legitimate fines can be paid on the spot. Traffic enforcement authorities sometimes ask for bribes; valid traffic fines will be accompanied by paperwork, similar to a traffic ticket in the U.S. It is common for police to stand in the road and wave vehicles over. Checkpoints are common when entering towns/cities; these are in place for security reasons, and foreign visitors are rarely questioned.

Road conditions vary by season. Heavy rains can wash away sections of road and create sink holes large enough to swallow a car. During the winter, heavy snow can close roadways in mountainous areas.

Traffic accidents are a major concern. On average, 11 Moroccans die in motor vehicle accidents every day—a fatality rate is approximately twice that of the U.S. Drivers are erratic and often fail to stop/yield when required. It is common for drivers to execute right turns from the left lane and vice versa. A wide variety of vehicles (bicycles, scooters, donkey carts, slower-moving utility vehicles) share the road. Many cars are old and poorly maintained. Trucks are often overladen and poorly maintained; it is common to see them overturned or broken down along highways.

Drivers are only allowed to use cellular phones with hands-free devices. Visitors who self-drive must have their passport and driver’s license with them and will be required to present these documents if stopped by the local police or Royal Gendarmerie. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation is reliable; however, driving habits are poor, and vehicles are often poorly maintained. Travelers are advised to keep an eye on their belongings when using any type of public transport.

Petit taxis, common in most cities, hold up to three people. These taxis often use a meter and will pick up additional passengers along the way. Each town has its own particular color for petit taxis; they are red in Casablanca and blue in Rabat. Safety features (seatbelts, airbags) might be missing, and drivers are not obliged to agree to take you to your destination.

Grand taxis are very old white Mercedes that use fixed urban or interurban routes. They can be crowded and uncomfortable. These are not recommended for use by visitors except in rural areas where there are no other transportation options.

There are a number of inter-city bus options available. The quality of buses varies greatly and corresponds with ticket price. RSO recommends that travelers avoid taking overnight bus trips.

Morocco has an extensive, comfortable, and reliable inter-city train network. Train destinations and times can be located on the ONCF website in French and Arabic.

Casablanca has a newly-commissioned tramway that services many parts of the city, with plans for expansion.

Ride sharing applications (Uber, Careem) have begun to operate in several cities, including Casablanca and Rabat, and are looking to expand services throughout Morocco. There have been harassment incidents involving taxi drivers and ride-sharing drivers. Most of these incidents, none of which has ever directly involved passengers, occurred where tourists and taxis congregate (train stations, hotels, airports). The frequency of these incidents has declined in the first quarter of 2017.

Airport/Aviation Conditions

There are 28 civilian airports, and several support international flights to Europe, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. All international airports in Morocco meet International Civil Aviation Organization standards for safety and security.

The government has taken steps to improve airport security, and since the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels, there has been a noticeable augmentation of police and security personnel in/around airports. Moroccan international airports only allow ticketed passengers to enter the terminals.

A recent ban on large electronic devices affects direct flights departing from Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) to the U.S. The restriction requires all passengers flying directly to the U.S. to place any electronic device larger than a cell or smart phone in their checked baggage.

Terrorism Threat

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

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

In 2016, Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts mitigated the risk of terrorism, although the country continues to face threats, largely from small, independent, violent extremist cells. The majority claim to be inspired by or affiliated with ISIS. While there have been no attacks since 2011, there have been calls for attacks targeting government institutions/personalities and Western interests/soft targets. ISIS continues to call for attacks against the Moroccan monarchy and prominent Moroccan institutions and individuals.

During 2016, authorities reported the disruption of multiple groups with ties to international networks that included ISIS, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Al-Nusra Front). According to local media, Moroccan security forces dismantled 18 terrorist cells and conducted 161 terrorism-related arrests in 2016, including French, Chadian, Algerian, and Italian nationals.

The government remains concerned about the potential return of Moroccan foreign terrorist fighters to conduct attacks at home and Moroccans residing abroad becoming radicalized during their stays in Western Europe. Moroccan authorities reported that 1,622 Moroccan foreign terrorist fighters have been identified.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Regional events that inflame public opinion can incite large demonstrations.

  • In September 2012, following the release of an inflammatory online film, several hundred protestors converged on the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca.

    While crowds remain generally peaceful and the vast majority of incidents are not anti-American, Americans should maintain a low profile. Establishments that could be perceived as catering to U.S. or Western visitors or those owned by Western companies could be potential targets for terrorism. Visitors should remain particularly alert and informed during periods of heightened tension in the country and the region.

    Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

    Civil Unrest

    Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and are typically focused on political or social issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may occur in major cities. Demonstrations require a government permit, but spontaneous, unauthorized demonstrations, which have greater potential for violence, can occur. Unions or other groups may organize strikes over an issue or government policy. Travelers should be aware of the current levels of tension in Morocco and stay informed of regional issues that could resonate in Morocco and create an anti-American response. Avoid demonstrations. If caught in one, remain calm and move away as quickly as possible.

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

    Environmental hazards mainly revolve around flooding and the occasional earthquake.

  • The rainy season (November-March) often results in flash floods in the mountainous and desert areas. Floods can cause landslides and damage roads, making them impassable. Strong rains can overwhelm drainage systems and cause flooding. Major roadways, including the high-speed toll roads, have been closed for hours and side roads for days, due to standing water.
  • Morocco does experience occasional strong earthquakes, which, while relatively rare, can be extremely destructive. There have been damaging earthquakes in the north (near Al Hoceima) and the south (in Agadir).


Critical Infrastructure

Few industrial accidents are reported in Morocco. Hazardous chemical spills on highways are a top concern for the government. Aging buildings, especially in the medina or “old city” areas of major cities, can be hazardous. Building collapses occur occasionally.

Economic Concerns

Moroccan law is limited in the realm of economic espionage/intellectual property theft. On October 1, 2011, Morocco signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). In the absence of legal protections, companies must implement internal control mechanisms to counter this threat themselves.

Privacy Concerns

Privacy concerns are not handled in the same way as in the U.S.

Personal Identity Concerns

Although a law banning sexual harassment has been implemented, harassment of women remains somewhat prevalent. Moroccan men will engage in whistling/hissing/staring/yelling and, on occasion, inappropriate physical contact. Attempts to coax women into cars occur with some frequency in smaller cities and rural areas. Incidents of assault and harassment typically affect woman walking alone at night. Assaults have taken place in daylight and at public events with many witnesses, though these incidents are rare. Visitors, especially females, should make a concerted effort to travel in pairs and avoid walking alone at night.

LGBT persons are regularly discriminated against and harassed. While there is a perceived level of tolerance, homosexuality is illegal, and open displays of affection will attract unwanted attention.

The government places strict controls on religious preaching, and local imams are under close state control. Unapproved proselytism is prohibited, and as recently as 2010, proselyting evangelical Christians have been deported.

Drug-related Crimes

The drug trade is firmly entrenched in Morocco. The primary drugs exported are cannabis derivatives. Most of the drugs produced or transported are destined for European markets. Morocco has become a transit country for cocaine traffickers from South America into sub-Saharan countries and Europe. The Moroccan government places a great deal of effort into fighting narcotics trafficking, and while authorities have been implicated in assisting traffickers, when caught, they are tried and punished. Penalties for possession of narcotics are severe, and suspected traffickers are dealt with harshly.

Kidnapping Threat

The kidnapping threat in Morocco is low.

Police Response

Law enforcement officials are well trained, with many attending international training programs. The police are understaffed and, in some cases, underequipped. A quick response and the familiarity of the police with the people and area they patrol often results in quick arrests of perpetrators if crimes are reported in a timely manner. In general, the police primarily rely on confessions to determine culpability.

All police officers speak French or Arabic, but English speakers may not be readily available. The quality of interpreting from Arabic to English can vary, which has caused a problem for some U.S. citizen victims.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police harassment of visitors and foreign nationals is rare. If harassed or detained, ask to speak with a U.S. Consulate representative immediately by contacting American Citizen Services (ACS) at the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca at +212-522-64-20-46.

Crime Victim Assistance

The emergency number in Morocco is 190 when calling from a mobile phone or 91 from a landline. Emergency operators rarely speak English.

Police generally respond effectively to a report of a foreign victim of crime, though there have been limited instances where interactions with the police, particularly in smaller cities and rural areas, have not been positive for foreigners. If a visitor is the victim of a crime and requires assistance, report the crime to the local police (110) and contact the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca at +212-522-64-20-46.

Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes. Victims are often present during interrogations of suspects; this can result in an uncomfortable situation for a victim. Some U.S. citizens report that police procedures appear less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns, compared to U.S. procedures – particularly in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault or when the victim and the perpetrator are foreigners. Few victim-assistance resources or battered women’s shelters exist in major urban areas, and they are generally unavailable in rural areas. Investigations of sexual assault crimes are often conducted without female police officers present, and police typically ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships. See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas. U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca for assistance.

Police/Security Agencies

The police force is based on the French system, with the Sûreté Nationale (DGSN) enforcing laws in the urban areas and the Royal Gendarmerie in the rural areas.

Medical Emergencies

Morocco has adequate medical services in the larger cities, but the quality of care diminishes elsewhere. The medical facilities and hospitals in Rabat and Casablanca can treat most general illnesses and can provide emergency trauma care. Specialized care is not as easily accessible in Morocco. French and Arabic are widely spoken by medical personnel; English is less common.

Over-the-counter drugs that may be obtained from pharmacies in large cities may be difficult or impossible to find in the smaller cities or rural areas. Specialty prescription medication may be difficult to locate even in Rabat or Casablanca. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

In the event of a medical emergency or serious traffic accident, immediate ambulance services are usually not available.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

University Hospital (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire)

Address: Quartier des Hopitaux

Tel: 212-22-22-41-09; 212-22-27-84-75

Hospital Moulay Youssef

Address: 112, Ave. Moulay Youssef

Tel: 212-22-26-54-53

Clinique Zerktouni (Private Hospital)

Address: Angle Bd. Med Abdou/9 Avril

Tel: 212-522-225-33-00

Clinic Dar Salam (Private Hospital)

Address: Bd. Modibo Keita Casablanca

Tel: 212-522-85-14-14

Available Air Ambulance Services

Union Marocaine d’Assistance (Tel: 212 (0) 522-45-0000) can arrange a variety of medical transport and services within Morocco and air evacuation to Europe. They will need verification of ability to pay up front. English is spoken.

There are other global air evacuation services available.

Insurance Guidance

Travelers should inform themselves of insurance and medical evacuation options before leaving home.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

Due to Casablanca’s status as the commercial center of Morocco and the volume of American businesses situated there, the OSAC Country Council resides in Casablanca. The Council tries to meet quarterly. As the Country Council is jointly managed by RSO Rabat and RSO Casablanca, OSAC inquiries, to include joining the Country Council, can be directed to both the RSOs. RSO Rabat can be reached via email or +212 537 637 692 and RSO Casablanca can be reached via email or +212 (0) 522 64 2084. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Consulate General Casablanca
8, Boulevard Moulay Youssef
Casablanca, Morocco
Mon-Fri; 0815-1700 hours

Consulate Contact Numbers

Switchboard: +212-522-64-2000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +212-661-13-19-39

Website: http://casablanca.usconsulate.gov

Nearby Posts 

Embassy Rabat: https://ma.usembassy.gov/

Consulate Guidance

The Regional Security Offices at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat and at the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca remain the best sources of information for the latest on the security situation in Morocco. Utilize the country specific information on Consular Affairs webpage for additional travel information and for the latest Travel Warnings and Public Announcements regarding the security/safety situation in the country or region. All travelers should enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.