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Netherlands 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Netherlands; Europe > Netherlands > Amsterdam; Europe > Netherlands > The Hague

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Netherlands has been assessed as Level 1. Exercise normal precautions 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy The Hague does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) 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 The Hague as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The U.S. Department of State has assessed Amsterdam as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Netherlands-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

Visitors and temporary residents may be more susceptible to criminal targeting due to their unfamiliarity with local practices and surroundings. Tourists and visitors, while generally safe and not targeted based on nationality, should remain vigilant against petty theft. The most common crimes are pickpocketing and theft of personal property in crowded places. These crimes usually occur in cities, which have higher crime, and in tourist areas.

Violent criminal confrontations and the use of weapons are still relatively rare, although serious incidents do occur. Most violent crimes, including those involving firearms, are between members of rival criminal gangs. The murder rate remains low, but was up in 2017 after a record low in 2016. Most murders were committed in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. 

For residents, burglaries remain a concern. Police report that many of these crimes involved surveillance of a targeted residence with entry into the unoccupied residence, sometimes through second floor windows/balconies. Small, easy-to-carry valuables are the primary targets. 

Certain vehicles are targeted for navigation systems/airbags, but valuables left in plain view in any vehicle represent an attractive target for petty criminals. 

Cybersecurity Issues

The Netherlands is home to the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the second busiest Internet Exchange in the world. The country has one of the world’s strongest digital infrastructure systems and is positioning itself as “the digital gateway to Europe.” 

Cybercrime is perceived by the Dutch government to be a serious threat to national security and public safety. Victims of cyber attacks in 2017 included the container terminal in Rotterdam’s harbor. Systems were struck by a ransomware virus, which led to significant disruption for companies worldwide and severely impacted operations and earnings. The Dutch government’s 2017 Cyber Security Assessment Netherlands (CSAN) report noted that professional criminals and state actors continue to be the most significant threat and inflict the most damage. The report also said that the vulnerability of the Internet of Things has resulted in disruptive attacks that show the need to enhance digital resilience. As a result, the government has pledged to dedicate additional funding to strengthen cybersecurity and prioritized cybersecurity investments, adding over 100 million euros to cyber defense programs. For more information regarding cyber security and awareness in the Netherlands, visit The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) led by the Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid (NCTV).

Europol’s European Cyber Crime Center (EC3) serves as the European information hub on cybercrime. The EC3 develops digital forensic capabilities to support investigations in the EU and builds capacity to combat cybercrime through training, raising awareness, and delivering best practices for investigations. In addition, the EC3 has built a community of experts from all sectors of society to combat and prevent cybercrime and online child sexual abuse. In July 2017, two significant law enforcement operations resulted in the shutdown of the infrastructure of an underground criminal economy responsible for the trading of over 350,000 illicit commodities including drugs, firearms, and cybercrime malware. The operation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Dutch National Police, with the support of Europol.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Travel in, around, and between cities is possible via a highly developed national public transportation system, an extensive system of bike paths, and by automobile/motorcycle on a modern highway system. 

A valid U.S. driver’s license is valid for use in the Netherlands for up to 180 days.

Visitors and new residents should be familiar with the meaning of Dutch road signs, as these can vary significantly from those in the U.S. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment has produced an English language version of “Road Traffic Signs and Regulations in the Netherlands” that provides information on driving regulations and road signage. 

The Netherlands has strict drinking and driving laws, allowing only 220 micrograms per liter of exhaled breath or 0.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. If a driver has held their license for under five years, the alcohol blood limit is 88 micrograms per liter of exhaled breath, or 0.2 grams per liter of blood. It is also illegal to ride a bicycle when over the limit. Fines for biking while drunk range up to €140.

Speed limits are strictly enforced via radar and through a countrywide network of traffic cameras/radar units. The maximum speed limit on highways is 130 km/hour, with a highway speed limit of 100 km/hour in most urban areas. Secondary roads and some urban-area highways have a speed limit of 80 km/hour. The speed limit in towns and cities is either 70 km/hour or 50 km/hour, with 30 km/hour zones in smaller residential areas. The government has reduced speed limits on certain roads near cities to reduce air pollution. Some electronic speed limit signs allow authorities to implement variable speed limits depending on traffic conditions.

Bicyclists are strongly encouraged to wear helmets. Helmets are mandatory for motorcyclists and individuals operating scooters larger than 50cc. Bicyclists and pedestrians should be particularly cautious during the winter months, when paths, roads, and especially bridges can be icy and extremely slippery. Accidents involving bicyclists and vehicles, or bicycles alone, are common and can result in serious injury.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation in the Netherlands is modern, safe, and convenient. Lanes in the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams, and taxis. Pedestrians should be mindful of trams. Serious – and sometimes fatal – accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists colliding with trams occur each year.

Rail transportation is often a convenient alternative to driving, particularly in the areas around Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Rail network information is available online.

Other Travel Conditions

Pedestrians should not walk along bicycle paths, which are often adjacent to the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed The Hague and Amsterdam as being MEDIUM-threat locations for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

International terrorism continues to be a considerable concern in the Netherlands. The terror attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland, and the UK in 2017 have put all of western and central Europe at an increased level of vigilance. Both al-Qa’ida and ISIS have indicated their intention to carry out attacks in European countries, including the Netherlands. Although the Dutch government is unaware of any attacks being prepared, they acknowledge that Islamist extremists continue to view the country as a target. The Dutch government has been increasingly vigilant against radical Islamist groups and their surrogates who have demonstrated an intent and capability to operate on Dutch soil. The terrorism threat is enhanced by the possibility of violence perpetrated by radicalized lone actors. The Dutch government assesses that the threat of international terrorism against the country is “substantial,” the second-highest possible ranking, meaning that there is a real chance of an attack in the Netherlands. 

As of November 2017, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) estimates around 285 people have travelled from the Netherlands to Syria and Iraq, 55 of whom have been killed. The number of returnees is around 50, and the number of individuals from the Netherlands who are in Syria and Iraq for jihadist purposes is estimated at 180. 

The Netherlands continues to respond effectively to the global terrorist threat in the areas of border and transportation security, counterterrorist financing, countering violent extremism (CVE), and bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. The Netherlands has a national counterterrorism strategy, which combines preventive and suppressive measures. The Dutch authorities have reviewed their security measures with some cities implementing Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) around crowded vulnerable locations. In October, the government announced an increase of 15 million euros in the annual counterterrorism budget and an additional 180 million euros in the national police starting in 2018.

Significant law enforcement and judicial actions related to counterterrorism in 2017 included:

  • On November 13, a district court in Rotterdam convicted a Dutch woman for preparing and promoting acts of terrorism but acquitted her of participation in a terrorist organization. She traveled to Syria in 2015. She was sentenced to two years in prison, with 13 months suspended.

  • On November 2, a district court in Rotterdam convicted a man for preparing to commit a terrorist attack and sentenced him to four years in prison. Authorities arrested him in December 2016 after hearing of plans to attack the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam. Police found an AK-47, ammunition, illegal heavy fireworks, and instructions on how to make a bomb in his residence. 

  • On September 13, the Minister of Justice and Security announced the revocation in absentia of Dutch citizenship for four foreign terrorist fighters. This marked the first time the government used new legislation, which entered into law March 1. All four individuals are presumed to be in Syria.  

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed The Hague and Amsterdam as being LOW-threat locations for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

Given the diversity of the population, political events that take place around the globe often result in demonstrations and protests in the Netherlands, particularly in The Hague, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam. U.S. citizens should be mindful that protests intended to be peaceful can become confrontational and violent quickly or without notice. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations if possible and to exercise caution.

In The Hague, most protests are held at the Malieveld, a field adjacent to Central Station. Typical demonstration points include embassies, Parliament, the Foreign Ministry, and the Peace Palace.

Protests in Amsterdam are common at the Museumplein – where the U.S. Consulate General is located – and Dam Square. The majority of protests have not led to any civil disorder. 

Written notice for demonstrations should usually be submitted and approved by local authorities. The authorities can impose conditions or even ban an event if it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, or serious disruption to the life of the community. 

There have been a number of sporadic violent confrontations between right- and left-wing extremists. These have prominently occurred at rallies organized by the extreme-right. 

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Though religious/ethnic undertones exist in some protests, these messages are usually the result of outside factors and not religious or ethnic tensions within the Netherlands. 

Religious institutions, including those of the Jewish and Islamic communities, have been the target of vandalism, graffiti, and isolated threats. There is tension between some local authorities and Salafist mosques over accusations of radicalization and funding, in particular from foreign states. 

Within the Turkish-Dutch community, there are threats and clashes between Turkish supporters of the Turkish government, opposition groups, and Kurds. 

Post-specific Concerns

Drug-related Crimes

U.S. citizens have died or been injured while using marijuana, hashish, and other “soft drugs.” Marijuana is a controlled substance, and possession is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine. Visitors are warned that marijuana may contain higher levels of THC than usually found in the U.S., often exacerbating the drug’s effects and causing impairment. Visitors are cautioned against using drugs and should pay particular attention to the use of GHB and Rohypnol (so-called “date-rape” drugs), which can be mixed with beverages, rendering the victim vulnerable.

The use of illegal “soft drugs” has been tolerated when bought in small quantities for personal consumption at licensed “coffee shops.” “Coffee shops” are a haven for petty criminals who prey on tourists and those under the influence of drugs. People who visit “coffee shops” have become victims of pickpocketing, identity theft, sexual assault, and other crimes. Additionally, many “coffee shops” and other locations are known to sell other illegal, hard drugs (psychotropic mushrooms).

Street drug sales of cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy) are common in Amsterdam, and dealers will approach tourists. Heroin is also available but less common. Many street dealers also sell counterfeit drugs that can be harmful. Amsterdam police have reported an increase in white heroin being sold as cocaine. This has resulted in deaths and medical emergencies among tourists who thought they had purchased cocaine instead of heroin.

During the last quarter of 2017, the Netherlands was the intended recipient of approximately 20 tons of cocaine. Other factors indicate that drug traffickers in the Netherlands are also becoming involved with synthetic opioids trafficked to the U.S. via the Dark Web. 

In 2017, the Dutch National Police reported at least 28 drug-related murders and eight murders connected to corruption and organized crime. 

Police Response

Police response and capabilities are comparable to other Western European countries. The police are widely seen as professional and have low tolerance for corruption.   

Smaller police stations close to the public during evening hours. The police strive to arrive on the scene of an emergency within 15 minutes for at least 90% of calls. Generally, Dutch police will not respond to traffic accidents unless there are injuries or a crime reported, i.e., a hit and run or driving under the influence.

Crime Victim Assistance

The emergency telephone number is 112 and is for all emergencies. Operators answer in Dutch but most speak English. The telephone number for non-emergencies or police assistance is 0900-8844.

A police report can be filed at any police station and will be written in Dutch. In most cases, police request that reports be filed on-line.

American citizens who are arrested or detained by the police, or who are victims of crime, may seek assistance from the American Citizens Services (ACS) unit of the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam, which provides all consular services throughout the Netherlands. If you need to contact the Consulate about any emergency involving a U.S. citizen, please call: +31(0)20 575 5309 between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM. Outside of business hours, please call the Embassy duty officer at: +31 (0)70-310 2209.  These numbers are NOT for regular services or visa inquiries.

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Medical Emergencies

Modern medical services and facilities are widely available. The national emergency number is 112. If the situation warrants, seek assistance from a hospital. Hospitals are staffed and equipped to deal with emergency situations.

The national poison hotline is +31 (0)30-274-8888.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The Netherlands Association of Hospitals has compiled a list of all Dutch hospitals at www.ziekenhuis.nl.

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

For non-emergency medical assistance, visitors are obliged to consult a general practitioner (in Dutch: huisarts) before attempting to obtain non-emergency medical treatment from a specialist. Medical specialists will generally only see patients who have been referred to them by a huisarts. If staying in a hotel, contact the reception desk, and they will direct you to the doctor assigned to that hotel. If staying with a friends/family, contact their huisarts.

The Hague area has its own after-hours medical service (SMASH) that is available for non-emergency medical situations. A SMASH medical appointment can be made at: +31 (0)70-346-9669. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has its own 24-hour medical services office at: +31 (0)20-649-2566. The service center is located on the upper floor near check-in counter 16 of Terminal 2. The huisarts phone number for Amsterdam is +31 (0)88-003-0600 and for Rotterdam is +31 (0)90-513-8039. They provide equivalent after-hour urgent care as SMASH.

Insurance Guidance

Prior to traveling, U.S. citizens are strongly urged to confirm with their medical insurance company whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses. U.S. citizens who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be essential when a medical emergency occurs. Emergency services (including transportation by ambulance) require fees, and patients will be billed for any services rendered.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Country Council in the Netherlands is active, meeting twice annually. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information

Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy The Hague

John Adams Park 1

2244 BZ Wassenaar, NL

Office Hours: 0815-1700

U.S. Consulate General Amsterdam

Museumplein 19

1071 DJ Amsterdam

The Netherlands

Office Hours: 0830-1630

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

If calling from outside of the Netherlands, please omit the “0” after the +31 country code.

The Hague and Amsterdam are +6 hours EST.

U.S. Embassy Switchboard: +31 (0)70-310-2209

Website: https://nl.usembassy.gov/

U.S. Consulate General Amsterdam

U.S. Citizens with emergencies, please call 020-575-5309

Outside of office hours, contact 070-310-2209

Outside of Netherlands: +31 (0)20 565-5309 or +31 (0)70 310-2209

Website: https://nl.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulate/amsterdam/

Embassy Guidance

All citizenship, American Citizen Services, and visa services for the Netherlands are handled by the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam.

U.S. citizens traveling to the Netherlands should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Netherlands Country Information Sheet