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Hungary 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Hungary

 

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

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Budapest 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 Budapest as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Hungary-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

Hungary's overall crime rate for 2017 decreased significantly compared to 2016 in all major crime categories. Non-confrontational crime against property showed a major decrease. Property crimes (theft, robbery) decreased, as did violent criminal acts against persons (aggravated assault). Per Hungarian law, non-violent property crimes with damages less than HUF 50,000 (approximately U.S. $186) are not reported in the crime statistics, as those cases are considered minor offenses. Crimes committed against Americans are generally crimes of opportunity, not crimes targeting Americans specifically.

Street crimes (pickpocketing, petty thefts, thefts from unattended vehicles, vandalism) are the most frequently reported crimes. Budapest's major train stations, public transportation systems (tram, subway, bus), and most tourist-frequented areas are popular venues of such thefts.

Reports of overcharging at some restaurants, clubs, and nightspots, especially in those areas of the city frequented by tourists, are not uncommon. The consumption (or honeypot) scam is a popular practice in which recruiters seek out men to meet women in clubs (or the women themselves approach their victims). Those who choose to buy drinks or spend time with the women are charged exorbitant fees. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.” Victims have reported that club bouncers are intimidating and have escorted club patrons to ATMs or to their hotels to obtain money. Police have shut down clubs for this activity. If someone becomes a victim, the police should be called immediately; however, that will not necessarily absolve the customer of paying the bill. Before entering these clubs, customers should always ask about prices.

Violent crime rates are relatively low in Hungary. There was a major decrease of homicides from 224 (2016) to 178 (2017). A large percentage of homicides are committed as a result of escalated domestic violence; successful investigation rate is high since the suspects are known.

Residential crimes are a significant issue and remain a key public concern, despite the fact their numbers have further decreased between 2016 and 2017. Home alarm monitoring systems continue to serve as the most popular security deterrent for home defense.

Twice in 2016, police officers were directly targeted in crimes. Both cases were pending court trials at the end of 2017.

  • On October 26, officers at the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation attempted to serve a search warrant at the home of a leader of far-right extremist group Hungarian National Front. When investigators entered the house, the 76-year old leader pointed a military rifle at investigators, resulting in a shoot-out. A police officer died on scene. The suspect, who was also wounded, was arrested. The Hungarian Police and the Counter-Terrorism Center (TEK) conducted a countrywide raid against members of group. Several suspects were arrested, and illegally-kept firearms and explosive materials were seized. As a result, the Hungarian National Front was eliminated. According to partially-confirmed media reports, the group was founded in the late 1990s and held military trainings on the leader’s private property using airsoft guns to simulate and practice firefights.

  • On September 24, an improvised explosive device packed with nails detonated on Teréz Korut, near the intersection of Oktogon and Andrássy Utca, in central Budapest. Video footage suggests the blast was directed at two police officers as they passed on foot patrol. The device was hidden in the doorway of a shuttered shop, and the attacker waited in an adjacent doorway. Both officers were seriously injured, and nearby structures sustained some physical damage. No civilians were injured. The action appeared to have been an isolated incident. The Hungarian government deemed the crime a terrorist attack; however, the motive for the bombing remains unclear. Within weeks of the attack, a 25-year old male was apprehended. He has denied his involvement in the incident.

Organized crime group activities remained the same in 2017. They control most prostitution operations, stolen car rings, trafficking in human beings, human smuggling, and narcotics/tobacco trafficking. The organized crime division of the Hungarian National Police, in partnership with a U.S. Embassy-supported task force of U.S. law enforcement officers, continues to combat the problem of organized crime.

Transportation-Safety Situation

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

Road Safety and Road Conditions

In 2017, there were somewhat less vehicle accidents, but there has been a minor rise in the number of accidents causing personal injuries and fatalities compared to 2016. Full year statistics have not been published. However, when the first nine months’ figures of 2016 are compared to those of 2017, the decrease in the overall number of accidents (12,442-> 12,178) is visible. There was a minor increase in vehicular fatalities (393 –> 396). The number of drunk drivers apprehended showed an increase by 7.6%, similarly to that of driving under the influence of some kind of narcotic substance. Speeding and reckless driving remains a concern.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Recommended Taxi services to use when traveling in Budapest:

  • City Taxi: +36-1-211-1111 or download the City Taxi App.

  • Taxify: Please download the Taxify App.

  • Fotaxi: +36-1-222-2222 or download the Fotaxi App.

For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.”

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Budapest 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

In 2016, the Hungarian government implemented several security counter-measures at its southern borders -- raising security fences, ordering non-stop patrolling by joint forces of the National Police and military -- to prevent waves of migrants from entering the country illegally. The counter-measures were a success, and migrants, primarily from the Middle and Far East, were stuck in the Balkans (Serbia). Many who circumvented border defenses were captured by Hungarian police and military forces and escorted back to Serbia. Most migrants/refugees crossing the border intend to transit Hungary en route to Germany and Western Europe. Investigative evidence showed terrorists arrived hidden within the large, uncontrollable immigrant wave of 2015. The Hungarian government reported that following the erection of the technical border defense systems and non-stop patrolling at the border no terrorists have entered the Schengen zone through Hungary. Furthermore, the Hungarian government has started to further strengthen the border defense system by erecting a second fence line, installing a heat sensor system, and a 3,000-person newly recruited and trained independent border guard police force have been stationed permanently at the borders.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Budapest as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

After the downfall of the Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard), an extreme, ethnic, nationalist political group established in August 2007 by Jobbik, and dissolved by court in 2008, no other extremist formations have been established that could draw public attention and recruit members. Since the last parliamentary elections in 2014, Jobbik repositioned itself as a center-right party, but despite all efforts to make the party more moderate and presentable in the political arena, Jobbik is still considered far-right.

Civil Unrest 

In 2017, there were no political or other demonstrations that could mobilize more than a few thousand people. The Embassy strongly recommends that American citizens avoid large public gatherings, especially political rallies and demonstrations, due to the potential for violence. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

In recent years, spring flooding has closed roadways and has affected low lying towns and areas along the Danube and Tisza Rivers.

In January 29, 2011, a 4.8 earthquake near Oroszlány damaged buildings in Komárom-Esztergom County and was felt in Budapest. Minor cracks reportedly appeared in buildings, and chimneys were tilted in Komárom, Pest, and Fejér counties. No injuries were reported, and no one was evacuated.

Critical Infrastructure

On October 4, 2010, the reservoir at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar alumina factory released a wave of toxic sludge up to three meters (nine feet) high that inundated Kolontar, Devecser, Somlovasarhely, Somlojeno, Apacatorma, Tuskevar, and Kisberzsenyc. Some 600,000-700,000 million cubic meters (158-185 million gallons) of sludge were released, affecting 40 square km (15 square miles) along the path of the flow. At least eight people were killed, and more than 123 others were injured, many with severe chemical burns. According to officials, the released amount represented only about 2-4% of the total amount in the reservoir. Prompt action neutralized the alkalinity of the sludge before it reached the Danube River.

Personal Identity Concerns

Although the public mood is strongly anti-migrant as a result of the massive and long ongoing government propaganda, foreigners are rarely impacted. There is no significant presence of extreme ethnic nationalist groups. The activities (rallies, demonstrations) of the few that still remain are strictly limited and monitored by police. As a result of the Hungarian government’s massive campaign against illegal immigrants, which depicted certain nationalities as a prime concern for local citizens, no violent actions have been reported against them; however, reports of derogatory comments made during interactions with locals have increased.

Drug-related Crimes

Hungary has been identified as a transit country for drugs from Turkey and Asia to Europe. Police report that Hungary is increasingly becoming a consumer of drugs, particularly among teens, who primarily prefer synthetic drugs.

Police Response

During the peak tourist season, police patrolling major tourist areas are often accompanied by multi-lingual students. Police also have a tourist information office that operates every day from 8:00 AM-8:00 PM. It is located downtown at Suto Street 2, District 5; it is able to receive complaints and render assistance in English and German.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Report all incidents of police detention or harassment to U.S. Embassy Budapest, American Citizen Services at: (36)-1-475-4164, Monday-Friday during normal working hours or after hours at (36)-1-475-4444.

Crime Victim Assistance

If you are the victim of crime, call 112 to summon police, ambulance, or fire emergency assistance. It is also recommended that American citizens notify the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services Unit. U.S. citizens are encouraged to report any situations where they are the victims of personal crime to the U.S. Embassy in Budapest.

Additionally, the Hungarian Ministry of National Economy and the Hungarian National Police have a hotline for tourists who are scammed at restaurants and clubs. The hotline number is +36-1/438-8080, and operates 24-hours a day with English and German capability.

There is also a tourism information line, operating 24-hours a day, that is toll free (+36-80-660-044) from Hungary and (+36-1/550-044) from abroad.

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

Police/Security Agencies

The largest police force in Hungary is the Stand-by Police (Riot Police). Their officers take part in border patrolling, street patrolling to support local uniformed police, securing public events and gatherings, including political and other demonstrations. The Riot Police have countrywide jurisdiction and can be deployed anywhere for police duties. The police explosive ordnance disposal service, personal, and building protection for high-level foreign protectees and some government ministry facilities fall under their jurisdiction as well.

The Counter-Terrorism Centre (TEK), founded in 2010 with the personal trustee of the Prime Minister in charge, remains independent from the Hungarian National Police, having to answer directly to the government through the minister of interior. TEK has primary jurisdiction for carrying out countrywide SWAT operations.

In 2017, border protection was carried out by the Hungarian Police, the Counter-Terrorism Centre, and the Hungarian Defense Forces, as the border police departments were insufficient in manpower and resources to provide non-stop duty along the new fence line. No police departments were exempt from the extra duties, and all uniformed officers participated. This put a heavy burden on police manpower. The lack of proper accommodation, equipment, clothing, and rest/relaxation possibilities led to over-exhaustion and widespread illness among the officers. The Hungarian government established a 3,000-member fully independent border police force, but recruitment continues as more is needed.

Medical Emergencies

For emergency/non-emergency patient transportation: +36-1-311-1666 can be used.

SOS Hungary Medical & Assistance Service (a private medical service company) can be used for transportation service: +36-1-240-0475.

Police, ambulance, and fire emergency assistance: 112

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

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

Available Air Ambulance Services

The need to transport via air ambulance will be determined by medical professionals at the scene. A list of medical evacuation companies can be found on the Embassy Doctors and Hospitals web page.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Budapest Country Council meets four times a year. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy

Szabadság tér 12

H-1054 Budapest, Hungary

Embassy operating hours are Mon-Fri 0800-1700, but some sections of the Embassy may have different hours. All offices are closed on Saturday, Sunday, and on American and Hungarian holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Local time: GMT +1

During office hours: (36-1) 475-4400

After-hours emergency calls: (36-1) 475-4703/4924

Website: http://hungary.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in Hungary are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency. Travelers are encouraged to visit the Embassy website for the most current information.

Additional Resources

Hungary Information Sheet

Tourist Advisory from U.S. Embassy Budapest