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Morocco 2018 Crime & Safety Report: Casablanca

Near East > Morocco > Casablanca

 

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

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Consulate in Casablanca 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 Casablanca as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Morocco-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

Media reporting and anecdotal observations indicate that the frequency and intensity of crime in Casablanca is similar to other large cities in North Africa. The most common crimes are petty crimes, such as aggressive panhandling, pickpocketing, theft from unoccupied vehicles, robberies, purse snatching, and burglaries. Criminals focus on high-traffic and high-density areas such as tourist sites, markets, medinas, and 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 American tourists and visitors are reported in Marrakech, Casablanca, Tangier, Fez, and Rabat. These crimes generally consist of pickpocketing, bag snatching, and muggings. The use of edged weapons (knives, razors) has occurred in the commission of crimes; the use of firearms is very rare.

The government of Morocco’s 2017 crime statistics record 559,035 reported cases and 583,344 cases sent to courts. Of those cases, 38,358 were perpetrated by women and 22,236 were perpetrated by minors. While 9.72% of total cases were violent crimes, the report shows that rates of violent crimes have decreased by the following percentages: 18% in murders, 3% in rapes, and 4% in robberies. The government reports solving 92% of cases, a 2% increase over 2016. 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.

General theft and residential burglaries are commonplace in low-income neighborhoods and occasionally occur in more affluent neighborhoods. Generally speaking, burglars try to avoid confrontation and commit break-ins during daylight hours. Many wealthier residents have secured their homes with perimeter lighting, security grilles, and alarm systems. Some homeowners hire security guards. Apartment dwellers should consider the possibility of intruders gaining access via adjacent balconies or structures and ensure that there are functional locks or other protection for areas vulnerable to unauthorized entry.

ATMs are generally safe to use if normal precautions are observed.

  • One notable case of stealing credit cards was recorded in Tangier in 2017. The operation consisted of stealing credit cards and getting owners’ personal information to try them later on ATMs. Following this arrest, the Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale (DGSN) advised ATM users to stay wary while withdrawing money and file immediate reports in case of credit card hacking.

  • During 2016, there were 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 are focused on completing your transaction at an ATM. It is advisable to use ATMs that are attached to, or inside, banks. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime remains limited to common scams requesting money upfront for promised services or chances to obtain more money with a down payment. However, cyber fraud is common in Ouad Zem, where many cases of sexual blackmail have taken place via the internet. Almost all of the blackmail was perpetrated against foreigners, most of who were from Persian Gulf countries.

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 government. The legal status and the issue of sovereignty remain unresolved for the Western Sahara. The area was long the site of armed conflict between Moroccan government forces and the POLISARIO Front, which continues to seek independence for the territory. However, a cease-fire has been in effect since 1991 in the UN-administered area. Morocco claims sovereignty over the Western Sahara and closely monitors and controls access to the territory. There have been instances in which U.S. citizens suspected of being participants in political protests or of supporting NGOs that are critical of Moroccan policies have been expelled from, or not been allowed to enter, the Western Sahara.

There are thousands of unexploded mines in the Western Sahara and in areas of Mauritania adjacent to the Western Saharan border. Exploding mines are occasionally reported, and they have caused death and injury.

Transportation-Safety Situation

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

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Moroccan roads vary from modern high-speed toll roads to secondary roads that may be poorly maintained. 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, more than 11 Moroccans die in motor vehicle accidents every day; the fatality rate for motor vehicle accidents is approximately twice that of the U.S. Driving in Morocco can be erratic, aggressive, and even reckless. It is common to see vehicles driving counter-flow and ignoring traffic signs/signals. 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 older and poorly maintained. Trucks are often overladen and poorly maintained; it is common to see them overturned or broken down along highways. Pedestrians often walk into traffic without looking or intentionally dart between moving cars. Riders on mopeds and motorcycles routinely split lanes and do not yield to vehicles making legal turns.

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. It is common for police to stand in the road and wave vehicles over. Checkpoints are common when entering towns or cities. These are in place for security reasons, and foreign visitors are rarely questioned.

Drivers are allowed to use cellular phones only 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. Traffic enforcement authorities sometimes ask for bribes; valid traffic fines will be accompanied by paperwork. Legitimate fines can be paid on the spot. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Criminals have thrown rocks off overpasses onto cars on the highway between Rabat and Casablanca. The goal is to get the drivers to pull over where they are robbed at knifepoint. Local media reported six of these incidents in 2017; however, there may have been more that were not reported. Media coverage of these incidents results in a robust police deployment on overpasses between the two cities.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation is assessed as reliable in Morocco. However, drivers often do not follow road safety rules or traffic laws, and many vehicles are not maintained. Travelers are advised to keep an eye on their belongings when using any type of public transport.

Some ride-hailing services are now available in Casablanca, although their status is in doubt given fierce opposition by taxi unions and the tenuous legal status of their operations. Taxis will team up against drivers they believe are working for ride-hailing services, forcing them off the road or boxing them in until the passengers get out and take one of the offending taxis. Police generally refuse to intervene, essentially allowing the taxi drivers to enforce street justice. This problem is particularly acute at transportation hubs like the airport and train stations, major hotels, tourist sites, and shopping malls. Privately-hired drivers and tour operators have been caught up in these incidents that are frightening and confusing, but passengers have not been injured. For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.”

Petit taxis are common in most cities and hold up to three people. Petit taxis should 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. Safety features might be missing. Furthermore, you may have to hail multiple taxis because drivers are not obliged to agree to take you to your destination. Taxis are not available late at night or early in the morning.

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

“Airport taxis” are also white, with teal lettering, and are often newer minivans or sedans.

Public buses are available in Casablanca; however, RSO recommends that visitors avoid them. They are often poorly maintained, and drivers are aggressive and reckless. The buses get particularly crowded in the summertime, to the point that riders hang out of open doors and windows.

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 because roads become more dangerous overnight, and travelers have been robbed and/or sexually assaulted while sleeping.

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

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

Airport/Aviation Conditions

All international airports in Morocco meet International Civil Aviation Organization standards for safety and security. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Morocco’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation security standards for oversight of Morocco’s air carrier operations.

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

Terrorist attacks took place in Morocco in 2003, 2007, and 2011. These attacks targeted tourist sites, Moroccan government facilities, and the U.S. Consulate and Public Affairs annex in Casablanca. Numerous people were killed and wounded in these attacks. The potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens exists in Morocco. Moroccan authorities continue to disrupt groups seeking to attack U.S. or Western-affiliated and Moroccan government targets, arresting numerous individuals associated with international terrorist groups.

According to open source reporting, approximately 1,600 Moroccans have traveled to conflict zones to fight alongside extremist groups. Many may try to return to Morocco, especially as successful anti-ISIS efforts in Syria, Iraq, and Libya progress. Moroccan security services have gone to great lengths to intercept these people at international border crossings.

Moroccan security services have proven to be proactive and effective in identifying and neutralizing terrorists and terror cells. According to local media reports, the Moroccan government has broken up hundreds of terrorist cells, many of which had affiliation with ISIS. For more information on Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts, please review OSAC’s analytical report “Terrorism & Political Unrest in Morocco.”

With indications that such groups still seek to carry out attacks in Morocco, it is important for U.S. citizens to be keenly aware of their surroundings and adhere to prudent security practices such as avoiding predictable travel patterns and maintaining a low profile. Establishments that are identifiable with the U.S. are potential targets for attacks: clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, movie theaters, U.S.-branded establishments, and other public areas. Targets may also include establishments where activities that may offend religious sensitivities occur, such as casinos or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed. Visitors should remain particularly alert and informed during periods of heightened tension in the country and the region. All U.S. citizens are urged report any suspicious incidents or problems immediately to Moroccan authorities and the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Crowds of several hundred individuals gathered near the Consulate following the December 2017 announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In September 2012, following the release of an online film entitled “The Innocence of Muslims,” several hundred protestors converged on the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca.

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

Regional and global events that inflame public opinion can incite large demonstrations. Demonstrations in Morocco occur frequently and are typically focused on political, economic, or social issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may take place in the major cities.

  • Demonstrations occurred on a regular basis through August 2017 in al Hoceima. These demonstrations began in October 2016 in reaction to the death of a fish vendor whose product had been seized by local authorities. Demonstrations rapidly expanded to include long-standing grievances related to jobs, roads, universities, hospitals, and investment in the region. A few of these demonstrations turned violent but have been mostly been contained to al Hoceima.

    All demonstrations require a government permit, but spontaneous unauthorized demonstrations, which have greater potential for violence, can occur. In addition, unions or groups may organize strikes to protest an emerging issue or government policy.

    Religious/Ethnic Violence

    The overwhelming majority of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims and are tolerant of other religions. Longstanding churches and synagogues exist in many major cities, and religious and/or ethnic violence is quite uncommon.

    The government places strict controls on religious preaching; and local Imams are under close state control. Unapproved proselytizing is strictly prohibited, and as recently as 2017, proselytizing evangelical Christians have been deported. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Putting Your Faith in Travel: Security Implications.”

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

    Environmental hazards mainly revolve around flooding and occasional earthquakes.

    The rainy season (November-March) often results in flash floods in the mountainous and desert areas. These floods can cause landslides and damage roads, making them impassable. In addition, strong rain 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. There have been damaging earthquakes in the north (near al Hoceima), and the south (in Agadir). Strong earthquakes are relatively rare but can be extremely destructive.

    Critical Infrastructure Concerns

    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” of major cities, can be hazardous. Building collapses occasionally occur.

  • In December, a large wall collapsed onto the adjacent sidewalk and street, killing seven people in Casablanca.

    Economic Concerns

    The government of Morocco has made considerable strides in improving its International Property Rights (IPR) regime, including combatting counterfeit goods. Morocco has signed a multi-national treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). In 2014, Parliament approved an IPR law that streamlines the patent application process and consolidates enforcement of IPR by improving procedures for the destruction of counterfeit goods, enlarging the scope of border investigations, and providing complainants with enhanced judicial remedies through civil and criminal courts to defend their rights.

    Morocco’s capacity to detect and address internet-based IPR violations remains inadequate in some respects. Counterfeiting of consumer goods is still common, and U.S firms allege that the use of pirated software is widespread. Morocco has turned into a hub for making or receiving counterfeited goods. The goods consist of clothes, appliances, food, software, computer hardware, and auto parts arriving mainly from Asia, through the Tanger-Med and Casablanca seaports. Morocco’s IPR legal framework is strong, but as Morocco continues to strengthen its enforcement, companies must implement internal control mechanisms to counter this type of threat.

    Personal Identity Concerns

    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. At night, particularly, avoid areas that are poorly illuminated or are secluded.

    Although a law banning any form of sexual harassment has been implemented, harassment of women remains somewhat prevalent. Many Western women report persistent harassment in public places including streets, parks, stores, cafes, and restaurants. Teachers at the American schools have reported that witnesses on the street fail to intervene when they are being harassed by Moroccan men. Visitors, especially females, should make a concerted effort to travel in pairs and avoid walking alone at night.

    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 the smaller cities and rural areas but may also occur in urban areas late at night. Sexual assaults do occur, many of which are unreported because the victims are afraid of being shunned by their friends and families. Sexual assaults have also taken place in broad daylight and at public events with many witnesses.

  • In August 2017, a teenager was gang raped on a bus in Casablanca by a group of boys. Bystanders videotaped the attack, and the bus driver did not stop or seek police assistance. The attack caused a major public outcry, and arrests were made within several days of the attack.

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender 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.

  • In 2016, two teenage girls were arrested for engaging in homosexual activity in Marrakech when a family member saw them kissing and hugging on a rooftop. The charges were eventually dropped by the local prosecutor.

Drug-related Crimes

The drug trade is thoroughly 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 who funnel their product from South America into sub-Saharan countries and into Europe. The 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 will be dealt with harshly.

Many homeless individuals in large cities are addicted to huffing solvents such as gasoline, paint, and glue. These individuals often engage in criminal activity or collapse on sidewalks or streets in drug-induced dazes.

Police Response

Law enforcement officials are well trained, with many attending international training programs. However, 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 if crimes are reported in a timely manner. In general, however, the police primarily rely on confessions to determine culpability. All police officers speak French or Arabic, but English translation may not be readily available.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If detained, ask to speak with a U.S. Consulate representative immediately by contacting ACS at the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca at 212-522-64-20-46.

Police harassment of visitors and foreign nationals is rare. Any American experiencing police harassment should contact ACS at the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca at 212-522-64-20-46.

Crime Victim Assistance

Report crimes to the local police and contact the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca at 212-522-64-20-46. The emergency line in Morocco is 190 when calling from a mobile phone, and dial 91 from a landline. Response is dependable. For local first responders, please refer to the Consulate’s Emergency Assistance page.

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. Victims are often present during interrogations of suspects; this can result in an uncomfortable situation for a victim. In the event a visitor is the victim of a crime and requires assistance, the visitor should contact ACS at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca.

Some U.S. citizens report that police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns, 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. The quality of interpreting from Arabic to English can vary, and for some U.S. citizen victims, this has caused a problem.

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. However, 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 to 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

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

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 consider informing themselves of insurance and flight 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. Casablanca is the largest city in North Africa, is considered a regional hub for exports, and is home to the American Chamber of Commerce. Morocco is the only country in Africa to have a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. As the Country Council is jointly managed by RSO Rabat and RSO Casablanca, OSAC inquiries can be directed to both the RSOs. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa Team with any questions.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

8, Boulevard Moulay Youssef

Casablanca, Morocco

Consulate Contact Numbers

Switchboard: +212-522-642-099

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

Website: https://ma.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulate/casablanca/

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.

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

Additional Resources

Morocco Country Information Sheet