Moldova 2011 OSAC Crime and Safety Report
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Moldova is a relatively safe country. The U.S. Department of State characterizes Chisinau as a medium threat post for crime. In order to avoid any potential incidents, visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any mid-sized to large U.S. city. Those who take normal security precautions will most likely enjoy a safe stay in Moldova.
Pick Pocketing and Petty Theft
As with many places in the region, pick pocketing is a threat in Moldova. It is most common in crowded areas in major population centers. Pick pocketing in Chisinau appears most common on public transportation and in bars and restaurants. Large amounts of cash and expensive jewelry should be secured in a hotel safe or left at home; be cautious of flashing such valuables. Vandalism against vehicles is uncommon but occasionally reported.
Such crimes are relatively rare in Moldova. None in the past year has involved violence. When such offenses do take place, they are typically verbal assaults. The best defense against such crimes is to create distance and relocate oneself to a safe place.
Roads in Moldova are comparatively underdeveloped for the region. The roads are certainly amongst the poorest in Europe. The U.S. Embassy Chisinau urges great caution when driving at night. Many Moldovan pedestrians dress in dark clothing and walk along, or even in, streets. Visitors should be advised that Moldovan drivers often fail to take appropriate safety measures. There are many new drivers in Moldova. Travelers should be cautious of such drivers, who occasionally drive erratically, including driving at speeds above or below the posted limit. All visitors should note that Moldova revised its drinking and driving laws in early 2009. Presently, any person suspected of consuming alcohol before driving will be taken to the nearest police station for investigation. Individuals with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) between .03 and .079 will be charged with an administrative offense and fined. BACs at .08 or above are prosecuted criminally and can result in substantial fines and/or incarceration. U.S. Embassy Chisinau policy forbids the consumption of any alcohol before driving.
In past years, a serious concern was the removal of manholes from streets. Drivers and pedestrians were compelled to watch closely so as to avoid driving or stepping into what could be an extremely dangerous hole. While such thefts are less common today, this advice remains sound, as is general awareness when driving in inclement weather. Clearing of streets after rainstorms or heavy snowfall is sporadic in Chisinau and rare outside of the capital.
The overall threat of political violence in Moldova is medium. To date, there have been no incidents of terrorism directed towards American interests in Moldova, and incidents of anti-American sentiment are exceptionally rare. Public protests and demonstrations do occur. Permits are required for most forms of public demonstrations and such permits are easily obtainable. In general, protests are preceded by permit requests. The process for such requests requires that the police inform affected parties of the protest. The police appear to always fulfill this obligation.
Organized crime exists in Moldova but is very rarely violent. Such violence almost never affects the international community.
The threat of indigenous terrorism in Moldova is low.
The threat of transnational terrorism is medium. In October 2009, a grenade attack in Chisinau's central square was rumored to have been carried out by an individual or group determined to undermine the Moldovan government, but was later determined to have been carried out by teenage miscreants.
The Embassy works closely with Moldovan security services on counter-terrorism issues.
Moldova's location makes it ideal for smuggling (commercial goods are the items most frequently smuggled to avoid customs charges) into the European Union. Such activity is common but rarely impacts international visitors.
In April 2009, Moldova experienced its most serious civil unrest in a decade. A large protest degenerated into vandalism and looting, following disputed parliamentary elections. The police response was considered heavy handed by many, as several civilians were killed and many more injured. Many police were also injured. While subsequent political developments appear to have quelled much of the discontent which fomented this demonstration, the nation's evolving political situation is unpredictable. A November 2010 election kept most of the previous government in power and thereby should contribute to stability in the country. Visitors should closely monitor Consular information concerning issues of potential concern.
Police response to crimes, especially in areas widely frequented by foreigners, is good but hampered by a lack of resources. The Moldovan police are particularly capable at basic policing, but their ability to carry out complex investigations is hindered by a lack of necessary equipment. The Embassy is working with the Moldovan Government to improve policing abilities.
Solicitation of bribes by authorities at all levels continues to be a concern. Drivers stopped by police for infractions are reminded that such offenses are subject to official adjudication. Bribery should not be condoned, offered, or participated in.
If a visitor experiences trouble or becomes a victim of a crime while in Moldova, the number to call for police assistance is 902. U.S citizens in Moldova should also note that most authorities only speak the state language or Russian. If you need to report a crime and are unable to communicate with authorities because of the language barrier, the U.S. Embassy can assist by translating your concerns. The embassy local guard force operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and all guards speak English. The 24-hour number of the embassy is (373) (22) 408-300. If you experience a fire emergency in Moldova, the number to contact the fire department is 903. The number for emergencies related to natural gas leaks is 904.
In the event of a medical emergency, visitors can dial 901 for an ambulance. Limited medical services are available, but the quality of these services may not be up to Western standards. U.S. citizens should note that, in general, medical care throughout Moldova is of a much lower level than what one encounters in the United States.
Air ambulance services are available from operations outside of the country, but none are based in Moldova.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
There is a threat of crime in Moldova. Carjackings, home invasions, kidnappings, and related violent crimes are exceptionally rare. Pick-pocketing and petty thefts continue to be the most common problems encountered by foreigners. In order to avoid such inconveniences, personal belongings should be well protected at all times. Visitors are advised not to leave valuables in plain sight in parked vehicles, as there have been reports of car windows being smashed and items being stolen from vehicles. When visiting Moldova, one should take normal precautions such as avoiding unlit alleyways and parks during late hours. Visitors should also avoid ATMs late in the evening and should only carry the amount of cash necessary for the day’s purchases. When driving, one should park in garages or other well-lit areas. Car alarms are recommended.
The Embassy currently has no curfews, restrictions on travel, or "off limits" areas anywhere in the Republic of Moldova.
Crime appears to be uniform throughout Moldova, including in the separatist Transnistria region. However, the Embassy's ability to visit and regularly report on activity in this area is limited by the ongoing political conflict there. While the Embassy has no security prohibition on traveling to this area, American diplomats are required to inform the Embassy's security office before they go to Transnistria and to receive approval before staying overnight. Reports of difficulty crossing the myriad checkpoints which lead into this area are common. Visitors are often stopped for long periods of time or turned around. U.S. Embassy policy is to only show American passports to Republic of Moldova officials.
For Further Information
The U.S. Embassy is located at 103 Mateevici St and can be by telephone at (373) (22) 408-300 or by fax at (373) (22) 233-5044. The Embassy Duty Office, on call 24/7, can be reached at (373) 069-11-0851. The Regional Security Office number is (373) (22) 408-989. Consular information can be found on the Embassy Chisinau web site at http://chisinau.usembassy.gov/.
Americans living in or visiting Moldova are encouraged to register with the Consular Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Moldova and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Moldova by visiting the U.S Embassy website at http://chisinau.usembassy.gov/
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