Taiwan 2012 Crime and Safety Report
Stolen items; Theft; Fraud; Financial Security; Information Security; Drug Trafficking; Earthquakes; Floods; Landslides and mudslides
East Asia & Pacific > Taiwan > Taipei
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The overall crime threat in Taiwan is low. The majority of crimes occur in major metropolitan areas. The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is not aware of any specific threats directed against American citizens or U.S. government personnel. Visitors can view all current Worldwide Travel Advisories issued by the Department of State at the website: www.travel.state.gov.
Violent crime against foreigners in Taiwan is unusual; however, travelers should exercise caution and take personal security countermeasures appropriate to any major U.S. metropolitan city. In particular, travelers should pay close attention to personal belongings in crowded areas, such as night markets and during large-scale public events, where pick pocketing and petty theft is more likely to occur. Residential thefts do occur, particularly in buildings without 24-hour security coverage.
Fraud is endemic throughout Taiwan. Victims are usually called by an individual claiming to represent the police, prosecutor's office, or other government agency, or the victim's bank, insurance company, or other financial institution. The perpetrator of the fraud persuades the victim to provide personal banking information or wire large amounts of cash to the caller by stating that the victim's funds are or may be involved in criminal activity. The caller also tells the victim that he is required to cooperate with the investigation by providing all the information asked for and by complying with all instructions given by the caller. Many of these frauds are perpetrated by criminals located in mainland China or Southeast Asia, making the successful identification, arrest, and prosecution of these scam artists difficult. Victims should immediately report fraud through the fraud hotline at 165.
In 2011, 349,205 criminal cases were reported to the police, a decrease of 6.11 percent from the previous year. Of this number, 4,141 violent crimes were reported, a decrease of 22.04 percent over the previous year; 116,913 theft cases were reported, a decrease of 18.11 percent over the previous year; and 23,896 cases of fraud were reported, a decrease of 16.14 percent over the previous year. In 2011, decreases were reported for all categories of crime except lottery fraud (+20 cases), guns seized (+138 cases), and grenade seizures (+4 cases). The clearance rate of cases in 2011 was 79.54 percent.
While major highways and roadways throughout most of Taiwan are in good repair and condition, extension of the Taipei City subway system has resulted in road closures and blockages, which impede traffic during peak traffic hours. Highway overpass construction in Taipei County has also caused some traffic delays.
The roads in eastern Taiwan, particularly coastal roads in central Taiwan, are older and prone to flooding and collapse during typhoons and after earthquakes. Road closures in the mountainous and rural areas of Taiwan are not uncommon during and after typhoons.
Taiwan does have an extensive list of traffic laws and regulations, although they may not always be enforced. The most challenging aspect of driving in Taiwan is the unending streams of motor scooters and motorcycles traveling Taiwan's roadways every day. The tendency of these vehicles to weave erratically in and out of traffic can present hazards to other drivers. Due to chaotic traffic, accidents involving bicycles and motor scooters are frequent and sometimes fatal. Motor scooter and bicycle accidents are the largest source of accidental American citizen deaths in southern Taiwan. Although pedestrians have the right of way in marked crosswalks, drivers often do not yield to pedestrians, therefore, it is incumbent on pedestrians to check for traffic when entering and passing through a crosswalk.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is statistically the second-most common violation of law in Taiwan. A 2011 change to Taiwan's DUI laws increased the penalties for causing death or injury while driving under the influence.
Full implementation of a new seatbelt law requires all passengers in all vehicles to wear seatbelts.
Terrorism, war, and civil unrest are virtually nonexistent in Taiwan. Taiwan is a vibrant democracy.
Taiwan and the United States have a close, long-standing relationship that has spanned many decades. Many Taiwanese hold very favorable views toward the United States and its citizens. There is no history of political violence against Americans in Taiwan.
Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime
Regional terrorism is not a concern for Taiwan.
There are several prominent organized crime (OC) organizations in Taiwan. The four largest are United Bamboo Gang, Four Seas Gang, Celestial Path Alliance Gang, and Songlian Gang. Organized crime and gangs in Taiwan remain involved in local politics and businesses, particularly in central and southern Taiwan. Their influence extends to the waste disposal, construction, cable TV, communications, stock trading, entertainment, gambling, loan sharking, debt collection, and prostitution industries. Due to aggressive law enforcement actions in the past, the major OC organizations have devolved into local units that have their own management structures and business interests; however, local units of the same organization will collaborate to accomplish a goal. While the major OC groups do not engage in drug trafficking, Taiwan's many street gangs do. Taiwan's organized crime groups and street gangs rarely target the expatriate community.
International Terrorism or Transnational Terrorism
There are presently no international or transnational terrorism concerns or issues that affect Taiwan.
Civil unrest is virtually non-existent in Taiwan.
Protests and demonstrations occur on a regular basis in Taiwan's major cities, particularly during elections. Protests are an accepted part of political life in Taiwan and are generally peaceful. Demonstrations rarely turn violent, although they may occasionally become confrontational between opposing groups. Protest organizers must obtain a protest permit from the police. Police often set aside areas for demonstrators, and police presence is clearly visible.
Taiwan experiences earthquakes throughout the year. In recent years, earthquakes registering above 6.0 on the Richter scale have caused damage annually. Taiwan is also subject to typhoons, usually from July to November. Typhoons have caused road closures, collapse of building structures, major mudslides, and fatalities each year. Extensive flooding in central and southern Taiwan is associated with heavy rainfall accumulation during typhoons and has resulted in road closures and mudslides resulting in fatalities.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Because most factories are small family-owned and operated business concerns, large-scale industrial accidents are rare in Taiwan. In 2011, a Formosa Plastics factory in southern Taiwan experienced several small fires, although there were no casualties.
There were no major transportation accidents in 2011. However, in April, the Zhushan line of historic Alishan Forest Railway, popular with tourists visiting the Alishan Scenic Area, was struck by a falling tree branch, overturning two carriages, killing six people and injuring over 60.
The threat of kidnappings has greatly diminished over the years and is directed primarily at wealthy and/or high-profile Taiwanese individuals and families.
Drugs and Narco-terrorism
Taiwan's role as a major transshipment/transit point for narcotics has greatly diminished due to aggressive law enforcement action. Taiwan authorities continue to strengthen anti-drug efforts through enhanced airport interdiction, coast guard and customs inspections, surveillance, and other investigative methods. Drugs, including narcotics, are available in Taiwan. In particular, Ketamine and methamphetamine usage continue to increase among young people in Taiwan. Narcotics, such as cocaine and heroin, are also available in Taiwan. Narco-terrorism is virtually nonexistent in Taiwan.
Taiwan's police and law enforcement personnel are well trained and professional. Police support to foreign victims of crime is generally good. Police may expect victims to locate and bring witnesses to a police station to provide a statement. Police rarely have CPR training, although firefighters do.
The Foreign Affairs Police, which is a division of the National Police Agency, is responsible for crimes involving foreigners. English-speaking Foreign Affairs police officers assist foreigners with a wide variety of law enforcement matters. The Foreign Affairs Police has English-speaking police officers at all major police precincts during normal working hours. The Foreign Affairs Police also maintain a 24-hour service center that is staffed by English-speaking officers around the clock. In Taipei, the Foreign Affairs Service Center can be reached at (2) 2556-6007. In Kaohsiung, the Foreign Affairs Police can be reached at (7) 281-5019. For all other areas of Taiwan, call (2) 2394-0238.
Emergency police: 110
Emergency fire and medical: 119
Incidents of police detention, corruption, bribery, or harassment in Taiwan are rare.
Obtain emergency medical assistance by dialing 119 from any phone in Taiwan. The following is a small sample of hospitals in which foreigners have received excellent medical care.
Contact Information for Local Hospitals and Clinics
National Taiwan University Hospital (Taipei): (02) 2312-3456
Taiwan Adventist Hospital (Taipei): (02) 2771-8151
Veterans General Hospital (Taipei): (02) 2871-1212
Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (Kaohsiung): (07) 731-7123
Additional information on medical facilities in Taiwan can be found at: www.ait.org.tw/en/uscitizens/healthcareintw.asp
Air Ambulance Services
Most medical emergency medical conditions can be appropriately treated in Taiwan. Air ambulance services can be arranged through International SOS, telephone number: (02) 2523-2220
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Fraud is particularly common in Taiwan. Individuals receiving calls asking for personal information, including banking or financial information, or money in the guise of a criminal investigation should not be taken in by this scam. Victims of fraud scams should immediately contact fraud hotline number 165.
While the Regional Security Office does not list any areas that are off-limits to AIT personnel or family members, travelers are advised to avoid red light districts, brothels, massage parlors, "illegal barbershops", "nightclubs", or "hostess-karaoke bars" that are frequented by prostitutes. These establishments are typically run by organized crime, street gangs, and other criminals. Furthermore, visitors are advised to avoid provoking or engaging in fights in bars or nightclubs with local denizens.
AIT Contact Numbers
When calling from outside Taiwan, dial 886-02 plus number. When calling within Taiwan, dial 2 plus number.
Regional Security Office: 2162-2333
AIT Operator: 2162-2000
Post 1 (24 hours): 2162-2319
Medical Unit: 2162-2222
Consular Affairs: 2162-2308
Political Section: 2162-2064
Economic Section: 2162-2374
OSAC Country Council
Taipei Council POC is RSO Aria Lu. Tel: (2) 2162-2334
Kaohsiung Council POC is AIT/K Post Security Officer John Hartman. Tel: (7) 238-7744 ext. 632