Poland 2013 Crime and Safety Report
Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; Surveillance; Stolen items; Theft; Financial Security; Fraud; Extortion; Assault; Burglary; Riots/Civil Unrest; Floods
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Overall, crime continues to drop in Poland, with continuing significant decreases since 2000. During recent meetings with police contacts in Warsaw districts, Embassy Warsaw’s Regional Security Office (RSO) learned that violent crime was down in the city during 2012, and Warsaw continues to experience one of the lowest crime rates in the entire country. Nevertheless, street crime continues to be a concern, most notably in urban areas and those frequented by tourists.
During 2012, the Polish National Police (PNP) opened 662,815 criminal investigations, representing an overall decrease of 21,185 compared to the prior year. The overall drop in crime led to decreased number of criminal prosecutions. Some 500,539 persons faced criminal prosecution in 2012, a drop of 21,403 compared to 2011. The PNP reported 565 homicide investigations in 2012, down 199 (or 17.4 percent) from 2011. There were 9,721 investigations opened into participation in a fight, compared to 10,703 in 2011. There were 12,061 assault (and other crimes involving violence) investigations opened, compared to 14,084 in 2011. Police reported 1,786 investigations of rape opened 2012, representing two more cases compared to 2011. Police initiated 105,792 burglary investigations, compared to 114,193 in 2011. Police initiated 23,001 investigations into drug-related crimes, an increase of 61 compared to 2011. Police initiated 83,124 economic crime investigations, which is an increase of 7,282 from 2011; PNP attributes the rise in this category to an increased focus and resources dedicated to combating economic crimes.
Pick pocketing is common and is one of the most frequently reported crimes. Most pick pocketing incidents occur on public transportation or in areas where there are large crowds, such as train and bus stations. Crowded public buses and trams also attract pickpockets. American citizens most often report stolen passports when dealing with the U.S. Embassy and report that their items were stolen while contained in luggage, backpacks, or purses. Additionally, several American citizens reported being the victim of pick pocketing around the most popular tourist attractions in Krakow, many in the old town area including the Market Square and Wawel Castle. Theft continues to be the crime category that impacts official American citizens the most.
Assaults do occur on rare occasion. The majority of these types of crime occurs among patrons of a late night establishments and often involve alcohol consumption. The RSO has reason to believe this trend is under-reported. These crimes generally take place between midnight and 4:00 a.m.
Residential break-ins continue to decline. Generally, burglars are robbing homes without effort by entering through an unlocked front door or by a ruse. Police report that most residential crimes occur because tenants and homeowners have failed to lock doors, gates, and garages, allowing thieves to take advantage of a vulnerability.
Overall Road Safety Situation
Much of the following information is taken from the State Department’s travel web page for Poland (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1000.html). RSO Warsaw strongly urges travelers to consult this page. Further, RSO Warsaw highly recommends that you follow the links for general Road Safety abroad, available on the same page.
Poland’s road system continues to be considered one of the poorest in Eastern and Central Europe, although there is a concerted long-term effort to build newer and more efficient roads. Many also consider roads to be some of the deadliest in Europe, and the biggest threat to one’s health and safety comes while traveling on its roads and highways.
To drive in Poland, you must have an International Driving Permit (IDP), obtained prior to departure from the United States, and a U.S. driver's license. Only two U.S. automobile associations--the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA)--have been authorized by the U.S. Department of State to distribute IDPs.
Polish roadside services continue to improve rapidly. Polski Zwiazek Motorowy Auto-Tour has multilingual operators and provides assistance country-wide 24/7; they can be reached by calling 19637, 22-532-8427, and 22-532-8433. Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats, and children under 10 are prohibited from riding in the front seat. You must use headlights at all times. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited, with the exception of the use of hands-free models.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on roads. Driving, especially after dark, can be hazardous. Roads are generally narrow, poorly lighted, frequently under repair (especially in the summer months), and are often used by pedestrians and cyclists. The Ministry of Infrastructure has a program called “Black Spot” (Czarny Punkt), which puts signs in places with a particularly high number of accidents and/or casualties. These signs have a black spot on a yellow background, and the road area around the “black spot” is marked with red diagonal lines.
Driving in the mountainous regions in southern Poland in the winter can be extremely dangerous, as the roads tend to be narrow and twisty with narrow shoulders. Drivers should consider snow tires and/or tire chains if planning to drive through the mountains in the winter.
Reports of attempted highway robberies in more remote areas have dropped dramatically in recent years, though this scam continues in various forms. In general, dark-colored cars, often with a single occupant, would reportedly drive up behind vehicles and flash their lights at them, sometimes using emergency flashers and in one case using a detachable red flashing light on the roof. Often, the driver will lean out of the vehicle and wave his arms in an attempt to signal the potential victim to pull over. These individuals try to pull one of several scams. These include trying to sell imitation jewelry or other counterfeit goods. They also may ask for 100 EUR for fuel, claiming they are about to run out of gas, etc. Police and border guards stated that to their knowledge, there have been no incidents of violence or injury when people have stopped.
Public transportation in Poland is safe, efficient, and reliable.
Alcohol consumption is a contributing factor in accidents. Laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol (defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent or higher) include a fine and probation or imprisonment for up to two years. Penalties for drivers involved in accidents are severe and can include imprisonment from six months to eight years or, in the case of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, up to 12 years. The strongest advice the RSO and the U.S. Embassy can provide is simply not to drink and drive.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
In November 2012, Polish Security Services reportedly disrupted a plot to blow up Parliament and assassinate senior government leaders. The alleged suspect was reportedly found with explosives and bomb-making equipment in his possession. While this appears to be an isolated incident, this is the first major incident of violent domestic extremism in recent years and represents a growing concern among small groups of disaffected citizens.
Poland is the easternmost border of the Schengen Zone and is the entry point into “Schengen Europe” for some illicit activities. Organized crime has declined since the late 1990s but is active. Various elements operate across borders, particularly with regard to drug and cigarette trafficking, vehicle theft, and alien smuggling/human trafficking. Law enforcement sources in the U.S. have described various alien smuggling/human trafficking groups with connections to Poland. The potential exists for similar routes to be utilized by terrorist groups.
Poland has no indigenous terrorism and no known terrorist organizations have been identified inside Poland. However, Poland was part of the coalition in Iraq, and Polish troops participate in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. This has led many to speculate that Poland may become a target for terrorist operations. Also, any American presence presents a possible political or terrorist objective for international terrorist organizations. Poland's western neighbor, Germany, continues to deal with terrorist acts both planned and executed. As yet, none of these acts/plans have found their way to Poland.
Demonstrations are a regular fixture of the political scene but are, for the most part, orderly and peaceful. Demonstrations regularly occur in Warsaw and are concentrated around government offices. During the winter, these activities taper off, but spring and summer bring a large number of events. Demonstrators are typically vocal but law-abiding, and events involving 15 or more people require permits in advance from the government. The average size of a demonstration in Warsaw in 2012 was several hundred people and occurred on average, twice monthly. Police provide more than enough manpower for escort and traffic/crowd control.
In June 2012, Poland co-hosted the Euro Cup Soccer Championship. Overall, the large numbers of fans were orderly and well-managed by police. In some instances, violence erupted among soccer hooligans, resulting in arrests and minor injuries. Soccer hooliganism continues to be an issue surrounding major matches.
2012 saw relatively few large demonstrations. The largest and most significant demonstration occurred on November 11, 2011 in the center of Warsaw and resulted in minimal property damage and few arrests. This was a dramatic improvement from 2011, and the reduction in violence can be attributed to a more concerted effort by police to separate rival demonstrators, an increased number of trained riot police officers, and more modern crowd control equipment. The vast majority of demonstrations are generally peaceful and do not typically result in injury or other violence.
Strikes occur once or twice a year, rarely lasting more than a few days, and seldom have any negative effect on public services or infrastructure.
Embassy Warsaw is located at the nexus of much political demonstration activity, as it is located near the prime minister’s chancellery, the Parliament, various government ministries, and other embassies. While few demonstrations are directed against the United States, the Embassy lies along the path often used by demonstrations and can be affected by rerouting of traffic, noise, or other activity.
Demonstrations in Krakow are much more infrequent and typically much smaller than in Warsaw. The U.S. Consulate General in Krakow is close to the German and French Consulates. Occasionally, small demonstrations against the German Consulate have taken place but normally have little impact on Consulate operations.
Poland has experienced relatively few natural disasters, with the exception of flooding. Poland experienced numerous floods, resulting in the loss of life and millions of dollars in agricultural and property losses. However, reported flood damage in 2012 was minimal.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Poland also has a low rate of industrial and transportation accidents. Poland has a highly-developed rail system, and the number of rail accidents is quite low. However, Poland does have one of the highest road fatality rates in Europe, and there have been several bus accidents on highways. Air travel incidents are also relatively rare, and Poland has a well-developed and highly professional civil aviation structure.
Personal privacy is generally more protected in Poland than in the United States.
There is a negligible threat of drug violence and narco-terrorism. Most violence involved with drug trafficking takes place among those involved in this illegal activity, and innocent bystanders are rarely victims of violent activity associated with these groups and individuals. Poland is primarily used as a drug trans-shipment country for the rest of Europe. Domestically, amphetamines, marijuana, and MDMA are reportedly the primary drugs of choice by users.
Although there are occasional reports of kidnappings, there is a very low incident rate overall. There is no record of any expatriate or official American being the victim of a kidnapping or kidnapping attempt on record with the Embassy, the Consulate General in Krakow, or the American Chamber of Commerce.
Police officers are universally considered professional and cooperative. Fines for traffic violations can be collected at the scene by a police officer from non-residents transiting Poland.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
Victims of crime should file a report at the nearest police station. Few police officers will speak fluent English but will usually offer to obtain an interpreter; this may take a few minutes to a few hours. It helps to take a bi-lingual friend along for translation.
Throughout Poland, use the following emergency numbers:
General Emergency: 112
In an emergency with a Polish-speaking person available, call the police at 997 or 22-826-2424, fire department at 998 or 22-595-7000 or ambulance at 22-602-1500, depending on your emergency and what assistance is needed. If no Polish-speaking person is available, call the American Embassy for assistance at: weekdays between 8:30 - 17:00 at 22-504-2000 and after-hours, weekends/holidays at 22-504-2639, or the Consulate General Krakow at: weekdays between 8:30 - 17:00 at +48-12-424-5100 and after hours, weekends/holidays at the duty officer cell phone +48 601 483-348. Americans who have been victims of a crime should contact the American Embassy/Consulate General as soon as possible after the event in order to determine whether further services are available.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Reports of lower-ranking patrol officers soliciting bribes during routine traffic stops continue to decline, and the PNP continue to take steps to prevent this activity. Motorists who experience solicitation should communicate clearly to the officer that any irregularities will be reported to the Embassy. Obtaining information such as the time, location, badge, and name of the officer or tag number of the police vehicle involved is important. Drivers are encouraged to follow established traffic regulations and should never pay bribes.
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics
The following is a list of the major hospitals in Warsaw, Krakow, and Poznan. This is not a complete list of all health care providers but serves as a general starting point:
"Woloska" Hospital (Centralny Szpital Kliniczny MSWiA)
Ul. Woloska 137 Warsaw
Ambulance - 022-508-1500
Emergency Room - 022-508-1510
Switchboard - 022-508-2000
"Banacha" Hospital (Centralny Szpital Kliniczny Akademii Medycznej
Ul. Stefana Banacha 1A Warsaw
Emergency Room - 022-599-1155
Switchboard - 022-599-1000
Institute of Cardiology-Hospital (Instytut Kardiologii) (provides care
for cardiac problems only)
Ul. Alpejska 42, Warszawa-Anin
Admissions Room - 022-343-4100
ICCU - 022-343-4314, -4300, -4477
Switchboard - 022-343-4600
Poison Control - Warsaw Acute Poison Control Center (Stoleczny Osrodek
Ostrych Zatruc) Praski Hospital
Al. Solidarnosci 67 Warsaw
24 Hour Contact - 022-619-6654, -0897
Admissions Room - 022-619-1979 or 022-818-5061 ext. 1239
Ludwik Rydgier VOIEVODSHIP SPECIALIST HOSPITAL (Wojewdzki Szpital
Specjalistyczny im. Ludwika Rydgieraos)
ZLOTEJ JESIENI 1, 31-826 Krakow
Switchboard - (12) 6468-000, -111
Admissions Room - (12) 6468-274, -324 or -680
University Hospital of Krakow
(Szpital Uniwersytecki w Krakowie-Katedra i Klinika Chor. Wewnetrznych)
ul. SKAWINSKA 8, 31-056 Krakow
Switchboard - (12) 430-5266, -5278, -5289
Hospital of the Ministry of Interior
ul. Dojazd 34
Emergency Ward - (61) 8464 641; (61) 8464 650; (61) 8464 500; (61) 852
Medical University of Poznan Hospital no. 2
(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr. 2)
Telephone - (61) 869 1100
Contact: prof. Michal Drews (surgery)
Phones: work: 869 1275 home: 867 1414 mobile: 0601 703092
Prof. Krzysztof Linke (gastrology, internal medicine)
Phones: work: 8691 343 home: 822 7977 mobile: 0601726526
"Litewska" Hospital (Samodzielny Publiczny Dzieciecy Szpital Kliniczny)
Ul. Marszalowska 24 Warsaw
Admissions Room - 022-522-7344
Switchboard - 022-522-7455
Institute - Children's Health Center Memorial Hospital
(Instytut Q Pomnik Centrum Zdorwia Dziecka)
Al. Dzieci Polskich 20, Warszawa-Miedzylesie
Admission Room - 022-815-2519, 022-855-7444
University Pediatric Hospital
(Uniwersytecki Szpital Dzieciecy Polsko-Amerykanski Instytut Pediatrii,
Collegium Medicum UJ)
ul. WIELICKA 265, 30-663 Krakow Switchboard - (12) 658-2011
Medical University of Poznan Hospital no.5
(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr 5
ul./street: Szpitalna 27/33
Telephone - (61) 849 1200
Contact: Prof. Andrzej Jankowski (pediatrician)
Phones: work: (61) 847 5228 home: (61) 847 5381
mobile: 0601 563434
Note: pediatric hospital
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
The following companies are three that offer air ambulance services. The listing in no way serves an endorsement of services but simply serves as a guide and representative sample. The use of any of these companies is at the discretion of the individual or company. OSAC constituents should conduct a comprehensive Internet search and make their own informed decisions on which company to use.
American Air Ambulance provides worldwide air ambulance services for people needing medical attention. Tel: 800-863-0312 or 941-536-2002. www.americanairambulance.com
International SOS provides air ambulance services. www.internationalSOS.com or Tel: +49 6102 3588 100.
Global Air Rescue provides worldwide service. http://www.globalairrescue.com/ or Tel: 866-299-6870, or 561-459-3150 (in the US)
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
For additional health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/poland.htm.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
At train stations, where many people are vulnerable, a group of thieves most often jostle and distract their victim, who carries cumbersome luggage and other articles, while the wallet or billfold is stolen. Some victims have reported the use of sharp instruments to cut through purses and backpacks.
A common trick favored by thieves is to pose as employees of municipal services, such as a utility company, and attempt to gain access to a residence under the guise of checking meters or repairing reported problems. In these reported cases, the residents failed to verify the employment status of the supposed employees and fell victim. The police and the RSO recommend that all workers’ credentials be verified before allowing entry into the home.
Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices
There are no specific areas that are “off limits” to official American travelers. However, it is always recommended to travel in pairs, especially after dark, or in nightclubs, discos, and bars, and in obvious high tourist areas, such as the Market Square in Krakow or Warsaw’s Old Town. There have been several reports in 2012 of nightclub security being overly aggressive and in few instances physically assaulting patrons. RSO recommends avoiding any confrontation at these locations and to travel in groups when possible. As a precaution, if you are enjoying an evening out, it is best to travel in a group and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.
To reduce your chances of being targeted by pickpockets, do not carry open purses or backpacks with money or valuables that are easily accessed. If you recognize that you are being targeted make a lot of noise, scream, or shout. Frequently, this will scare criminals away or cause others to come to your aid. Sometimes undercover police will ride public transportation to catch pick pockets and thieves.
Do not display large amounts of money. Separate money, credit cards, and valuables, and carry them in different locations on your person. It is recommended that purses be carried with the strap over your head and one shoulder and with the bag held across your chest in front of your body. This will make you more prepared than if it is yanked from your shoulder or pulled from your hand. While at restaurants or bars, remove your wallet from jacket pockets if you hang your jacket on the back of a chair. Also, many restaurants and bars strongly encourage patrons to use a coat check; if you do, ensure that nothing valuable is left in your pockets. Purses should be kept on your lap or on the floor between your feet.
Credit card fraud can be a problem. Shoppers should only carry the credit cards they need, not let credit cards out of their sight, and ask for copies of "voided" transactions or any copies not necessary for their transaction. Never write or attach a PIN number on a credit or bankcard. ATM skimmers have been reported in some areas of Poland. The best way to avoid skimmers is to use ATMs that are attached to banks and are located inside bank vestibules, if possible. It is always a good idea to inspect the ATM prior to using it. Look for anything out of the ordinary. Look for areas that cameras might be located and see if the key pads look like they have a separate plate. Inspect the card insert slot and see if attachment has been added. Always cover the key pad with your other hand when entering your PIN to prevent cameras that may be hidden in the light housing from capturing your PIN. Keep the telephone numbers for your credit card companies in a separate location so the cards can be canceled if they are lost or stolen.
Be sure to use "radio taxis" or those whose company phone number and name are printed on the light bar. Check to see that the taxi has a functioning meter and that the driver uses the meter when starting your trip.
Visitors should exercise caution while attending or passing in the vicinity of soccer events.
U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
Embassy Warsaw, Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31, Warsaw
Consulate General Krakow, ul. Stolarska 9, Krakow
Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers
Senior Regional Security Officer-Warsaw: +48-22-504-2107
Embassy Operator: +48-22-504-2000
Consular Affairs: +48-22-504-2784
Marine Post One: +48-22-504-2639
Regional Security Officer- Krakow: +48-12-424-5141
Consulate Operator: +48-12-424-5100
The latest U.S. Department of State Worldwide Caution should be reviewed as a guide on international and transnational terrorism operations against U.S. targets.
OSAC Country Council Information
Warsaw has an established OSAC Country Council that meets on an irregular basis. The Point of Contact is the Embassy Warsaw Regional Security Office, which can be reached at the following numbers: Acting Regional Security Officer Aram J. Keosaian, Tel: +48-22-504-2107, RSOWARSAW@state.gov.
Krakow also has established an OSAC Country Council. The Point of Contact is Consulate General Krakow Regional Security Officer Roel Respecia, Tel: +48-12-424-5141.