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Jordan 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Near East > Jordan; Near East > Jordan > Amman

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The overall crime and safety situation continues to warrant considerable attention due to sustained, dramatic refugee flows into Jordan, cross border security incidents resulting from the ongoing Syrian civil war, and a pronounced upward trend in petty crime fueled primarily by a worsening economy. 

Crime Threats 

Although overall crime levels remain low, the sagging economy and, in particular, the dramatic increases in the costs of essential everyday commodities is generally blamed for a spike in mostly non-violent opportunistic crimes such as diesel fuel thefts – a significant issue for the American and expatriate community, even in relatively insulated, affluent sections of Amman. While many criminals do target affluent areas of Amman where Embassy personnel reside and frequent, this is predominantly driven by the likelihood of greater criminal gain. 

While infrequent, violent crime does transpire and is often related to tribal violence, the declining economic situation, or cultural misunderstandings. The Embassy’s Regional Security Office (RSO) has received a limited number of reports of violent crime targeting Western and American citizens, the most recent and significant of which involved the murder of an American citizen in Irbid in September 2012. The victim was stabbed to death in her home, and a local national teenager was arrested. The motive was determined to be robbery. Assaults on foreigners have also occurred, though primarily outside of Amman nightclubs and other evening establishments or in outer lying provinces where few foreign nationals frequent. 

Statistically, the most common form of crime that is directed against Americans and other Western nationals is petty in nature, especially at tourist sites and crowded areas. The RSO receives several reports of petty crimes in downtown Amman and in busy shopping areas, such as the Taj Mall, an upscale mall less than a mile from the American Embassy. 

Criminals have been known to rob customers after they withdraw cash or shoulder surf to obtain an individual’s personal identification number (PIN) from ATMs. 

There has been a noted spike in residential burglaries and, particularly propane and diesel fuel thefts from residences in 2013, likely attributable to the declining economy.

Reports of sexual harassment, including inappropriate physical contact, stalking, and indecent exposure, of Western women are also regularly reported. Many of the incidents have taken place in smaller towns outside of Amman, but several have occurred within the capital’s city limits. Many involve taxi drivers who sometimes inappropriately touch female customers who sit in the front passenger seat. In one recent incident, an Embassy employee was sexually harassed by a residential employee who attempted to kiss the victim. 

Jordan has a significant number of domestic violence incidents. Most abusers are dual nationals (U.S./Jordanian), allowing them to put travel holds on spouses and children. The Family Protection Division handles such cases, but the Jordanian government as a whole is reluctant to become involved in what they consider to be a private, family matter. Both police and courts stress the use of mediation and direct discussion over criminal prosecution.

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Physical road conditions in larger cities are generally fair to good. In contrast, driving conditions in rural areas can be hazardous as road networks are less developed. The RSO strongly discourages individuals from driving at night outside of the greater Amman area due to poor lighting, unmarked construction areas, and erratic drivers who may drive with no lights in the wrong direction of traffic. 

Traffic accidents are common and often result in serious injuries or fatalities. Fatality rates are four times higher than in the U.S. Excessive speeding is common, especially by owners of high-end sport cars. "Stop" and "Yield" signs are often ignored. Drivers can pass at any time from any direction, and turn signals are rarely used. Passing on blind curves from both directions is also common. Accidents often transpire at traffic circles/roundabouts. Pedestrians and livestock in the roads can be a hazard; in some cases, shepherds have bedded their sheep near major highways at night, resulting in collisions between vehicles and livestock that stray onto the road. Motorists should drive defensively and use extreme caution; seatbelts should be worn at all times. In 2013, the Regional Security Office received or responded to over 100 reports of traffic accidents involving official Americans or their dependents. Most accidents are minor and are resolved at the scene with minimal or no police intervention, though the Embassy routinely dispatches local guard force and Foreign Service National Investigator staff to assist in translation and coordinating appropriate police response where warranted. 

Official American personnel are not authorized to use public buses due to security concerns but are allowed to use marked taxi cabs. Visitors are encouraged to use radio-dispatched taxis available at most major hotels and should request that the driver not pick up additional passengers. Women should never sit in the front seat of a taxi and should carry a cell phone. Other forms of public transportation are not recommended.

Another commonly reported crime involves either the theft of a vehicle or its contents. Most have been “smash and grabs,” where the perpetrator uses smashes a vehicle’s window and absconds with any valuable contents. Personnel are strongly discouraged from leaving valuables in plain view inside the vehicle and are encouraged to ensure vehicle doors are locked, even while driving.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The threat of terrorism remains a major concern. Regional and transnational terrorist groups, as well as local extremists, have demonstrated the willingness and ability to mount attacks. 

In late September 2012, the General Intelligence Department uncovered and foiled a major terrorist plot that targeted several Amman shopping centers and cafes, known to be frequented by diplomats and Westerners, and the U.S. Embassy. The highly sophisticated plot, orchestrated by members of al-Qai’da in Iraq (AQI) who had operated in Syria, was designed to take place in several phases -- first targeting commercial locations to draw the attention of security forces and culminating in a complex attack on the Embassy involving vehicle borne explosive devices, suicide bombers, and mortars. The plot was disrupted prior to the group moving to the operational phase. Jordanian authorities arrested all 11 members (all Jordanian citizens) believed to be involved in the plot. 

AQI has a storied past in Jordan, to include claiming responsibility for the November 2005 bombings of three international hotels in Amman that killed 60 people and the October 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley. In addition, AQI claimed responsibility for the Aqaba rocket attacks on August 19, 2005, that killed one Jordanian soldier and wounded another. In July 2005, authorities arrested 17 men linked to AQI who had planned to assassinate Jordanian government officials and Americans in Jordan. In June 2008, the State Security Court sentenced an al-Qai’da network affiliate to life imprisonment with hard labor on charges of possessing automatic weapons with illicit intent and attempted murder during a shootout with police officers in Irbid in January of the previous year. 

The Government has made public through the media or the State Security Court several disrupted plots involving transnational and/or indigenous terrorists:
In June 2008, a local court charged five Jordanian nationals with collaborating with Hamas. 
In June 2008, the State Security Court charged three men for plotting an attack on a church in Amman.
In February 2006, security services disrupted a terrorist plot to attack the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman.
In September 2005, four militants were arrested for plotting the assassinations of Americans in Jordan. 

In January 2010, terrorists detonated a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) near an Israeli diplomatic motorcade on the Dead Sea highway. The blast caused minor damage to vehicles in the motorcade; none of the passengers sustained serious injuries. Jordanian authorities continue to investigate this incident, and no group has claimed responsibility. 

In August 2010, a roadside IED detonated near the passing vehicle of three State Department contractors in Sahab. The attack caused minor damage to the vehicle but resulted in no injuries. No entity has claimed responsibility.

In April 2010, terrorist elements fired rockets at Aqaba. One rocket struck an empty warehouse, and one rocket landed in the Red Sea near the Israeli border. 

In August 2010, one rocket landed near the InterContinental Hotel in Aqaba; one Jordanian national was killed, and five were wounded. 

The Embassy received credible information regarding a possible imminent threat in the Gulf of Aqaba region in September 2010. In response, the Embassy restricted travel to Aqaba for a 48-hour period. 

Terrorists often do not distinguish between official personnel and private citizens. Terrorists may target areas frequented by Westerners, such as tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, liquor stores, transportation hubs, places of worship, expatriate residential areas, and schools. In light of these security concerns, Americans are urged to maintain a high level of vigilance, to be aware of their surroundings, and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. It is especially important for travelers to be unpredictable by varying their times and routes and to maintain a low profile. Moreover, Americans are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious or unfamiliar objects and to immediately report the presence of such objects to the authorities.

Civil Unrest 

The population of Jordan is more than six million, of which more than half are of Palestinian origin. On top of the approximately 1.8 million Palestinian refugees and several thousand Iraqi refugees, approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees have flowed into Jordan since the outbreak of hostilities to the north. This has placed huge strains on the government, as the country confronts its own socio-economic challenges including high unemployment, rising inflation, and increases in costs of basic necessities. The sagging economy is considered the single biggest factor driving public discontent. 

Demonstrations occur regularly, sometimes resulting in road closures and confrontations with security forces. Of concern is the changing nature of the opposition’s rhetoric in tone and the willingness to call for the ouster of the Prime Minister as well as denouncing the King, a once unheard of act that is punishable by imprisonment. The RSO office has tracked more than 5,000 demonstrations since the beginning of the Arab Spring, but other estimates place the figure as high as 8,000. The vast majority of the demonstrations have been small, well contained, and mostly non-violent. Protests in front of the U.S. Embassy are infrequent but do occur, generally related to the U.S. role in the Middle East peace process.

Anti-American sentiment does exist due largely to regional political issues or conflicts, especially the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and perceptions regarding U.S. involvement or lack of involvement in the Syria conflict. In addition, ongoing U.S.-led military operations in the region are viewed unfavorably by certain segments of the population. Americans are encouraged to monitor the media regarding these and other sensitive issues that may impact events in Jordan. 

Violence in the West Bank and Gaza has led to demonstrations and anti-government/anti-U.S. sentiment in Jordan. Thousands of Jordanians protested Israeli actions in Gaza in January 2009, burning effigies of American leaders and calling for boycotts of American products, although no Westerners were injured. In July 2008, a gunman opened fire on a group of tourists waiting to get on a bus in central Amman, wounding six before turning the gun on himself. In March 2008, a German tourist was indiscriminately stabbed by a man who was upset over the situation in Gaza. On September 4, 2006, a gunman opened fire on foreigners at a popular tourist site in Al-Hashimiyah Square in Amman, killing one person and injuring six.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards 

The Jordan River Valley, which marks Jordan’s western border, constitutes the northern section of the Great Rift Valley that forms the tectonic border of the African and Asian plates. Consequently, the region experiences regular seismic activity. No recent small-scale seismic tremors, including a 4.5 magnitude earthquake in northern Jordan on January 3, 2011, have caused significant damage. Historically, larger earthquakes have damaged many of Jordan’s archeological sites. The last major earthquakes transpired in Jordan in 1936 and 1927. 

Jordan is a water poor nation, and drought is a recurring fact of life. Flash floods occur in the south with little or no warning. 

Rolling power outages occurred in Amman and other major cities in the summer of 2010 as the demand for electricity exceeded the country’s production capacity. 

Industrial and Transportation Accidents 

Only a single petroleum refinery and thermal power station pose potential man-made disaster situations. Both facilities are unlikely to present significant threats to major population centers because they are located in remote areas of the Zarqa Governorate. 

Road safety is a major issue. Trucks are often overloaded, and drivers may not be adequately trained. 

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

Piracy of DVDs and counterfeiting of IT software continue to be very prevalent. Bootleg copies of first run movies are typically available in DVD stores well in advance of their official release dates despite efforts by the government to stem the flow of counterfeit products.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Due to cross border security concerns as a result of the Syrian civil war, the U.S. Embassy has issued a travel policy for all personnel under Chief of Mission authority, mandating specific restrictions and requirements for official travel to the Jordanian/Syrian border and locations in close proximity to the border, including the Za’atri refugee camp. Travel to these locations by Embassy personnel must be conducted in armored vehicles equipped with RSO monitored tracking devices. Additionally, prior to travel commencing, the Regional Security Office routinely consults with the Jordanian PSD to determine the suitability of the journey and, if necessary, to arrange for additional security measures. 

Drug-related Crimes

Jordan’s location between drug producing countries to the north and east and drug consuming countries to the south and west makes it primarily a transit point for illicit drugs. As a result, the PSD believes that the amount of drugs transiting Jordan continues to grow. Jordanians do not consume significant quantities of illegal drugs, and according to the PSD, there are no known production operations in the country. Cannabis and heroin, and to a lesser degree, captagon, are the predominant drugs of choice among users in Jordan with a large rise in captagon trafficking of particular note. The age range for people arrested for drug-related crimes is predominantly between 18- and 35-years old. The PSD continues to see an increase in drug trafficking through its border regions, especially with Iraq and Syria.

Police Response

U.S. citizens in Jordan are subject to all local laws and do not have special rights or privileges. 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens detained by the authorities should immediately request that authorities notify the American Citizen Services Section at the U.S. Embassy (962 6 590-6000 or 6500). The Embassy can provide a list of local attorneys, visit detainees, and contact family and friends on their behalf to handle incidents of police detention or harassment. 

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

If accused or arrested for a crime, U.S. citizens will need to resolve the matter through the local legal system. Victims of crime should be aware that if they leave Jordan before the conclusion of the case, their case is likely to be dismissed.

The PSD operates a 24-hour emergency command and control center that can be reached by dialing 911 in Amman and 191 or 192 in other regions.

Various Police/Security Agencies 

Jordan has several police, security, and intelligence agencies that are primarily charged with internal, external, and border security. 

The principal police authority is the Public Security Directorate (PSD), Jordan’s national police, responsible for law enforcement, protection of national leadership and visiting dignitaries, routine crime prevention traffic control, licensing of certain business activities, enforcing of trade regulations, locating missing persons, and guarding public places. The PSD is headed by a Director General of Public Security who reports to the Minister of Interior. There are 10 regional directorates, eight of which correspond to the governorates, one covers Amman and its suburbs, and one is the Desert Police Force. The PSD is a professional and well-trained police force. Over the past several years, the PSD has benefited from training courses offered by the U.S. and has developed into one of the most effective police forces in the region. The PSD is particularly responsive to the needs of the diplomatic and international business communities in Amman. The more affluent areas in West Amman are well patrolled, and the PSD maintains a highly visible presence at the major hotels. Police response time to a significant criminal incident in Amman is reportedly 3-5 minutes. Response times in other parts of Jordan vary. 

The General Directorate of the Gendarmerie is primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, riot control, protection of diplomatic missions, and some law enforcement duties. It also supports other security agencies as needed.

The Directorate of Military Security (DMS) is subordinate to the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) and is the military’s primary security and counterintelligence element.

The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) is the national intelligence agency and is generally considered one of most important and professional intelligence agencies in the region.

Medical Emergencies

The quality of health care facilities is not up to U.S. or European standards. As medications on the local economy are often in short supply, visitors should bring sufficient medications to Jordan for their chronic medical problems. 

The government operates a 911 ambulance service, and the major hospitals use private ambulance services. However, these services are not reliable and should not be depended on. Response times often exceed 10 minutes for most locations in Amman; furthermore, response times are significantly hampered by unfamiliarity with street addresses and inadequate signage, which make it difficult to direct emergency services to some locations. Depending on the circumstances, it may be preferable to drive or take a taxi to the nearest emergency room rather than wait for an ambulance. If an ambulance is required, be prepared to describe the medical emergency in detail to ensure that the responding ambulance is properly equipped. 

Some medical centers may request payment or a down payment for services in advance, regardless of the nature of the emergency. All major local hospitals accept major credit cards.

Medical tourism has seen an increase over the years from citizens of countries in the region, mainly due to the high level of expertise provided by hospitals in the country. 

Visitors to Jordan are encouraged to familiarize themselves with routes to local hospitals and emergency contact numbers. 

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

The following hospitals in Amman have 24-hour emergency services:

Arab Medical Center, 5th Circle, Amman.
Emergency Room Tel: +962 (6) 592-1199 x750
Ambulance Tel.: +962 (6) 592-5801

King Hussein Medical Center (military hospital), Amman.
Tel.: +962 (6) 580-4804

Al-Khalidi Medical Center, 4th Circle, Amman.
Emergency Room and Ambulance Tel.: +962 (6) 464-4281 x0

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Air medical evacuations for emergencies in rural and remote areas are controlled by the King Hussein Medical Center in Amman. This is a military-based program; the method of evacuation is determined on a case-by-case basis. Many evacuations will be executed by ground ambulance even from remote areas. Response times depend on the distance from Amman and other conditions. 

Out-of-country medical evacuations can be provided by London SOS Air Ambulance 00 44 20 8762 8008 or other international air ambulance services, but a line of credit is required. 

All visitors are advised to have insurance to cover medical evacuation and hospitalizations. Before the air ambulance is sent, the hospital requires proof of insurance coverage or private funds. Out-of-country medical evacuations for persons covered under the Department of State medical program should be arranged through the U.S. Embassy's Health Unit. 

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

Jordan does not pose any particular health hazards for visitors. Immunizations should be current for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Rabies. 

Visitors should drink bottled or treated water rather than tap water. Food in the hotels and most restaurants is safe to eat, but some of the smaller local restaurants do not always observe proper food handling procedures. 

For additional vaccine and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/jordan.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Areas to be Avoided 

Areas outside of Amman -- Zarqa, Tafila, and Mafraq -- should be avoided, as significant tribal violence in these areas has resulted in road closures. Additionally, a few Westerners and Americans have faced minor hostility, such as vehicles being pelted with stones and harassment of women, while traveling in these areas.

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

To decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime, the RSO office recommends exercising common sense precautions that individuals would employ in any large city.

American citizens should exercise caution, be alert, and stay informed on regional and local events that could impact the security environment in Jordan. In general, Westerners are encouraged to travel in pairs or groups. Travelers should avoid large crowds and demonstrations and take measures to avoid areas where they are most likely to occur (e.g., city centers, universities, refugee camps), particularly during periods of increased tension. It is also recommended to keep a low profile and not establish predictable patterns of movement. Wear clothing that does not easily identify you as a tourist. 

Western women are encouraged to take reasonable precautions such as avoiding travel to unfamiliar areas at night, not riding in the front seat of a taxi, and dressing modestly when in public. Females traveling in taxis should sit behind the driver.

Individuals are urged to increase their vigilance in these areas where pickpockets and opportunistic thieves are known to operate. Facilities where Americans or foreigners are likely to congregate such as hotels, nightspots, restaurants, and places of worship should be considered potential targets for terrorists and petty thieves. When carrying a purse, it is recommended to wear it over one’s neck and shoulder. Wallets and other valuables should be carried in front pockets and never in a backpack. Cash should never be flashed, and individuals should be wary of attempts to distract them. Jordanian police continue to warn the public to exercise vigilance when leaving banks or ATMs. In the event of an attempted robbery, it is strongly recommended that victims avoid escalating the situation by resisting.

All foreigners should monitor the news and follow State Department travel warnings prior to all travel to Jordan. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

The U.S. Embassy is located on Al-Umawiyeen Street, Abdoun District, Amman.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: 962 6 590-6000
After-Hours Emergencies: 962 6 590-6500

For additional information, consult the State Department Consular Information Sheet at http://travel.state.gov and links from that site for the most recent Public Announcements on Travel in the Middle East and South Asia and the most recent Worldwide Caution.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is an active OSAC Country Council in Amman; for additional information please visit OSAC.gov.