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Albania 2015 Crime and Safety Report

Europe > Albania; Europe > Albania > Tirana

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Rating: Medium

Crime Threats

In 2014, the overall crime and safety situation continues to remain a concern. Crime has continued to increase over the last five years, mainly due to the large increase in thefts and burglaries. Street crime is fairly common in urban areas, predominantly at night. The most notable increase in crime has been burglaries, theft and domestic violence claims. Violent crime has seen a continual decrease since 2011. Recent crime statistics indicate a decrease in violent crimes (murder, attempted murder, robberies by force, armed robberies). Albanian police and security forces continue to achieve success in combating illegal weapons and drug trade but organized criminal activity still operates in Albania; while it remains a serious problem, violence related to it rarely affects the international community. 

The previous increasing trend of the use of explosives, particularly, remotely detonated explosives placed in vehicles and at private residences has declined 15 percent but is still alarmingly high with 72 explosions occurring. The majority of these incidents occurred in Fushe-Kruje, approximately 20 kilometers from Tirana. These appear to target specific individuals and to be related to internal disputes over business, criminal, or political activity and have not targeted the international community.

Areas of Concern

The security situation has improved in Lazarat, however, the Embassy does not allow personal travel to the area, and visitors are strongly discouraged from traveling to the region.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Driving is extremely hazardous and is one of the most dangerous aspects of living and working in Albania. The government has begun stricter enforcement of traffic rules and has started a large-scale information campaign attempting to get drivers to obey traffic laws. While the number of traffic accidents significantly decreased in 2014, Albania still has one of the highest accidents-to-vehicle ratios in Europe. 

Road conditions are poor, especially in rural areas. Street lighting can be non-existent, and where it does exist, it is susceptible to power interruptions. The government has undertaken large-scale road improvement projects and while this has improved several major roadways, the work can be unpredictable, and a lack of adequate signage can lead to dangerous driving conditions and confused drivers. Many intersections lack traffic signals and stop signs, contributing to aggressive and often erratic driving patterns.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

In 2013, Albania saw a historic and peaceful transfer of power after the Socialist Party was elected to office in June. On Election Day, one shooting incident occurred in the north, but the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) characterized the campaign environment as “peaceful overall, with only a few isolated incidents of violence.” This has not always been the case; on January 21, 2011, four protestors were killed by security forces during a violent opposition demonstration and more than 100 were injured in the rioting, including many police. Two Republican Guard members were later charged for the shootings. 

Political Violence Rating: Medium

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

A growing concern in Albania and the Balkan region is the increased threat posed by Foreign Fighters traveling to Syria and returning to the region. Large numbers of these individuals who are of Albanian decent come from Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania. In March, Albanian State Police acted against a Syria fighter recruitment ring, resulting in the arrest of nine people for “Inciting Acts of Terrorism” and four other international arrest warrants. Two of the arrestees were imams at mosques on the outskirts of Tirana who teach an extreme version of Islam. Additionally, Parliament passed a series of new statutes to Albania’s Criminal Code aimed primarily at strengthening the government’s ability to address the problem of Albanian nationals who travel to fight in the conflict in Syria.

Terrorism Rating: Medium

Civil Unrest 

Protests by opposition party leaders have become more frequent. In 2014, the Democratic Party initiated both small and large scale protests against the ruling Socialist Party government. These protests continue to be non-violent, but caused major traffic disruptions. The largest anti-government protest was held on November 22, with 15,000 to 20,000 demonstrators calling on the government to reform Albania’s economy, create new jobs, and provide free health care. Several smaller protests have occurred in front of the Parliament and Prime Minister’s office, but they tend to be planned in advance. There were only a few sporadic demonstrations, and those did not seem to disrupt traffic or government operations.

Apart from domestic political concerns, demonstration activity is most frequently small and in response to power shortages, taxes, property rights and other domestic economic complaints.

Religious/Ethnic Violence 

According to the 2011 census, approximately 57 percent of Albania’s population identifies as Muslim, but radical Islam has few adherents. The vast majority of Albanians are strongly secular. In recent years, several Islamic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have made attempts to increase their popularity in Albania but have met with very limited success. 

Post-specific Concerns

Drug-related Crimes

In southern Albania, the area of Lazarat in Gjirokaster District was one of the largest marijuana producing regions in Europe. In June, a large-scale anti-drug initiative by law enforcement resulted in major seizures of marijuana and several arrests. 

Police Response

The government is making a concerted effort to improve the country’s law enforcement and security infrastructure and reduce corruption. In 2014, Albania increased both the numbers and pay of the Albanian State Police (ASP).

The government has improved the country’s law enforcement and security institutions, and police have a visible presence throughout Tirana and other large cities. Due to limited resources and manpower, their response is often delayed. Police tend to respond more rapidly when contacted by members of the international community. One concern regarding police performance is their low salaries and the resulting potential for corruption. Regardless, law enforcement capabilities continue to improve, especially in the areas of counter-narcotics and organized crime training. 

Crime Victim Assistance

The police emergency number is 129, though response times vary. The government is implementing a plan to place English-speaking officers in a number of accessible police stations throughout Tirana to facilitate communication with foreigners in the event of an emergency. 

Medical Emergencies

Healthcare is a serious problem; medical care beyond first aid is limited, and emergency medical service (EMS) is virtually non-existent. There are no trauma hospitals located outside of Tirana. Individuals under continuing medical supervision should consult their physician prior to travel. All visitors should bring a sufficient supply of any required medications.

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

ABC Clinic at Rr. Qemal Stafa, No.260. 
Tel: 223-4105. Mob: 068-260-0405 Open M-F 0900-1300 

Private Hospitals
Hygeia Hospital 
Km 01 of the Second road of Tirana-Durres Highway Fushe-Mezez, Kashar Commune, Tirana, Albania 
Tel: +355-04-238-0640, +355-04-239-0000 http://www.hygeia.al
6 Operating rooms and 16 ICU beds and 24hr ER with pediatric capabilities and can coordinate Air Ambulance services as well.

German Hospital (Cardiac Specialty) 
Rr. Nikolla Lena / Rr.e Kavajes 
Tel: +355 (0) 422 74 577, +355 (0) 422 58930 
FAX: +355 (0) 422 71 747; +355 (0) 422 58930
E-mail: info@spitaligjerman.com ; heart-centre@spitaligjerman.com www.german-hospital-tirana.com

American Hospital 
American Hospital, at Military Hospital, Laprake, Tirane
Tel: +355- 04-235-7535; +355-04-235-7011 
http://www.spitaliamerikan.com/al/index.php

Public Hospitals:
University Hospital Center "Mother Theresa"
Military Hospital (National Trauma Center)

Recommended Insurance Posture

All visitors are recommended to obtain evacuation insurance prior to traveling and.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

Visitors are advised to drink only bottled water, as local tap water is not purified to U.S. standards. 

Visitors are recommended to be inoculated against Hepatitis A and B and to receive other vaccinations as a precaution. If travelers are involved in outdoor activities in remote areas or are planning to work with wild animals, it is advised to be inoculated against rabies.

For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/albania 

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Individuals should use normal security precautions, which include: maintaining a low profile, being aware of surroundings, and traveling in groups whenever possible. Visitors are advised to not resist, but to comply with, demands if confronted by assailants. Individuals are also encouraged to avoid traveling at night between cities because of the risk of automobile accidents and to avoid any demonstration or protest activity.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

U.S. Embassy Tirana is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103 in Tirana.

Normal operation hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Some sections and agencies may differ. Cclosed on Saturday, Sunday, and American and Albanian holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Main phone +355 (0)4 2247 285
After hours emergency +355 (0)4 224 7285 thru 89
Website: http://tirana.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

Prior to travel, U.S. citizens visiting Albania should register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov/step/. Travelers can obtain updated travel information via the Department’s Country-Specific Information sheet for Albania at: http://www.travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/albania.html

OSAC Country Council Information

An OSAC Country Council will be established this year. To reach the OSAC Europe team, please email OSACEUR@state.gov.