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Namibia 2015 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Namibia; Africa > Namibia > Windhoek

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Rating: Critical

Crime Threats

Americans have regularly fallen victim to street crime. Incidents occur more frequently after dark than during daytime hours. Criminals sometimes display knives and occasionally firearms. The most common incidents are non-violent crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, purse snatching, vehicle theft, ATM card skimming, vehicle break-ins), committed by thieves who rely on stealth and surprise. Pickpocketing and purse-snatching are most likely to take place in downtown shopping areas and other high-traffic locations where foreign visitors congregate. Theft from motor vehicles remains a concern. These types of crime usually involve smash-and-grab patterns and are sometimes associated with violence. Personal robberies and residential break-ins and thefts remain prevalent. Residential burglaries in affluent neighborhoods were frequently reported in 2014. The vast majority of crime that occurs in Windhoek is petty street crime. 

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Driving can be hazardous. Although major roads are generally very well maintained, Namibia’s network of gravel secondary roads can be dangerous, particularly during the rainy season. Defensive driving is essential to manage road conditions and the excessive speed used by many drivers. Driving at night outside urban areas is dangerous, as darkened roads make it difficult to see road obstructions and animals that frequently cross the roads. Visitors planning to drive outside Windhoek should plan to arrive at their destination before dark. Vehicles should be in top condition and equipped with spare tires and plenty of water, food, and emergency medical supplies.

Road accidents in Namibia remain a major concern despite a relatively good road infrastructure and good road conditions. Road accidents remain one of the highest single causes of fatalities in Namibia. Traffic fatalities among foreign visitors occur periodically. In 2014, there were 3,472 motor vehicle accidents resulting in 6,314 injuries and 674 fatalities. Drivers in urban areas should be aware that taxis often stop abruptly to pick up/discharge passengers, resulting in frequent rear-end collisions. 

Police checkpoints are positioned approximately 15 kilometers outside the principal cities and towns on all major highways. During the holiday season, additional checkpoints may be established along the Windhoek-Swakopmund highway (B1) and near medium-sized towns. Most vehicles are allowed to proceed without inspection, but drivers should be prepared to produce vehicle registration documents, personal identification (passport, Namibian identification cards), car rental contracts, and/or drivers’ licenses on request. All drivers should plan to stop and proceed only when waved through. 

Visitors should refrain from displaying valuables in parked cars. When driving, doors should remain locked, and windows should be closed. Drivers have been approached by thieves who distract drivers at traffic lights while their accomplice attempts to steal items from the passenger side. Visitors should be aware of an increase in criminals using remote key fobs to unlock vehicle doors in parking lots.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Namibia has had several aircraft accidents involving privately-owned air operators.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Namibia became independent from South Africa in 1990. There has been little political violence since independence, due in large part to its stable, democratic government. Namibia’s national elections in November 2014 were mostly peaceful, although there were isolated reports of party members scuffling over where campaign media should be displayed. There was no organized violence, and the police intervened to stop election-related problems. 

Political Violence Rating: Low

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Terrorism is a worldwide threat. The U.S. Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. There have been no incidents with links to terrorist organizations or large-scale organized crime organizations in recent years. The Prevention of Organized Crime Act and the Financial Intelligence Act contain measures to suppress organized crime, money laundering, and terrorist financing.

Terrorism Rating: Low

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Bilateral relations between Namibia and the U.S. are good. Occasional, small scale demonstrations to protest U.S. foreign policy have been held. There have been no reports of hostility directed toward Americans on the streets. 

Civil Unrest 

Demonstrations are rare and are usually non-violent. There have been cases of striking workers forming large groups to protest for workers’ rights or increased wages, but the demonstrations have been peaceful. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Namibia is an arid semi-desert. It can experience extreme temperatures, especially during the summer (November-February), and can experience seasonal flooding during the rainy season (October-March) in the central and northern regions. Dry river beds occasionally flood, resulting in roads being inaccessible. Motorists should adhere to warning signs posted at riverbeds and not cross them when water is flowing.

Drug-related Crimes

Namibia is not a drug producing country. Most of the drugs that are locally available are smuggled into the country. The most popular drug is marijuana, known locally as “dagga;” it is relatively cheap. Other drugs (cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin) are also available. The use of cheap, readily available crystal methamphetamine, known locally as “tik,” is also on the rise. Namibia is being used as a transit route for drugs destined for countries in the region and elsewhere. Anti-drug laws are strictly enforced, and no bail is granted without a court appearance. 

Police Response

Local police lack the resources, training, and personnel required to deter street crime or to respond to/investigate reported crimes. U.S. Embassy Windhoek maintains cooperative relations with the national and local police forces. 

The police have established a Tourist Protection Unit (TPU) to assist tourists who have become victims of crime, but they are severely hampered by resource constraints that hinder deterrence of crime. TPUs were established first in the Khomas region (where Windhoek is located) and Erongo region (where the popular seaside resort of Swakopmund and port city of Walvis Bay are located) and will be expanded to all 13 regions. The Tourist Protection Unit in Windhoek is located at the corner of Independence Avenue and Bahnhof Street.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Under Namibian law, law enforcement officers are required to produce credentials and identify themselves before carrying out a lawful arrest. Whenever an arrest is imminent, it is advisable to comply with the arresting officer’s request. Travelers should not challenge the authority of police or soldiers. An arrested person has the right to contact their legal representative. The police are obliged to afford the arrested person an opportunity to contact their family and/or legal representative. Report detentions or arrests to the Embassy. 

Incidents of police harassment can be reported to any police station, the office of the Inspector-General of Police, or the Office of the Ombudsman in Windhoek. 

Crime Victim Assistance

In case of an emergency, visitors to Namibia should contact the local police in their area. 

Windhoek 
Police: 10111 /209-4111 
Fire/Ambulance: 211-111

Outside Windhoek

POLICE

FIRE

Swakopmund

064-10111/415000

064-410-4639/081-1279335

Mariental

063-10111/345000

063-245-600/0812528152

Luderitz

063-10111/202255

063-202-255

Gobabis

062-10111/566100

062-566-666/081-12-44936

Tsumeb

067-10111/2235017

067-221-004/081-12-48677

Rundu

066-10111/266300

081-257-543

Oshakati

065-10111/223600

065-229-500/081-29-63300

Otjiwarongo

067-10111/300600

081-2022-222/ 067-30 4444

Katima Mulilo

061-10111/25122

061-251225/0813216472


American visitors can also contact U.S. Embassy Windhoek at Tel: (264-61) 295-8500 if assistance is needed in communicating with law enforcement officials. 

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

Windhoek has a number of adequate medical facilities and medical evacuation companies, including: 
MediClinic Hospital (061-4331000) 
Roman Catholic Hospital (061-2702911) 
EMed Rescue 24 (private ambulance and medical evacuation) 
--081-924 
--061-411600
Windhoek Municipal Emergency Services (061-290-2702)

For medical emergencies outside Windhoek, visit the closest hospital in the region. 

Recommended Insurance Posture

For serious injuries, medevacs throughout Namibia may be arranged through EMed Rescue 24 with office at Windhoek, Tsumeb, Ongwadiva, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Otjiwarongo and Keetmanshoop. The Embassy recommends that all visitors have medical evacuation insurance before arrival in Namibia. In case of medical emergencies, the Embassy receptionist and after-hours duty officer can be reached at 264-61 295-8500.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

Windhoek’s 5,600-foot elevation can cause fatigue or light-headedness. Windhoek’s dry, windy climate can cause dry skin. Because of fine dust and pollen in the air, visitors who suffer from allergies or respiratory ailments should bring appropriate medication. Visitors who anticipate spending time outdoors should use sunblock, hats, and skin-covering clothing. Tap water is generally potable; bottled water is widely available. While Windhoek, the coast, and southern Namibia are malaria-free, malaria prophylaxis is recommended for visitors to rural areas in eastern Namibia and anywhere north of Otjiwarongo, especially between October-April. Meningitis immunizations (types A, C, Y and W) and an adult booster for polio are also recommended. Visitors should be aware that HIV/AIDS is common, with an estimated general prevalence rate of 14.5 percent of the population infected. 

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

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Scams 

Local scams include offers to sell rough diamonds or precious stones to tourists, an illegal transaction under Namibian law. Often, the “diamonds” turn out to be worthless glass. 

Other scams simply consist of one person attempting momentarily to divert the victim’s attention (street children, requests to translate documents, etc.), so that a second perpetrator can take the victim’s wallet, bag, or cell phone. Visitors are advised to maintain maximum awareness if approached by strangers for any reason. 

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Common sense measures (not leaving valuables in parked cars, safeguarding purses, keeping wallets in front pockets, and being alert to one’s surroundings) are the best deterrents against crime. Visitors should maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times. 

Carry only as much cash as is required for the day’s business and store the remainder (along with passports, credit cards, other valuables) in a secure location. Cell phone theft is particularly common; visitors should keep cell phones out of sight and use them only in safe locations. Visitors should not leave valuables unsecured in their rooms. Criminals tend to target victims who carry backpacks or similar personal bags, believing that backpackers carry all their valuables with them. Durable plastic shopping bags from local retailers provide a lower-profile alternative. Most confrontational crimes involve lone victims and take place in isolated areas. Visitors are advised to travel in groups and remain in high-traffic areas of town. Walking after dark is not recommended. In most instances, victims who surrender their belongings without resistance emerge from the encounter unharmed.

Residents who relied on centrally-monitored alarm systems, security guards provided by reputable companies, and high-quality door locks and window grillwork are generally less likely to be targeted than those who do not. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

The Embassy is located in downtown Windhoek at 14 Lossen Street, Ausspanplatz

Embassy Contact Numbers

(264-61) 295-8500
Website: http://windhoek.usembassy.gov 

Embassy Guidance

Long-term visitors should register with the Embassy.

OSAC Country Council Information

For more information on Windhoek OSAC, contact the RSO or visit http://windhoek.osac.gov. To reach the OSAC Africa team, please email OSACAF@state.gov.