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Poland 2015 Crime and Safety Report

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Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Rating: Low

Crime Threats

Crime continues to drop in Poland, with persistent, significant decreases since 2000. Polish National Police statistics underscore that Poland continues to be one of the safest countries in Europe. In 2014, police reported 915,083 criminal offenses, representing an overall decrease of 148,823 (14 percent) compared to 2013. The most significant statistics are depicted below:

Crime

2014

2013

% Change

Homicide

532

574

-7.3

Rape

1,329

1,362

-2.4

Assault

6,964

8,788

-20.7

Burglary

106,900

118,398

-9.7

Economic

163,080

154,592

+5.4*

Vandalism/Damage To Property

47,361

57,955

-18.2

Robbery

174,900

214,616

-18.5

Car Theft

14,124

15,465

-8.6

Driving Under The Influence

141, 203

128,043

+10.2*

Polish police attribute increases to enhanced enforcement efforts.

Pickpocketing is common and is one of the most frequently reported crimes. Most pickpocketing incidents occur on public transportation (train and bus stations) or in areas where there are large crowds (Krakow’s Market Square or Warsaw’s Old Town). At train stations, where many people are vulnerable by carrying cumbersome luggage and other articles, groups of thieves can jostle and distract their victim while a wallet or billfold is deftly stolen. Crowded public buses and trams also attract pickpockets. American citizens most often report stolen passports when dealing with the U.S. Embassy, and they report that their items were stolen from luggage, backpacks, or purses. Theft continues to be the crime that impacts official American citizens the most.

Credit card fraud can be a problem. ATM skimmers have been reported in some areas of Poland.

Assaults occur on very rare occasion. The majority of assaults occurs among patrons of late night establishments and often involves alcohol consumption. These crimes generally take place between 12:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m. 

Residential break-ins continue to decline. Generally, burglars tend to rob homes by entering through an unlocked front door or by some ruse. Police continue to report that most residential crimes occur because tenants and homeowners failed to use alarm systems or to lock doors, gates, and/or garages, allowing thieves to take advantage of a vulnerability. A common tactic favored by thieves is to pose as employees of municipal services (a utility company) and attempt to gain access to a residence under the guise of checking meters or repairing reported problems. In reported cases, residents failed to verify the employment status of the supposed employees. 

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 its heyday in the late 1990s but is still active. Various elements operate across borders, particularly with regard to drug/cigarette trafficking, vehicle theft, and alien smuggling/human trafficking. 

Soccer matches are often marred by confrontations between opposing fans. Such confrontations may become violent. 

Areas of Concern

There are no specific areas of Poland that are “off limits” to official American travelers. There have been reports of nightclub security being overly aggressive and, in few instances, physically assaulting patrons. RSO recommends avoiding any confrontation at these locations.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Road conditions differ significantly from those in the U.S. Much of the following information is taken from the State Department’s travel web page for Poland. RSO Warsaw strongly urges travelers to consult this page and the links for general Road Safety abroad, which is available on the same page. 

Road fatalities are high, placing Poland among one of the more dangerous places to drive in Europe. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on the road; driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are sometimes narrow, poorly illuminated, frequently under repair (especially in the summer), and are often also used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Unpredictable weather can cause problems on the roads. Flooding has closed bridges and significantly disrupted road travel. Driving in the mountainous regions 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. U.S. citizens should monitor local weather conditions when traveling.

Alcohol consumption is also frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish law provides virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties (defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.02 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/drugs, up to 12 years. The soundest advice the RSO and the U.S. Embassy can provide is to not drink and drive. 

You must have both an International Driving Permit (IDP) obtained prior to arrival and a U.S. driver's license in order to drive in Poland. U.S. citizens cannot obtain IDPs in Poland. Only two U.S. automobile associations — the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Automobile Club (NCA) — are authorized to distribute IDPs. If you plan to stay for more than six months, you must obtain a Polish driver’s license. 

Seat belts are compulsory in all seats, and children under 12 must ride in the back. Children younger than 12 and who are less than 4’11,” must ride in a child car seat. You must always use headlights. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited except for hands-free models. Making a right turn on a red light is not allowed. Turning right on red with a green arrow is the equivalent of turning right on red in the U.S. The green arrow does NOT give you the right-of-way. Police will ticket for traffic violations, and fines can be substantial. If you are a non-resident, you are expected to pay fines immediately to the police officer issuing the ticket. You must be prepared to pay in local currency, though in some cases credit cards are accepted.

Polish roadside services, while not always at the level of services in the U.S., are rapidly improving. The Polish Automobile Association (Polski Związek Motorowy Auto-Tour, analogous to AAA) has multilingual operators and provides assistance countrywide 24/7. You can reach them by calling (22) 532-8427 or (22) 532-8433. 

Public Transportation Conditions 

Public transportation is safe, efficient, and reliable. 

Within cities, taxis are available at major hotels and designated stands or may be ordered in advance by telephone. Some drivers speak English and accept credit cards. When hailing taxis on the street, you should avoid those that do not have a company name and/or telephone number displayed since these may not have meters and many of them charge significantly more. 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. Do not accept assistance from self-professed “taxi drivers” who approach you in the arrivals terminal or outside the doors at Warsaw Airport; use only those that display telephone numbers and a company name and are at designated taxi stands. 

Poland has a highly-developed rail system, and the number of rail accidents is quite low. 

There have been several accidents involving buses on highways. 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Air travel incidents are relatively rare, and Poland has a well-developed and highly professional civil aviation structure.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Political Violence Rating: Low

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Poland has no indigenous terrorism and no known terrorist organizations have been identified operating in Poland. Poland was part of the Coalition in Iraq, and troops participate in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. This has led to speculation that Poland could become a target for terrorist operations. Any American presence presents a possible political or terrorist objective for international terrorist organizations. 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.

Terrorism Rating: Medium

Civil Unrest 

Demonstrations are a regular occurrence but are generally orderly and peaceful. Demonstrations regularly occur in Warsaw; during the winter, these activities taper off, but spring and summer witness a large number. Demonstrators are typically vocal but law abiding, and events involving two or more people must be registered in advance. The average size of a demonstration in Warsaw in 2014 was several hundred people, and they occurred frequently. You should be vigilant in protecting your security, bearing in mind that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful may turn violent. Avoid demonstrations whenever possible. As always, we urge you to avoid areas where you see heavy police presence or crowds assembling, to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings, and to stay away from demonstrations.

In 2014, there were multiple, large demonstrations, mostly resulting from sensitive political issues (social benefits, economic policy, etc.). Despite a large and well-orchestrated police presence, the largest and most significant demonstration occurred on November 11, 2014 (the anniversary of independence) in Warsaw near the National Stadium and resulted in acts of vandalism, property damage, and aggression against the police. This unrest represented the fourth consecutive year of unrest on this anniversary. 

The U.S. Embassy is at the epicenter of political demonstration activity, as it is located near the prime minister’s chancellery, Parliament, various government ministries, and other Embassies. While demonstrations rarely target U.S. policies, the U.S. Embassy lies along the a major north-south traffic artery often used by demonstrators, so the Embassy can be affected by disruptions from these demonstrations.

Demonstrations in Krakow are much more infrequent and typically much smaller when they do occur. The U.S. Consulate General in Krakow is near the German and French Consulates. Occasionally, small demonstrations against the German Consulate have taken place but normally have little impact on Consulate operations.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Poland has experienced relatively few natural disasters, with the exception of flooding. Poland has experienced numerous floods, resulting in the loss of life and millions of dollars’ worth of agricultural and property losses. However, in 2014, reported flood damage was minimal.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns 

Poland also has a low rate of industrial accidents. 

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

U.S. government interaction with private sector representatives and Polish counterparts indicate economic espionage problems exist. Companies either do not know they have been targeted or have tried to address the problem internally without involving the authorities.

Drug-related Crimes

There is a negligible threat of drug violence or narco-terrorism. Most violence involving drug trafficking takes place among those involved in this illegal activity, and innocent bystanders are rarely, if ever, victimized. 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. 

Kidnapping Threat

There is no record of expatriates or U.S. Embassy personnel being targeted for kidnappings. There are cases of wealthy Poles or their families being kidnapped for ransom, but those instances are decreasing.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police officers are universally professional and cooperative. Reports of lower-ranking patrol police officers soliciting bribes during routine traffic stops have been absent in 2014, and the Polish National Police continue to take steps to prevent this activity. Motorists who experience bribery should clearly communicate to the police officer that any irregularities will be reported to the Embassy. Obtaining information (the time, location, badge, name of the officer, tag number of the police vehicle involved) is important. Drivers should never pay bribes.

Crime Victim Assistance

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 have a bi-lingual friend along for translation.

Throughout Poland, use the following emergency numbers:
Police: 997 or 22-826-2424
Fire: 998 or 22-595-7000
Ambulance: 999 or22-602-1500
General Emergency: 112

In an emergency with a Polish-speaking person available, call the police, fire department, or ambulance service, depending on your emergency and what assistance is needed. If no Polish-speaking person is available, call the American Embassy/Consulate for assistance.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/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.

Adult Care
Warsaw
"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 Nr. 1)
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
Krakow
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
Poznan
Hospital of the Ministry of Interior (Szpital MSWiA)
ul. Dojazd 34
60-631 Poznan
Emergency Ward - (61) 8464 641; (61) 8464 650; (61) 8464 500; (61) 852 2525

Medical University of Poznan Hospital no. 2
(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr. 2)
Przybyszewskiego 49
60-355 Poznan
Telephone - (61) 869 1100
Contacts: Prof. Michal Drews (surgery) Tel: work: 869 1275 home: 867 1414 mobile: 0601 703092
Prof. Krzysztof Linke (gastrology, internal medicine) Tel: work: 8691 343 home: 822 7977 mobile: 0601726526

Pediatric Care
Warsaw
"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
Krakow
University Pediatric Hospital (Uniwersytecki Szpital Dzieciecy Polsko-Amerykanski Instytut Pediatrii, Collegium Medicum UJ)
ul. WIELICKA 265, 30-663 Krakow 
Switchboard - (12) 658-2011
Poznan
Medical University of Poznan Hospital no.5
(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr 5
ul./street: Szpitalna 27/33
60-572 Poznan
Telephone - (61) 849 1200
Contact: Prof. Andrzej Jankowski (pediatrician) Tel: work: (61) 847 5228 home: (61) 847 5381 Mobile: 0601 563434

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

The following companies are three that offer air ambulance service. The listing in no way serves an endorsement of their services but serves as a guide and a representative sample. The use of any of these companies is at the discretion of the individual or company. OSAC constituents should 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, Website www.americanairambulance.com.
International SOS provides air ambulance service in Poland. Tel: +49 6102 3588 100, Website: www.internationalSOS.com.
Global Air Rescue provides worldwide service, including in Poland. Tel: 866-299-6870, or 561-459-3150 (in the US), Website: http://www.globalairrescue.com.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/poland?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001. 

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

It is always advisable to travel in a group, remain aware of one’s surroundings, and not to overindulge in alcohol. It is always recommended to travel in pairs, especially after dark, or to nightclubs, discos, and bars, as well as in obvious high tourist areas.

To reduce your chances of being targeted by pickpockets, do not carry open purses or backpacks with money or valuables that are easily accessed. It is recommended that purses be carried across your chest in front of your body. Do not display large amounts of money. Separate money, credit cards, and valuables, and carry them in different locations on your person. While at restaurants or bars, remove your wallet from jacket pocket 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. 

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 of their final transaction. Never write or attach a PIN number on a credit or debit card. It is always a good idea to inspect an ATM prior to using. Look for anything out of the ordinary. Look for areas cameras might be located and see if the key pads look like they have a separate plate. Inspect the card insert slot for an added attachment. 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. The best way to avoid skimmers is to use ATMs that are attached to banks and are located inside bank vestibules, if possible. Keep the telephone numbers for your credit card companies in a separate location so they can be contacted if the cards are lost or stolen.

If you recognize that you are being targeted for crime, 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 pickpockets and thieves.

The police and the RSO recommend that all workers’ credentials be verified before allowing entry into a residence.

U.S. citizens should exercise caution when attending soccer matches or traveling near sporting venues during events. U.S. citizens should also be aware of the potential for an increase in traffic and crowds after sporting events. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

U.S. Embassy Warsaw
Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31
00-540 Warsaw Poland

Embassy hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Mon-Fri. 

Embassy Contact Numbers

Regional Security Officer: +48-22-504-2131
Embassy Operator: +48-22-504-2000
Consular Affairs: +48-22-504-2784
Marine Post One: +48-22-504-2639
Website: http://poland.usembassy.gov/

Nearby Posts

U.S. Consulate Krakow: http://krakow.usconsulate.gov/

OSAC Country Council Information

There is an established OSAC Country Council in Poland that meets on a quarterly basis. For more information, please contact RSO Warsaw, RSOWARSAW@state.gov, or RSO Krakow, RSO_Krakow@state.gov. To reach OSAC’s Europe team, please email OSACEUR@state.gov.