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Cabo Verde 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Cabo Verde; Africa > Cabo Verde > Praia

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Praia does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED PRAIA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Cabo Verde-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

The majority of crimes tends to be motivated by financial gain (pickpocketing, burglary, armed robbery) and is fueled in part by high unemployment and the growing drug trade throughout the islands. Many crimes are perpetrated by groups of youths who are immune from prosecution until they reach 16.

Crime in Cabo Verde increased dramatically during 2016. While certain categories of crime (homicides) remained relatively stable from 2015 to 2016, other categories (muggings, armed robbery, burglary) increased significantly. Crimes involving victims (robberies, burglaries, break-ins) in Praia increased 208% from 2015 with 3,430 cases reported. Those same crimes with no victim present increased 183% from 2015 with 931 cases reported.

Crimes are also becoming more violent. The use of firearms in crimes used to be rare. Although special permission is required in order to own/possess a firearm, use of firearms in crimes is increasing, and victims have been shot. An increasing availability and use of firearms in committing crimes is a concern. Three notable incidents highlight the challenges Cabo Verde faces with regards to increasing levels of violent crime.

  • On April 25, 2016, Cabo Verde witnessed a shocking and tragic event at the Monte Tchota army barracks. The barracks housed a nine-man detachment assigned with protecting a hilltop communications hub. A rogue soldier killed all eight of his fellow soldiers while they slept. He also killed three technicians (two Spaniards, one Cabo Verdean), who showed up to the military facility. The rogue soldier gathered additional weapons and ammunition and fled in the technicians’ vehicle. After the discovery of the killings, an intense manhunt ensued. A joint effort between the military, the National Police, and the Judicial Police led to his capture. The soldier was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
  • On June 28, 2016, two U.S. military ROTC cadets were attacked by three males. The attack occurred during the day, in a more affluent neighborhood in Praia, and less than 200 yards from several Embassy residences. Both cadets sustained numerous scrapes and bruises, and one of them required medical treatment for a stab wound.
  • On November 8, 2016, a U.S. Embassy member was attacked, during the day, while on a walking path. The attacker was armed with a knife. The Embassy member avoided injury, complied with the demand to surrender her cell phone, and the assailant fled. The attack occurred within 300 yards of several Embassy residences.


Other Areas of Concern

The Sucupira (outdoor market) and Fazenda areas are especially prone to pickpocketing, muggings, and purse snatchings. Both should be traversed with great care in daylight and avoided at night, especially if traveling alone.

Similar precautions should be taken when visiting the areas surrounding the beach resorts on the island of Maio, Boa Vista, and Sal.

The Embassy emphasizes the particular dangers of using hillside stairways connecting neighborhoods in Praia. These stairways, although offering convenient shortcuts through hilly terrain, make users isolated and vulnerable to assault, even in the day. The Embassy strongly advises against using them.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Roads in Praia are typically in good condition. A fair portion of the roads is paved with asphalt or cobblestones. Streets are narrow in downtown areas, and caution should be used while driving or crossing streets. Motorists are typically courteous, but caution should be exercised. Taxis, buses, and private vehicles stop in the middle of a road without warning. Traffic collisions pose a great risk to residents and visitors due to the delayed response time of emergency responders. Moreover, Praia has limited medical resources to treat traumatic injuries. Motorists should always wear seatbelts, be attentive, and drive defensively.

In the outer areas, roads may not be as developed, so the ability to find aid is significantly diminished. Excessive speeds on narrow, curving roads outside Praia pose a great danger to motorists. Most of the national highways are in good repair; however, other routes are cobblestone or dirt and can be extremely dangerous during rain. In rural areas, livestock have free rein, making driving hazardous, especially at night when visibility is reduced. Collisions between motorists and livestock happen several times each year.

Most roads are generally poorly illuminated at night. Even those with lights experience regular blackouts.

Rainfall is potential hazard for motorists. During heavy rain, streets will often flood; fast moving water can sweep away vehicles, destroy sections of roads, and wash out bridges.

Public Transportation Conditions

Praia has three principal modes of public transport: taxi, bus, and commuter vans. Using buses and vans is strongly discouraged. The most common commuter van is a Toyota Hiace. These vans may have a fixed, but flexible route and try to operate at full capacity. Often, the drivers place more passengers into the van than is practical or safe.

Taxis are the recommended form of public transport. Licensed, registered taxis are clearly marked and tan/cream in color. While official taxis are considered safe and reliable, passengers should still exercise good common sense and avoid sharing a taxi with strangers.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

There are no specific safety concerns for the Nelson Mandela International airport in Praia. Inter-island flights are considered safe, but flight schedules can be unpredictable with frequent delays and even unannounced cancellations.

Other Travel Conditions

Several islands are connected by ferry service. Maritime transportation is considered safe, but the schedules can be unpredictable with delays and occasional cancellations. The seas can be rough, so travelers should be prepared for possible motion sickness.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED PRAIA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Given the proximity to continental West Africa, regional terrorism is a concern. There are no known indigenous terrorist or dissident groups in Cabo Verde. However, the islands’ nautical location, porous borders, and small coast guard with limited resources could place Cabo Verde at risk as a transit route by terrorists. There have been no recorded or reported international terrorist incidents in Cabo Verde; however, the police have monitored groups they believe to have connections/influence with non-friendly organizations. There is a concern that extremism may also be growing in the prison systems in Santiago and Sao Vicente islands.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED PRAIA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Cabo Verde has been a very stable democracy. The democratic system and processes are well-established and stable. Portuguese influence, legacy, and political/judicial framework are strong, and a stable system of government is in place. Political violence is virtually unknown.

Civil Unrest

Civil unrest and civil disorder are not common. There are occasional demonstrations that take place as a result of economic issues, but all have been peaceful. In 2015, there was a slight increase in strikes and work stoppages, largely because of high unemployment numbers, but they remain infrequent.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Natural disasters are of some concern. Flooding from heavy rains tends to cause the majority of problems that can adversely affect roads and some low-lying coastal areas.

A volcano on the island of Fogo erupted in 1995 and on November 23, 2014, but it had little impact on Embassy operations/personnel. Due to the ash cloud, air traffic was diverted for international flights for two weeks.

In August 2016, the island of Brava experienced low-intensity tremors, causing no injuries/damage. Out of precaution, the government of Cabo Verde evacuated about 300 residents deemed to be in potential danger if the tremors continued or intensified.

Critical Infrastructure

There is some question regarding the government’s ability to react to large-scale natural disaster. The transportation of emergency responders during the November 2014 volcano eruption proved challenging. Request for assistance was made to foreign countries for aid and support, including air/sea support that was provided by the Portuguese. Similar concerns were raised during Hurricane Fred, which hit Cabo Verde in August 2015 and whose after-effects proved to be difficult for the government to respond to in the northern islands. As a result, managing or responding to disasters is inadequate. While there is a coast guard, its resources are limited, and rescue or assistance of vessels or aircraft at sea would be challenging.

The ability of the government to respond to a major industrial or transportation accident is jeopardized because there are limited resources. While emergency services do exist, a large-scale accident would likely require international support. Resources on the main island and around Praia are limited, and there are even fewer services available on other islands.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug trafficking has increased. Drug use and abuse are also on the rise, and an uptick in street crimes (pickpocketing, petty theft, robbery) is directly linked to the increase in drug abuse. However, drug abuse is not pervasive enough to cause serious socio-economic problems, and authorities are trying to combat and counter the drug trade and its negative social effects.

Cabo Verde continues to be a gateway for drug cartels to pass illegal drugs from South and Central America to Africa and Europe. Narco-violence is growing in the islands, resulting in the murder of the mother of a federal officer and the attempted murder of the son of a high-ranking government official.

Police Response

Police authorities are generally strong-willed, but their responsiveness is somewhat questionable. In most cases, stolen items are not recovered. Police capacity to assist and respond to crimes are affected by limited resources or by the prioritizing of more serious cases. Even though law enforcement is working as best they can with limited resources, drug interdiction continues to be a problem. There are only 75 maritime police officers to patrol all the islands. Even though a police presence is visible, pro-active policing is not as prevalent as in other countries. Generally, police services are reactive. Language abilities beyond Portuguese and Creole are very limited (some may know some French and Spanish), making it difficult for tourists and others to report crimes.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If detained or questioned by the police, cooperate fully with the authorities, as not doing so could prolong detention. Inform authorities of your status in the country, visiting purpose, and nationality, and request that they contact the U.S. Embassy. If needed, a detained U.S. citizen should contact American Citizen Services in the Embassy for assistance.

Incidents of corruption/bribery are not overt, nor are bribes typically solicited by police. If such activity occurs, it should be reported immediately. Cabo Verdean officials remain committed to fighting official corruption and punishing abuse of power whenever reported.

Crime Victim Assistance

The few U.S. citizens who have been victims of crime required the intervention of the RSO to get an efficient, effective police response. The general police emergency number is 132. The language barrier is of some concern as the American tourist’s presence in Cabo Verde grows.

Police/Security Agencies

Santiago Island

Praia: 262-12-32

Cidade Velha: 267-11-32

Pedra Badejo: 269-13-32

Santa Catarina: 265-11-32

Tarrafal: 265-11-32

Fogo Island

Mosteiros: 283-10-73

São Filipe: 281-11-32

Brava Island

Cidade Nove Sintra: 285-11-32

Maio Island

Cidade do Maio: 255-11-32

São Nicolau Island

Ribeira Brava: 235-22-32

São Vicente Island

Mindelo: 231-46-31

Sal Island

Espargos: 241-11-32

Santa Maria: 242-11-32

Santo Antão Island

Ribeira Grande: 221-11-32

Porto Novo: 222-11-32 

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities are basic at best, especially outside of Praia. Medical service providers are often adequately trained, but lack equipment, supplies, and medical facilities for treating serious illnesses/injuries. Most medical personnel speak Portuguese, and some are likely to speak or at least understand French and English.

Medical emergency number: 130

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Santiago Island

Praia: Hospital da Praia 261-24-62

Cidade Velha: Posto Sanitario 267-11-20

Pedra Badejo: Hospital de Pedra Badejo 269-13-30

Santa Catarina: Hospital de Santa Catarina 265-11-30

Tarrafal: Hospital do Tarrafal 266-11-30

Sal Rei: Hospital da Boa Vista 251-11-67

Brava Island

Cidade Nova Sintra: Delegacia de Saude 285-11-30

Fogo Island

Mosteiros: Hospital dos Mosteiros 283-10-34

São Filipe: Hospital de São Filipe 281-11-30 or 281-11-77

Maio Island

Cidade do Maio: Delegacia de Saude: 255-11-30

São Nicolau Island

Tarrafal: Hospital do Tarrafal 236-11-30

Ribeira Brava: Hospital da Ribeira Brava 235-11-30

São Vicente Island

Mindelo: Hospital de São Vicente 232-73-55 or 31-18-79

Sal Island

Espargos: Delegacia de Saude: 41-11-30 or 42-11-30

Santo Antão Island

Ribeira Grande: Hospital da Ribeira Grande 221-11-30

Porto Novo: Hospital do Porto Novo 222-11-30

Available Air Ambulance Services

Any emergency service would take at the minimum, one hour to reach Praia from Dakar and would be extremely expensive.

Insurance Guidance

Travel insurance and/or medical evacuation insurance is recommended when visiting Cabo Verde.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Cabo Verde.

OSAC Country Council Information

Embassy Praia does not have an OSAC Country Council. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Rua Abilio Macedo 6 Caixa Postal 201 Praia, Cape Verde

Hours of Operation are 0800-1700, M-F

Embassy Contact Numbers

(+238 Country Code)

Switchboard 260-8900

Operator 260-8912

Duty Officer: 991-3325

Regional Security Officer: 260-8926

Commercial section: 260-8922

FSNI 991-7141/972-9956

Medical Unit 991-1236

Management Officer 260- 8923

Consular Affairs 260-8907/260-8995

Political/Economic Section 260-8925

Website: http://praia.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in Cabo Verde are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.

Additional Resources

Cabo Verde Country Information Sheet