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Senegal 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Guinea-Bissau; Africa > Senegal; Africa > Senegal > Dakar

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Dakar 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 DAKAR AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

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

Crime Threats

Street crime is very common, particularly in urban areas. Official Americans, businesspeople, and visitors are victimized primarily by crimes of opportunity (backpack/purse snatching, theft from vehicles, assaults, residential burglaries). Aggressive vendors, panhandlers, and street children often attempt to divert victims’ attention while an accomplice steals valuables. Do not accept items offered to them by anyone on the street unless you are planning to buy it. This is a favorite ploy of street criminals.

Perpetrators using scooters/motorcycles stole purses/backpacks from pedestrians throughout all neighborhoods in Dakar in 2016. There have been incidents of individuals on mopeds robbing other individuals on mopeds. Minor injuries often occur during moped attacks, as victims are knocked down or dragged.

Street robberies and muggings frequently involve the use of knives/machetes, though injuries, when the victim is compliant, are rare.

Toward the end of 2016 and into 2017, the Embassy noted a slight uptick in home invasions targeting houses in neighborhoods frequented by expatriates. An OSAC constituent and a member of an international organization, both in the Almadies area near the U.S. Embassy, were victims of home invasions in late 2016 while the occupants slept. Most reported home invasions occur when residences lack sufficient security (alarms, barred windows, 24/7 guards).

Cybersecurity Issues

Credit/debit card fraud is a common concern; the U.S. Embassy recommends that its employees avoid the use of credit/debit cards. Skimming is the primary means of credit fraud and is undetectable until fraudulent charges appear on statements. If you choose to use a credit card, the RSO recommends that you monitor your credit card activity closely.

Other Areas of Concern

The Embassy prohibits its staff and family members from walking and running along the Corniche d’Ouest during darkness, particularly in the Ouakam, Fenetre Mermoz and Fann neighborhoods due to reports of assaults and theft. Street robberies along the Corniche d’Ouest in Fenetre Mermoz and Fann (near the Radisson Blu Hotel) remain common. Due to the critical crime level, walking outside at night is not recommended. Visitors should avoid walking alone at night or driving into unfamiliar areas.

OSAC constituents should exercise caution when traveling throughout the Casamance region. The RSO reviews and approves all travel by Embassy personnel to the Ziguinchor and Sédhiou administrative regions (within the Casamance region) due to a long-running low-simmering separatist movement centered in the northern part of the region, the possibility of land mines, and requirements by the Senegalese government to notify them of official travel to the area. The frequency of attacks has diminished considerably in recent years; however, isolated incidents of banditry do occur in rural areas in the Casamance. Although rare, armed men have hidden in roadside foliage to surprise and rob passing civilian vehicles. One incident targeted a team of Senegalese topographers working in the Bounkiling area. The geographic center of the conflict zone is concentrated between the northwest region in the department of Bignona along the National Highway 4 (N4) and National Highway 5 (N5). The presence of land mines is an additional concern. Although ongoing demining efforts continue to reduce this threat, travelers are encouraged to stay on paved roads or roads that are well-traveled. The Embassy restricts personnel from traveling off paved roads in the Ziguinchor and Sédhiou administrative regions without prior RSO approval due to land mines, which have been discovered in road beds as recently as late 2016.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

The main threat faced by Americans is vehicle accidents, especially at night. Drivers are aggressive, unpredictable, and untrained. Poor traffic markers, changing traffic patterns, and random, unannounced, road construction confuse even the most experienced drivers. In late 2016, Embassy family members were assaulted and chased in their vehicle for more than a mile before eluding their pursuers.

Seat belts and safety equipment should be used. The Embassy recommends keeping windows rolled up, especially in the Plateau area of downtown, due to the possibility of harassment and theft. A valid U.S. driver’s license is sufficient for driving. Police may confiscate the driver’s license of a driver accused of a minor traffic violation or involved in an accident. The license is typically returned at the police station after payment of a fine. The Embassy does not recommend paying fines directly to traffic police, as this could fuel bribery attempts. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices” and “Road Safety in Africa.”

Road conditions outside of Dakar vary greatly. Many roads are in poor condition, either unpaved or full of potholes, particularly in rural areas. These poor conditions impact drive times and driver safety, as vehicles are constantly jockeying for a smooth surface or avoiding hazards. Driving issues are exacerbated during the rainy season, and additional precautions should be taken. Availability of spare parts and mechanics capable of repairing vehicles, particular American brands, become less common the further from Dakar one travels. There is also a lack of quality medical care in many areas outside of Dakar. The further from Dakar, the harder it becomes to find medical care and emergency services.

Public Transportation Conditions

Dakar’s distinctive black and yellow taxis are often in poor working condition. Prices must be negotiated before getting in, and passengers should exit the taxi prior to paying. RSO advises Embassy personnel to use taxis with proper safety equipment, to never get into a taxi that is already occupied, and to insist on being the only passenger for the duration of the trip. There have been several reports of taxi drivers working in collusion with thieves to rob passengers who agreed to share a vehicle. Embassy staffs are encouraged when they identify a competent taxi driver who operates a taxi in good working condition to develop a business relationship with this taxi driver for repeated use.

Embassy personnel are cautioned against using all buses except the Dakar Dem Dikk city buses. Most of the colorful Ndiaye Ndiaye (Al Hum, Car Rapid) buses lack safety restraints, are missing windows, and are operated in an unsafe manner by unskilled drivers.

Personnel are also discouraged from using sept place – old station wagons that are often seen chugging between cities throughout the countryside.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Arriving and departing the International Airport in Dakar can feel chaotic and intimidating for less experienced travelers. Travelers should expect long lines at immigration and delays in getting luggage, particularly if multiple flights are landing concurrently. Security controls into the baggage claim area are sporadically enforced, and there have been incidents of travelers being approached by unauthorized personnel to assist them with their luggage. These personnel try to coerce an excessive fee for helping. RSO recommends that travelers decline assistance unless it has been pre-coordinated (a travel expeditor). RSO also recommends that travelers make arrangements with their hotel or company for transportation from the airport to their lodging. Taxi drivers will try to take advantage of newly arrived passengers and charge excessive fees.

In recent years, departing passengers have been approached by strangers and asked to check an additional bag and offered money for this service. It appears this was done to avoid paying excess baggage fees, though often the motivation was less clear. The lack of recent incidents suggests that security services have been successful in putting a stop to this practice, but RSO advises travelers against agreeing to accept and check bags for strangers.

Terrorism Threat

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

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The threat of regional terrorism is real. Senegal has not been targeted directly by terrorist attacks but remains vulnerable due to porous borders, increased regional instability, and the terrorist activities associated with al-Qa’i’da in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other like-minded organizations. Mali looms as a possible source of lone wolf terrorists, and various groups have threatened the government of Senegal for its contribution of troops and police in support of peacekeeping operations throughout the continent. There have been threats specifically against French, and more generally Western, interests due to France’s intervention in Mali.

Of particular concern are soft targets (resorts, shopping malls, schools, others) where expatriates may congregate. The Embassy reminds employees to remain cognizant of their surroundings and take note of exit locations in the event of an emergency. In recent years, Senegal has taken steps to minimize the threat, primarily by posting national police or Gendarmes, at perceived vulnerable locations (including hotels).

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

Senegal is considered one of the most stable political democracies in West Africa. Senegal is predominately Muslim. Religious extremism and its rhetoric has not gained a foothold, and the populace seems willing to cooperate with authorities.

Civil Unrest

Public protests, demonstrations, and strikes occur regularly and can lead to violence. Americans should avoid large gatherings, as riot police may resort to using batons and tear gas as crowd control. Common locations for public demonstrations are Place de l’Independence, Place de l’Obelisque, and University Cheikh Anta Diop. Gendarmes usually respond to and disperse protests quickly without resorting to the excessive use of force.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

During the rainy season (June-October), heavy rains have caused severe flooding, particularly in the Casamance area. Flooding impacts Senegal’s road systems, making driving conditions even more dangerous.

Personal Identity Concerns 

Same-sex relations are illegal, and arrests, while rare, often make headlines. Arrests for these offenses are usually made after a complaint is filed by a third-party.

Senegal is extremely difficult to navigate for individuals with physical disability. There are very few accommodations for people with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

Senegal is a pass-through point for West African drug trafficking, primarily from Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Some small marijuana cultivation efforts also exist within Senegal.

Kidnapping Threat

The threat of kidnapping (by AQIM and associated groups) exists but is rare. The border areas between Senegal, Mauritania, and Mali should be treated as potential danger areas. The Embassy did not receive any reports of kidnappings in 2016.

Police Response

The police response to criminal activity is inconsistent and not comparable to Western standards.

Senegalese law requires that you carry valid identification documents. As a general rule, the police do not distinguish between original documents and photocopies so at a minimum one should carry copies of the bio page of their passport.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Do not ignore a policeman’s lawful or reasonable orders. RSO advises that you treat officers as though you were interacting with a U.S. law enforcement official. Becoming belligerent or showing a lack of respect toward uniformed officers will exacerbate the situation and may result in arrest. If arrested, ask to contact the U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services. This request is not always honored expeditiously and may need to be repeated.

Crime Victim Assistance

Senegal has minimal resources available for victim assistance and support.

Police/Security Agencies

There are two primary law enforcement entities: the National Police and the gendarmerie. Both entities have country-wide law enforcement authority.

The National Police fall under the Ministry of Interior and are primarily located in major population centers.

The gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of Armed Forces and are based throughout Senegal.

Dakar is split in two regions: the southern part is National Police jurisdiction, and the northern part falls to the gendarmerie.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities outside Dakar are limited. In-patient psychiatric care is inadequate, but there is office-based psychiatry assistance available.

French medications are more readily available than American medications. American drugs in stock are often listed under their French trade names. Medications may be obtained at pharmacies throughout Dakar and in other parts of the country frequented by tourists. Travelers should carry a personal supply of prescription medicines, along with copies of the prescriptions including the generic name for the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Several hospitals and clinics in Dakar can treat a variety of injuries and illnesses. Public hospitals do not meet U.S. standards, but several private clinics are better than what is available publicly. The Embassy maintains a list of medical resources for U.S.-citizen patients.

PRIVATE CLINICS

  • Clinique de la Madeleine

    18, Ave. Des Jambaars, +221 33 889 9470 Dr. Mamadou Ndiaye, (anesthesiology), Cell (+221) 77 634 79 Radiography: Dr. Ghozayel : Mobile : (+221) 77 639-1624

  • Clinique du Cap

    Avenue Pasteur, near old Palais de Justice, Director : Dr. Hachem Diab El Hadi,

    Tel. (+221) 33 889-0202).

  • Clinique des Mammelles

Tel: (+221) 33 869-1313, Director: Dr. Abdoul Aziz KASSE

Available Air Ambulance Services

Europ Assistance in USA

Address: #1000, 4330 East-West Hwy, Bethesda, MD 20814

The 24/7 number: 1-877-710-4082, Local (240)-330-1523;

Healix

Address: Healix House, Esher Green, Esher, Surrey KT 10 8AB, United Kingdom

Tel: + 44 203 640 67940

International SOS

London call center at + 44-20-8762-8384 or U.S.-based POC: Ryan Clark: Phone 267-716-2411 if they are Tricare, ISOS should be used.

Address: Chiswick Park, Building 4, 566 Chiswick High Rd, London 5YA, UK

Insurance Guidance

Embassy strongly recommends that all visitors to Senegal travel with medical evacuation insurance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

Dakar has an active OSAC Country Council. The Regional Security Office in Dakar is available to meet with American business and private sector organization representatives and will provide information on the current security situation in the country. The point of contact is RSO Christopher Tremann (+221) 33-879-4000. For additional information please reach out to OSAC’s Africa team.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Dakar, Senegal
Route des Almadies
Dakar, Senegal

Hours of Operation: M-TH 0800-1700, and F 0800-1300

Embassy Contact Numbers

U.S. Embassy Switchboard: +221 33 879 4000

Marine Security Guard Post 1: +221 33 879 4000 (24/7)

Regional Security Office: +221 33 879 4420

Consular Affairs/American Citizens Services: +221 33 879 4000

Website: https://dakar.usembassy.gov/

Consular coverage for multi-post countries

The Embassy is also responsible for Guinea-Bissau.

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in the Senegal 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

Senegal Country Information Sheet
Guinea-Bissau Country Information Sheet