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Ghana 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Ghana; Africa > Ghana > Accra

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Accra 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 ACCRA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

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

The Republic of Ghana is a developing country in West Africa. It is composed of 10 regions and the capital, Accra. Tourism can be found in most of the regions, but the infrastructure is lacking. Despite a short era of economic growth between 2000 and 2009, the country remains vulnerable to external economic pressures.

Crime Threats

Street crime is a serious problem and is especially acute in Accra and other larger cities. Pickpockets and thieves often carry out crimes of opportunity (snatch-and-grab attacks) on city streets in crowded areas and from vehicles idling in traffic. Thefts from vehicles are very common. Vehicles should be parked in well-illuminated areas. The potential for carjacking exists in Ghana, but there were no reported occurrences in 2016. Visitors are advised not to carry expensive valuables but rather to store them in a hotel safety deposit boxes or room safes; however, hotel safes can be accessed by hotel personnel even when locked. Walking alone is not advisable, especially at night or in poorly illuminated areas.

There have been burglary attempts against expatriate residences, but perpetrators generally lack the sophistication to overcome home alarm systems and static security guards.

Vehicle theft is a major concern, and stolen vehicles are shipped from overseas to Ghana for resale.

In recent years, U.S. citizens have reported substantial financial losses from questionable transactions allegedly involving gold and other precious metals. The government of Ghana maintains strict regulations on natural resources. All agents must be licensed, and all transactions must be certified.

Cybersecurity Issues

Credit/debit card fraud is a concern, as credit card fraud and related scams are common. Skimming is the primary means of credit fraud and is undetectable until fraudulent charges appear on statements. It is very common for credit card terminals to be tampered with. If you choose to use a credit card, RSO recommends that you monitor your credit card activity closely.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. American citizens frequently consult the Embassy regarding questionable business offers sent from Ghana. These scams typically begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of “advance fees” (fees to open a bank account, to pay certain taxes) must be paid in order to conclude the transaction. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scams is simply to collect money from the victim. The Embassy has received reports of fraudulent charities soliciting contributions through the Internet or direct mail. If you receive such offers or requests, carefully check them out before you commit any funds, provide any goods/services, or undertake any travel. 

There are also multiple variations of dating fraud perpetrated by English-speaking Ghanaians who target Westerners through various dating websites. They utilize fake social media profiles, steal photos/identities from other social media accounts, and swindle victims out of thousands of dollars. The perpetrators typically ask for money for hospital expenses, travel expenses, visa costs, or expensive gifts. A common ploy is for a perpetrator to claim he is a member of the military on a secret mission in Accra whose government has abandoned him. The perpetrator will ask for a laptop computer, expensive cellphone, or some other “necessity.” Many of these operations link back to local Internet cafes; some have reputations based on the type of fraud perpetrated from there. 

Other Areas of Concern

The Ghana Police Service (GPS) has labelled certain areas as “flashpoints” because of the amount of crime in the area, the lack of police presence in the area, and factors in the area that make it dangerous for everyone, including the police. Travelers should exercise caution in the flashpoint areas and in crowded areas.

Travelers should also exercise caution in the Jamestown area of Accra, which is a large area of historical importance where the police have lost control in the past and must dedicate extra resources to prevent spontaneous flare-ups of violence.

There are occasional reports of clashes between government forces and criminal groups; however, foreigners are normally not affected.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Primary roads are generally paved and well-maintained. However, side roads within the major cities and many roads outside of cities are in poor condition and may be inadequately marked, and they can add significant travel time to a trip. Road travel after dark outside the major cities is extremely hazardous due to the potential for carjacking or armed robbery, lack of street lighting, hazards posed by broken-down vehicles, pedestrians, and stray animals. While travel during daylight hours on both paved and unpaved roads is generally considered safe, a combination of road conditions, lack of lighting, violent criminals, and obstacles make travelling at night very dangerous. 

Road lighting is inadequate and is nonexistent outside of cities. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians/livestock in the roadway, and the lack of adherence to basic safety standards for vehicles are daily hazards. Many vehicles are unlicensed, and many drivers lack basic driver training or insurance. Emergency services are limited/nonexistent in many parts of the country. Drivers should always carry spare tires, fuel, and tools on long trips, as there is no roadside assistance. 

Be cautious when traveling on roads. There have been reports of highway robbery, including carjackings, by armed bandits outside urban areas. Some incidents have been accompanied by violence. Limit road travel outside major towns or cities to daylight hours and travel in convoys, if possible, in case of breakdowns.

When driving, be wary of other motorists warning you of a mechanical problem or a flat tire; this may be a ruse used by thieves to get you to stop the vehicle. Ensure that you are not being followed.

Do not open your doors/windows to give money to beggars or street vendors.

If you are involved in a vehicular accident, be aware that a large crowd may gather and could become hostile/aggressive. If you fear for your safety, go to the nearest police station. If a visitor is involved in a traffic accident while in Accra and settlement cannot be reached at the scene, the accident must be reported immediately to the traffic police, who will respond and conduct an investigation. Normal investigative procedures require the police to conduct an on-scene investigation, after which all involved parties go to the Traffic Department for a vehicle inspection and to provide details of the accident for a final report. If possible, obtain the names and contact information of all persons involved in the accident and make a note of the extent of any injuries; make a note of any registration information (tag number) of other vehicle(s) involved; and obtain the other driver’s permit data, and give similar information or registration/permit data to the other driver and police upon request.

Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints, and vehicles/passengers may be searched. Drivers must possess an international driver’s license (available from AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance). Foreign nationals should carry documentation of their status (passport, visa). For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices” and Road Safety in Africa.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transport is unregulated and unsafe; if travelers do use public transport, they should use taxis, not tro-tros (small, private buses). The safety standards of tro-tros are uncertain.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Arriving/departing from Kotoka International Airport in Accra can be chaotic and intimidating. Although the arrivals and baggage claim areas have been renovated, you can experience long lines at immigration and delays in getting luggage, as there is a shortage of airport personnel. The delays are exacerbated by multiple flights landing at the same time. 

Security in the baggage claim area is randomly enforced and is sometime limited to customs inspections. RSO recommends travelers pre-arrange with their hotel/company for transportation and assistance from the airport, as strangers may attempt to assist you with your luggage, and taxi drivers have a reputation for taking newly arrived passengers on circuitous routes or negotiate excessive fares.  

Other Travel Conditions

There are a number of tour organizations that arrange travel throughout the country, with varying degrees of service. None are deemed off-limits. Travel to tourist and historic areas of the country are popular and generally safe, although incidents of armed banditry occur on rural roads.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ACCRA 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

There exists a growing threat of terrorism, and while Ghana has been spared a direct terrorist attack, it does remain vulnerable due to porous borders and regional instability. Newspapers have reported on ISIS training camps and other extremist groups present in Ghana. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

Ghana is a stable democracy that has had six elections since 1992 and three peaceful transitions of power between political parties. The most recent election took place in 2016. While there was some sporadic election-related violence, particularly between grassroots supporters of the two major parties, politics generally takes place in a peaceful context, and defeated candidates have stated that any grievances they have regarding the legitimacy of the election will be handled in the courts. 

Civil Unrest

In the past few years, there has been little widespread civil unrest. There have been numerous peaceful protests and occasions where isolated violence has broken out, particularly between rival ethnic groups in northern Ghana.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Ghana has numerous chieftaincy disputes every year, some of which result in localized violence. There is tension between/within certain ethnic groups in northern regions of Ghana in particular, which can become violent. Government authorities are working to reduce the level of tension and violence in these areas. 

Post-specific Concerns

Economic Concerns

Counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them into to the U.S. may result in forfeitures/fines.

Drug-related Crimes

Ghana has become a significant trans-shipment point for illegal drugs (cocaine from South America, heroin from Afghanistan). Ghana has taken limited steps to combat illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Trafficking has also fueled increasing domestic drug consumption. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has an office in the Embassy and works closely with the Narcotics Control Board (NCB), which coordinates government counter-narcotics efforts (enforcement/control, education, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration).

Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. There have been several deaths of U.S. citizens resulting from the use of narcotics procured locally.

Police Response

The Ghanaian Police Service (GPS) is almost solely a reactive force and demonstrates only moderate proactive techniques/initiatives. Police often lack the equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies. The police have a poor record of investigating and solving serious crimes. There is a visible police presence in Accra.

Persons violating Ghanaian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Crime Victim Assistance

Central Police Headquarters tel: +233-0302-773-906.

The Police Information Room tel: +233 0302 787-373 or via cell phone at 0244 313 820.

Emergency line: 191

If you are the victim of a crime, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy staff can provide a list of local doctors, contact family members/friends, and explain how funds may be transferred. Consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and provide a list of local attorneys, if needed.

Ghana maintains a specialized Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) within the GPS to assist victims of domestic violence, especially women and children. In addition to its law enforcement responsibilities, the unit can refer victims to medical providers and counselors, as well as to community support services.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities are limited, particularly outside Accra. Travelers should carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of their prescriptions, the generic name of 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

 

Hospital Name

Telephone Numbers

Physical Address

West African Rescue Association (WARA)

(233) 024 366 6111

Abafun Crescent, Labone, Accra

37th Military Hospital

(233)-0302-777-595

(233)-0302-786 103

(233)-0302-670-545

Mills Rd, Accra

Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital

(233) 0302-673-033

251-11-551-1211

Guggisberg Avenue, Accra

Lister Hospital

(233)-0302-812-325

Nii Martey Tsuru St, Accra

Available Air Ambulance Services

The West Africa Rescue Association (WARA) operates a local ambulance service and an air ambulance service. WARA is associated with International SOS Clinics.

For air ambulance service (recommended for severe injuries/illnesses best treated in the U.S.), AEA International (International SOS) at 800-752-4195.

Insurance Guidance

Serious illnesses/injuries often require travelers to be medically evacuated where adequate medical attention is available. Medevac services are very expensive and are generally available only to travelers who either have travel insurance that covers medevac services or who are able to pay for the service in advance. For international treatment and medical insurance: AEA International (International SOS), +27 (0) 11 541-1300. 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Accra Country Council currently meets occasionally throughout a year and has approximately 100 members. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Embassy is located in the Cantonments neighborhood at #24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Switchboard: +233 0302 741-000

In the event of an emergency during business hours (Mon-Thurs, 0730-1700; Fri 0730-1230), the U.S. Embassy operator can assist American travelers in contacting the American Citizen Services (ACS) officers in the consular section.

Regional Security Office: +233 0302 741-550

American Citizen Services (ACS) unit will accept calls Mon-Fri, 0830-1200, closed on holidays, at +233 0302 741-570 or +233 0302 741-000, x1570 or via e-mail

Emergencies only: US Marine Security Guard Post 1: +233 0302 741-775

After business hours and on weekends and holidays, the U.S. Embassy Marine Security Guard can assist American travelers in contacting the Embassy’s Duty Officer for assistance with their emergency.

Website: https://ghana.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

Travelers should check with their sponsoring organization to ensure they have the correct documentation in place or risk penalties, including detention, fines, and deportation. To avoid confusion or delays, travelers are strongly advised to obtain a valid Ghanaian visa at the Ghanaian Embassy prior to arrival. 

The Embassy operates a warden system to communicate with registered American citizens in Ghana. Periodic messages are sent to test the system so that it will be effective should an emergency situation arise. If you are going to reside in or visit Ghana, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your presence in-country. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. To enroll your stay or visit, go to Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resources

Ghana Country Information Sheet