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Algeria 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Near East > Algeria

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Algeria has been assessed as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Algiers does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) 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 Algiers as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Algeria-specific webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

The government does not publish crime statistics, and a significant percentage of crimes go unreported.

The most common crimes tend to be crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, purse snatching, burglaries, and similar crimes) perpetrated by criminals who primarily operate in high-traffic and high-density areas. Criminals tend to focus on people who appear unfamiliar with their surroundings or have otherwise drawn attention to themselves. Areas frequented by foreigners are generally less vulnerable since they enjoy more robust police presence, though they can be targeted. Algiers, like many of the larger coastal cities, is considered safer due to the significant deployment of security forces. In addition to police personnel, the wilaya (province) of Algiers employs an extensive camera network for monitoring activity and fighting crime. Video surveillance is used in seven major cities and is expected to expand.

General theft and residential burglaries are more common in low-income neighborhoods but do occasionally occur in more affluent neighborhoods. Because burglaries are often crimes of opportunity, a well-secured home is often enough to deter criminals. Many middle-class Algerian families improve their residential security by installing grilles over windows and doors. While it should be assumed that criminals may be prepared for confrontations, most avoid violence.

In 2017, there were only four reports of murder in Algiers, a city of over three million residents.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybersecurity incidents continue to increase in Algeria. During an annual conference dedicated to cybercrimes in Algeria, a police spokesman stated that authorities reported 1,500 cybercrime cases in 2017, compared to 1,055 reported cases in 2016. Companies, banks, and social networks appear to be the top targets for attackers looking to perpetrate fraud, blackmail, and radicalization.

Other Areas of Concern

Violent extremist groups and criminal networks in the Sahel operate around Algeria’s nearly 4,000 miles of land borders. Terrorist activity in Libya, Tunisia, and Mali continues to cause concern, as does human and narcotics trafficking. Additionally, weapons seizures are most common along the southern border regions; while the Algerian government has identified the western border region as increasingly burdened by drug smuggling. Due to security incidents, including al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) kidnappings, many governments around the world have identified the Sahel region as an area of concern.

When traveling outside of Algiers, make security arrangements and ensure reliable and experienced transportation or logistical support. In general, avoid mountainous regions in less populated and less traveled areas where security services do not have a significant presence. It is a good security practice for all travelers to check in with the local authorities. The Algerian government often requires foreign employees of foreign companies and organizations based in Algeria to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before traveling in the interior. The Ministry will notify local police of planned travel, and police may be assigned to escort the travelers. Foreigners traveling to the military zone established around the Hassi Messaoud oil center require an additional “desert pass” authorization from the government of Algeria.

The Algerian government does not permit Embassy staff to travel outside of the wilaya of Algiers without prior coordination with the Algerian government. For this reason, along with local security concerns, the provision of consular services in certain areas of Algeria may be limited. Travelers are advised to remain on principal highways when traveling to coastal or mountainous areas outside of Algiers.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road infrastructure remains insufficient for the growing number of vehicles on the roads. Traffic management resources are somewhat inadequate, and the ability to expand or create new roads to alleviate congestion in large cities is limited. The government continues to expand the number of paved roads between major urban areas.

The National Center for Prevention and Road Accidents (CNPSR) reported 25,038 road accidents nationwide in 2017, including 3,639 deaths and 36,287 injuries. This marked a significant increase from 2016 when around 3,000 people were reported killed and 25,505 others injured in 14,452 total road accidents. Most traffic fatalities occur on the highways where the main causes are reckless or unskilled drivers, lack of respect for traffic laws, lack of enforcement, and lack of sufficient lighting.

Military and police checkpoints are common on major roads in large cities and throughout the countryside. Security personnel routinely stop vehicles for security reasons and to check vehicle/driver paperwork. During times of heightened security, the number of vehicle checkpoints and police is increased.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

There are numerous taxi services in major cities, to include several new radio-dispatch taxis in Algiers. However, in general they are of questionable reliability and exhibit inconsistent service. It is generally a good security practice to avoid hailing taxis on the street, as driver accountability is difficult, and picking up additional passengers is common.

An urban metro rail line in Algiers is well-maintained, although its usefulness is limited, as it only runs through the coastal neighborhoods.

Traffic accidents involving buses and other vehicles of mass transportation occur regularly.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Houari Boumediene International Airport, which provides international and national flights, is located in the east of Algiers. The airport adheres to international air safety standards and management of flight operations. While security procedures and resources are not on par with U.S. airports, security personnel are present and active. The government has taken steps to improve airport security in recent years, to include building a more modern international terminal set to open in late 2018 or 2019.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Algiers as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Terrorist groups remain active in the trans-Sahara region. AQIM, AQIM-allied groups, and ISIS elements—including the Algerian affiliate locally known as Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (JAK-A, “Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria”)—are present. These groups aspire to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western interests. The vast majority of terrorist attacks in 2017 were directed toward Algerian security forces, military, and police, often using improvised explosives (IEDs), suicide bombings, and ambushes while being actively pursued by the Algerian forces in remote mountainous regions. The below highlights major urban terrorist activities in 2017:

  • In April, Algerian police surrounded a suicide bomber 30km outside the city and he detonated himself to avoid capture. No security personnel were injured in the operation. Shortly thereafter, several members of a terrorist group were captured in the region along with equipment, vehicles, and over 200,000 euros in cash.

  • A suicide bomber attacked a small police post in Constantine in February. That suspect was shot by police prior to detonating the explosives.

  • On August 31, two police officers were killed when terrorists attacked the Police Headquarters in Tiaret. The primary attacker approached the police station wearing a suicide vest while others used small arms to shoot at the police. The suicide bomber failed to get past the officers at the gate and detonated his device. This attack was claimed by both ISIS and AQIM, though AQIM provided the name and photo of the suicide bomber. Subsequent operations led to six individuals arrested along with the dismantling of an ISIS branch located in the West of the country.

The government continues successfully and aggressively to eliminate terrorist activity through a large and capable security apparatus. The Algerian military reportedly killed or captured dozens of fighters loyal to ISIS through sustained campaigns in the north central and eastern regions of Ain Defla, Batna, Bouira, Skikkda, and Jijel in 2017. Military and security services also conducted operations in the eastern border regions near the Chaambi Mountains south of Souk Ahras, near the Tunisian border. The Algerian armed forces reported that, in the first month of 2018 alone, security services conducted successful campaigns that killed or captured terrorists, including senior leaders, in the eastern wilayas of Kenchela and Tebessa.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

The most recent attack against a Western citizen occurred in September 2014 when an ISIS-affiliated group abducted and beheaded a French citizen in a remote area in the Kabylie region.

In January 2013, an al-Qa’ida-linked organization attacked a gas production facility near In Amenas, near the Libyan border, holding foreign and Algerian workers hostage. Dozens were killed, including three U.S. citizens.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Algiers as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

Sporadic social unrest continues in Algeria. In 2017, 2,567 protests were recorded nationwide, a nearly 30% increase from 2016. These protests were generally prompted by specific social issues: housing, falling citizen’s purchasing power, and working conditions. In the southern regions, protests were mostly related to unemployment and lack of services.

Local authorities are active in bringing civil unrest under control. The government is experienced in dealing with such events and has generally been able to defuse them without force. However, a few protests have turned violent and resulted in injuries among protestors and security forces.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Religious and ethnic violence is exceedingly rare. An exception was the Ghardaia valley in southern Algeria, where conflict between the minority Mozabite Ibadi Muslims and the majority Arab Malikite Muslims flared as recently as 2015, with street clashes between the two communities resulting in substantial material damage and human casualties in the Ghardaia wilaya. There were minor issues in 2017; however, a heavy law enforcement presence remains in Ghardaia to maintain stability.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Algeria, and particularly Algiers, rests in an earthquake zone. The country experienced 68 earthquakes in 2017 that registered between 2.5 and 5.0 magnitudes.

Critical Infrastructure

Industrial accidents are not regularly reported in the media, and local authorities’ resources and ability to deal with industrial accidents appear to be limited. In the oil sector, the government depends on resources imported by foreign oil companies and private organizations.

Drug-related Crimes

In 2017, nearly 26,000 people, including 134 foreign nationals, were arrested for drug-related offenses, a decline from the same period in 2016. This does not necessarily reflect a reduction in drug-related activity (it may indicate less interdiction). Algerian law enforcement continues to highlight the battle against drug-related crime in local media.

Kidnapping Threat

AQIM has kidnapped Westerners in the Sahel to obtain ransoms. Kidnappings and the threat of kidnappings have prompted foreign governments and international organizations to warn their citizens and employees against living, traveling, or working in that region. Kidnapping orchestrated by terrorist organizations or armed criminal groups has not happened since the 2014 Kabylie incident.

According to a spokesman of the National Gendarmerie, 23 cases of child kidnapping were recorded nationwide in 2016. During the same period, the Judicial Police Unit of the Western Regions recorded 887 missing and abducted children for a variety of reasons, mostly related to family disputes. Of that total, all but eight children have been found and returned. The Directorate General for National Security (DGSN) recorded a total of 1,418 calls regarding abducted children on a toll-free hotline in 2017. Algerian law enforcement has implemented a security plan to cope with this phenomenon by deploying plain-clothes policemen at schools and in the neighborhoods where disappearances are more common.

Police Response

Police are generally professional and responsive to calls for assistance. A new number for calling the police for service (#1548) is in operation and appears to be successful.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police can be slow to notify embassies or consulates following the arrest of a foreign national. Americans may request permission to communicate with the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, but should not expect Algerian police to proactively contact the Embassy.

Crime Victim Assistance

Police: 1548 and 17 021-73-53-50

Gendarmerie: 1055

Fire: 14 021-71-14-14

Ambulance: 021-23-63-81

Reliability and response time of emergency services varies but is not up to U.S. standards. Emergency operators generally speak Arabic and French and normally do not speak English.

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies

The DGSN is the civil police and is largely responsible for larger cities and urban areas. The DGSN falls under the Ministry of Interior and is responsible for police activities such as maintaining law and order, conducting criminal investigations, combating terrorism and organized crime, and other routine police functions such as traffic control.

The Gendarmerie Nationale falls under the Ministry of National Defense and is responsible for maintaining law and order and providing police services in rural areas. They play an important role in internal security efforts in combating terrorism and organized crime.

Medical Emergencies

In Algiers, the police will likely be the first agency informed in the event of an emergency. The police will advise the local hospital to send an ambulance.

Medical expertise and resources vary. The best hospitals are military, but these are not open to the general public. If a visitor does not have contacts or established medical resources, s/he will likely be taken to the closest medical facility.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

The Department of State maintains a list of air ambulances for medical evacuation.

For those in the south of Algeria (Sahara Desert), the RedMed group (Tel: +213 (0) 21 376583, +213 (0) 297 39 400, and +213 (0) 770 27 80 10 / 20 / 30) offers air ambulance services based in Hassi Messaoud.

Insurance Guidance

It is advisable to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. Consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Algiers Country Council meets twice a year. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa Team with any questions, or to join.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Algiers

5 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi

El Biar District of Algiers

The U.S. Embassy in Algiers operates Sun-Thurs, 0800-1700, with services for American citizens by appointment. A duty officer is available for after-hours emergencies.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Phone number (including after hours): +213 (0)770-08-2000

Website: http://algiers.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel security information for Algeria. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

Additional Resources

Algeria Country Information Sheet