The Slovak Republic 2013 Crime and Safety Report - PDF

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The Slovak Republic 2013 Crime and Safety Report Transportation Security; Stolen items; Surveillance; Right-wing; Floods; Information Security; Financial Security; Improvised Explosive Device; Cyber; Assault;
The Slovak Republic 2013 Crime and Safety Report Transportation Security; Stolen items; Surveillance; Right-wing; Floods; Information Security; Financial Security; Improvised Explosive Device; Cyber; Assault; Theft; Burglary; Racial Violence/Xenophobia; Drug Trafficking Europe Slovakia Bratislava 2/26/2013 Overall Crime and Safety Situation The Slovak Republic has a Medium rate of crime. Western visitors, especially short-term visitors such as tourists and students, are the primary foreign targets of street crime. Criminal activity remains a concern as criminals enjoy a relatively permissive operating environment. The majority of street crime is non-violent and ranges from pick-pocketing and purse/cellular telephone snatchings (high frequency) to mugging, armed robbery, shooting, drugging, and robbing of unsuspecting victims at nightspots and bars (low frequency). Although violent crime is not unheard of, it is relatively uncommon. The local pick-pockets are professional and most active during the summer. Pick-pockets tend to utilize distraction techniques to confuse their target. They prefer locations such as shopping centers, markets, public transportation (in the vicinity of Old Town), near major hotels and tourist sites, and on the night trains to Prague and Warsaw. While infrequent, purse snatchings do occur in Bratislava. Purse snatchers typically work in crowded areas, allowing them to cut straps of purses and run away in the crowd. When dining in restaurants, particularly with outside seating, visitors should not hang handbags or suit coats on the backs of chairs. Wallets and other valuables can/will be stolen if caution is not exercised. While not endemic, incidents of credit card, Internet, and ATM fraud are increasing. Power struggles, which can be violent, within organized crime syndicates occur from time to time mostly outside of Old Town Bratislava This activity is not directed against Americans or other foreigners. While residential break-ins and thefts are relatively uncommon, those that do occur typically take place during day light hours when it is believed the residents are not at home. The Slovak Republic is generally considered to be a relatively safe place to live. However, past incidents revealed the presence of skinhead elements and corresponding incidents of hate crime. Although U.S. citizens are not specifically targeted, any non-caucasian individual could be targeted. Skinheads also target members of the Roma (Gypsy) minority. Laws have been enacted to fight racially motivated attacks that include stiffer penalties than normal assault statutes, yet the issue remains a difficult crime to prosecute. Therefore, it is not uncommon for prosecutors to charge the offender under the more easily proven simple assault statutes to increase the chance of a successful prosecution; the perpetrator avoids the heavier penalty carried by the hate crime statutes. Overall Road Safety Situation Theft from cars is more common than theft of cars in Bratislava. Valuables should never be left in a vehicle. At night, utilize a garage, if possible, or at least a lighted parking area on the street. There have been several incidents of thieves gaining access to residential parking garages and subsequently breaking into storage units and vehicles. The slight increase in these events is likely partially a result of the stagnating local economy. Never leave keys in the ignition or leave your car with the engine running. It is suggested that doors be locked while driving, that the driver and all passengers wear seat belts, and that windows be down only as far as ventilation needs require. The rate of auto theft connected to organized crime is very high. High-end European and American cars are preferred targets of theft. Taxi companies provide generally reliable, safe, and economical services. Avoid independent cabs that do not display a company name prominently. Visitors should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Higher charges can be expected when a cab is randomly stopped in the street or is idling at a taxi stand. Radio-dispatched taxis are often much more reliable The cheapest option is to call ahead. Road Safety and Road Conditions Roads typically are safe though oftentimes not well maintained. Four-lane highways exist in and around Bratislava. However, most roads outside of built-up areas are two lanes only, and aggressive drivers attempting to pass at unsafe speeds pose a serious hazard. Due to poor lighting and narrow, winding roads, nighttime driving outside of built-up areas is not recommended. Encountering an aggressive driver on the road can happen. Traits of aggressive drivers include: continual horn honking, screaming at other motorists, tailgating, and making rude hand gestures at other vehicles or people. When such behaviors result in actual physical or vehicle-to-vehicle altercations, aggressive driving can turn to road rage. Once it becomes apparent that aggressive actions are intentional, you should make every attempt to avoid and distance yourself from them. You should also do the same for erratic drivers or anyone who is driving in a manner that is concerning. From November-March, there is often heavy snowfall, which is not adequately cleared from many rural roads. Roads in the mountainous north are particularly prone to hazardous conditions during winter months. Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited. The blood alcohol tolerance level is zero percent. Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence While the years immediately following the collapse of communism and the creation of an independent Slovak nation in the early 1990s witnessed a high level of political violence between rival political parties and organized crime gangs, during the last years, Slovakia has experienced a relatively stable security environment. The government is politically stable. Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns There are no known indigenous terrorist organizations present. There have been several incidents of homegrown lone-wolf actors who conducted or were planning to conduct terrorist incidents. In December 2011, an individual in Kosice detonated a small improvised explosive device in a trash can outside of a McDonald s restaurant. The blast resulted in no injuries; however, some small property damage was reported. The perpetrator was arrested though his exact motive remains unclear. In addition, in January 2010, the police announced the arrest of an individual who reportedly was planning to detonate homemade bombs during church services. The individual was detained by police prior to committing any act and claimed to be motivated by his hatred of organized religion. Both indigenous and foreign organized crime groups are well established. These groups are involved in both legal and illegal businesses. Many crime figures have business interests in the main tourist area known as Old Town. They do not target U.S. or other foreign individuals and tend to co-exist peacefully in the tourist district so as not to scare away tourist dollars. Though not common, violent incidents sometimes do occur outside of Old Town. Organized crime activities include trafficking in narcotics, persons, nuclear material, cigarettes, and weapons. These groups are also involved in auto theft, financial fraud, prostitution, public corruption, protection rackets, and cyber crime. Slovakia is actively fighting the trafficking of illicit goods and persons as well as illegal migration as part of its role in protecting the EU s external border with the Ukraine. The threat of terrorism directed against American citizens is considered Medium. Although there are no known, specific threats to U.S. interests, U.S. citizens and U.S. interests abroad remain at risk of terrorist attacks by groups with links to al-qa da. These individuals do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. The threat from international terrorism remains high in the EU and is diversifying in scope and impact. While there have been no incidents of international or transnational terrorism, in November 2009, three men from Slovakia and two U.S. residents were arrested for allegedly conspiring to procure weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, to be sent to Syria or Iran. Two of the men residing in Slovakia were also charged with conspiring to commit passport fraud. Civil Unrest The threat of political violence directed against American citizens is low. Public demonstrations are common though typically peaceful. Demonstrations must be pre-approved by the city governments and are generally small, numbering less than 100 participants. Religious or Ethnic Violence Small, fractional fringe element groups of neo-nazis, skinheads, and other far-right wing extremists continue to be present but rarely adversely impact foreigners. While reported incidents of violence and harassment targeting gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual communities are rare, during Slovakia s first Gay Pride Parade in May 2010, 50 skinheads/neo-nazis staged a counter-demonstration and attempted to disrupt the celebration by chanting slogans, attempting to infiltrate the group, and tossing several smoke-bombs toward the crowd. Riot police were called up from their staging areas and pushed the counter-demonstrators back approximately 75 yards from the stage where they remained until the conclusion of the speeches and concert. While another group of skinheads/neo-nazis did stage a counter-protest, the 2011 and 2012 events were considered more of a success largely due to better preparation by the police and city government. Post-specific Concerns Environmental Hazards Although situated in a zone classified as moderate risk for seismic activity, Slovakia has not had any earthquakes in recent memory. Over the last few years, eastern and central Slovakia has experienced heavy spring and early summer floods. The floods have resulted in several deaths and millions of Euros in property damage. Industrial and Transportation Accidents In 2010, an explosion occurred at an industrial chemical factory in Ruzinov. The blast and subsequent fire released smog into the air, but safety officials determined the levels of chemicals were not dangerous. Drug-related Crimes Slovakia has been identified as a transit country for illegal drugs coming from Turkey, the Balkans, Asia, and Afghanistan. There is very little violence associated with drug trade. The police have made some headway in seizing shipments of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. In addition, the police have reported a growing problem with methamphetamine. Unlike neighboring EU countries that have legislation in place requiring customers to see the pharmacist when purchasing over-the-counter drugs used as a precursor chemicals and placing a limit on the number of packages that can be purchased, in Slovakia manufacturers of methamphetamine can walk into any pharmacy and purchase the ingredients over the counter. Kidnapping Threats While a small number of kidnappings do occur each year, they are largely associated with the trafficking of women and children. Police Response While competent and professional, police forces suffer from a lack of manpower, resources, and equipment. Their responsiveness to criminal incidents depends on the type and severity of the crime involved, and, oftentimes, the social status of the complainant. Many foreigners who have been the victim of crime will find their interactions with the police to be somewhat frustrating due to the language barrier, as few police officers speak English. However, the police do make an effort to staff their 24-hour emergency numbers with individuals who have some English-speaking capabilities. Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime If you are the victim of a crime, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy. Police (Emergency): 112 or 158 Police (Non-Emergency): Fire: 112 or 150 Ambulance: 112 or 155 U.S. Embassy: (normal business hours) or (after-hours and weekends) or +421 (0) (after-hours and weekends) How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment Should you be involved in one of these incidents, immediately inform the police that you would like to contact your Embassy. Report all incidents of police detention or harassment to the U.S. Embassy s American Citizen Services office at telephone Monday thru Friday during normal working hours or after hours at (after-hours and weekends). Medical Emergencies Medical facilities are available, although the quality and availability varies. In Bratislava, there are is private and five public facilities that can be used for emergency services based on type of illness or injury. The general emergency number is 112 for medical, police, and fire that is usually staffed by an English speaking official. Generally the standard of triage is based on the level of emergency. Ambulances are only a means of transportation to the hospital; they may not have life support stabilization equipment on board. However, in a life threatening situation, a fully equipped ambulance carrying a physician and paramedic will come within minutes costing roughly Euro if you do not have European health care insurance. Only a limited number of doctors speak English. Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics University Teaching Hospital Kramare, Limbova 5, (largest hospital); phone: +421 /2/ ; contact person: MU Dr. Sebo +421 /0/ Children s University Teaching Hospital, Limbova 1; phone: +421 /2/ ; contact person: MU Dr. Spanik +421 /0/ or +421 /0/ University Teaching Hospital of St. Cyril and Metod Petrzalka (Nemocnica Petrzalka), Antolska 11; phone: +421 /2/ ; contact person: MU Dr. Sykora +421 /2/ The National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Pod Krasnou horkou 1; phone +421/2/ ; contact person: Ing. Msolly Mongi Internal Medicine and Cardiology, Policlinic Ruzinov, Ruzinovska 10, Suite 4; phone +421 /2/ Private Hospital Medissimo, Tematinska 5; phone +421 /2/ or +421 /2/ ; contact person: MU Dr. Paul Hnilica, MD cell phone +421 /0/ Hospital Hainburg, Holmeister Str. 70, Hainburg, Austria Recommended Air Ambulance Services Air Transport Europe (Airport Poprad-Tatry): phone 421/52/ ; emergency call: International SOS: London: Air emergency service (Airport Bratislava): MU Dr.Krizalkovicova; phone number ; cell phone CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance For additional health guidance, visit the CDC at: Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim Crimes/Scams Most of the crimes reported to the Regional Security Office involve petty theft (purse-snatching, cellular telephone grabbing, pick-pocketing) and vehicle break-ins. The individuals most often targeted for purse-snatchings are newly-arrived personnel and tourists who are unfamiliar with the local environment. Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices A traveler can minimize the chances of becoming a victim by taking the basic, yet necessary, personal security precautions one would take in any congested urban environment, including increasing public awareness of one s surroundings, and properly securing valuables on their person or in a hotel room. Visitors are urged to exercise precautions practiced in any large city, such as using the buddy system instead of walking alone at night and keep to well-lit, populous areas if possible. It is also good practice to pay attention to your personal belongings, as they are popular targets of local thieves. Most reports of crime are generated in Old Town Bratislava. The congregation of tourists in this area leads to the influx of criminal elements eager to rid a visitor of his/her valuables. Travelers should minimize the amount of valuables and money they carry on their person. The two train terminals in Bratislava (Hlavna Stanica and Petrzalka) are rife with pick pockets. While not a frequent occurrence, automobile theft does occur. Many stolen vehicles are transported out of the country for resale. Preferred targets for the auto thief are up-market European and American cars. The use of an alarm system or anti-theft device is strongly encouraged. It is far more likely that an individual will be a victim of a vehicle break-in rather than vehicle theft. Residents and visitors are encouraged to remove all valuables from their vehicles, even if parked in a garage. Thieves are particularly interested in loose change, GPS navigation systems, and other valuable items. The security guard company sector is a growth industry. However, many of these companies reportedly have ties to organized crime. Care should be taken to choose a reputable company when selecting a security service. Americans visiting the Slovak Republic are urged to abide by local laws and monitor the local news. U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation The U.S. Embassy is located at Hviezdoslavovo Sq. 5, Bratislava Hours: Monday - Friday from 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. except Embassy Holidays. Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers All numbers should be preceded by the country code (421) and city code (2): Embassy Operator: Marine Post One: Regional Security Office: Medical Unit: Consular Affairs: OSAC Country Council Information The Embassy had a meeting with various business/company representatives in April 2012, and RSO (Regional Security Office) continues to encourage more commitment and participation from all previous attendees to maintain its nascent Country Council. The RSO also works with the Embassy's Foreign Commercial Service section on matters affecting the U.S. business community. Point of contact is RSO Tony Hornik-Tran who can be reached at or ARSO Joseph Benson at
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