Ghana 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Accra. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Ghana. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Ghana country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password. Travel Advisory The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Ghana at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Exercise increased caution in urban areas, on intercity highways after dark, and areas near the northern border in the Upper East and Upper West regions, due to crime. Exercise increased caution in parts of the Bono, Bono East, North East, Northern, Savannah, and Upper East regions due to civil unrest. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System. Overall Crime and Safety Situation Crime Threats The U.S. Department of State has assessed Accra as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Violent crime is on the rise, including armed robberies in expatriate residential areas. Most cases occur at night. Nationwide, violent crime results in more than 500 deaths per year. Criminals frequently carry weapons; the most prevalent are locally manufactured pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Reliable sources estimate that there are 1.2 million unregistered guns in Ghana. Victims of robbery should comply with perpetrator demands, as resistance may cause the situation to escalate to violence. Street crime is a serious problem throughout the country, and is especially acute in Accra and other large cities. Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and various scams are the most common forms of crime expatriates encounter. Most frequently, criminals target travelers in crowded areas and secluded beach areas. Victims of opportunistic and violent crime are more likely to be targets based on perceived affluence and/or perceived vulnerability, not based on nationality. Avoid walking alone, especially after dark and in poorly illuminated or isolated areas; doing so may increase risk of criminal targeting. Opportunistic crimes targeting motorists and passengers in vehicles are common. Criminals may exploit unlocked car doors or open windows to steal belongings from vehicles stopped in traffic. Motorists should exercise caution and heightened awareness if opening doors/windows to give money to beggars or street vendors. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind. Travel to tourist and historic areas of the country is popular and generally safe, but highway robberies are common on rural roads, especially near border areas. Bandits typically place obstructions in the road or simulate a crash/broken-down vehicle to stop traffic to steal vehicles or belongings. There are occasional reports of clashes between government forces and criminal groups, but these seldom affect foreigners. Check with local authorities before venturing off main roads into outlying areas. In Accra and other urban areas, thieves and armed robbers target motorists using ruses to extort money. In some cases, robbers have intentionally caused minor accidents or pretended to be hit to get vehicles to stop. Others have attempted to “warn” drivers of a mechanical problem or flat tire. Maintain sufficient distance between your vehicle and the one ahead while stopped in traffic to enable evasive action and to avoid being in a situation where criminals box you in. Property crimes against foreigners remain a concern, especially residential burglaries and vehicle theft. Carjacking occurs sporadically; on average fewer than ten incidents occur each month nationwide, half of which occur in Greater Accra. There have been burglary attempts against expatriate residences, but perpetrators generally lack the sophistication required to overcome home alarm systems and security guards. Guard dogs have also been known to scare off intruders. Robbers may wait outside houses to ambush residents as they enter or exit the property. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security. The Ghana Police Service (GPS) has labeled certain areas as “flashpoints” because of the large amount of crime, the lack of police presence, and other factors in the area that make them dangerous for everyone, including the police. The U.S. Government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in these areas, as U.S. government employees may not travel at night outside of major cities. These flashpoints include: Accra City: Madina & environs; Adenta & environs; and Dansoman & environs. Ashanti Region: Adum & Asafo areas, and Ejura-Manpong-Yeji Highway Bono Region: Sankore; Hwidiem; and Kenyasi  Bono East Region: Kintampo-Buipe-Tamale Highway and Atebubu-Prang-Yeji Highway  Eastern Region: Kibi (aka Kyebi); Akim Oda; and Kwahu Afram Plains (usually highways)  North East Region: Masia-Bulgataya Road  Northern Region: Tamale (primarily robberies at fuel stations)  Savanah Region: Sawla- Damongo- Fufulso-Highway Tema City: Ashaiman & environs; Community 25; and Golf City Upper East Region: Bolga-Wa Road Upper West Region: Sawla-Tuna Highway Volta Region: Aflao  Western Region: Tarkwa Rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence remain significantly underreported. Rape is punishable by 5-25 years in prison, though police often lack capacity to investigate and prosecute cases effectively. While domestic violence is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine, police rarely respond to reports of domestic violence. Avoid sharing itineraries with strangers, including on social media, and be alert to anyone following you to your accommodations. If someone is following you, proceed to a police station or other public venue and do not continue to your original destination. Police rarely respond to reports of domestic violence. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers. Credit/debit card fraud and related scams are common. Skimming, the primary means of credit fraud, is undetectable until fraudulent charges appear on statements. Exercise caution when using credit cards; a growing number of travelers have been victims of credit card fraud. If you use a credit card anywhere in Ghana, monitor credit card activity closely. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit. Four telecom operators offer mobile money transactions in Ghana. Fraudsters have taken advantage of the expansion of mobile money platforms to scam users of the service. Most scams involve someone alerting you to a transaction “made in error” and asking to reverse the charges. Often the caller claims to be an employee of the telecom company or a vendor with whom you have recently transacted. Mobile money users should never disclose their PIN to anyone, never approve any transaction they have not initiated, and call 100 if you want to verify any information. This number connects to the customer service department for any telecom in Ghana. Cybersecurity Issues U.S. citizens frequently consult the U.S. Embassy regarding questionable business offers originating or claiming to originate from Ghana. Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including U.S. citizens. Such fraudulent schemes are now prevalent throughout West Africa. Business scams typically begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who pitches a business opportunity promising quick financial gain. These “opportunities” usually involve the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country and the payment of a series of “advance fees,” such as fees to open a bank account or to pay certain taxes in order to complete the transaction; however, the final payoff never occurs. The purpose of the scams is to collect money from the victim through these fees. The Embassy has received reports of fraudulent charities soliciting contributions via the internet or direct mail. If you receive business offers or charity requests, particularly unsolicited ones, carefully check out the requesting entity before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel.  Email spear-phishing campaigns originating or claiming to originate from Ghana also frequently target U.S. citizens. Spear-phishers make contact under the guise of a business contact or possible future business associate, and attempt to pass information via emails that contain questionable links. Unwitting recipients click on these links, compromising their email accounts and making personally identifiable information readily available to cyber criminals. Many of these operations link to internet cafés in Accra, with some cafés developing reputations for certain types of fraud based on trends in schemes originating from their location. Victims in Ghana have recently reported ransomware attacks, common throughout the world. Take necessary precautions, including vetting IT staff, preventing unauthorized access to servers, installing a virtual private network (VPN), controlling administrator passwords, and updating software and anti-virus programs.    Multiple variations of internet romance or friendship scams target Westerners through various dating and social networking websites. Scam artists use fake social media profiles, steal photos and identities from other social media accounts, and swindle victims out of thousands of dollars. Some perpetrators may claim to have a U.S. visa; often these are fake, even when they provide images. The perpetrators, once in a virtual relationship, typically ask for money for hospital expenses, travel expenses, visa costs, or expensive gifts. Do not travel to meet internet romantic partners or friends who have requested large sums of money; doing so may increase risk of kidnapping for ransom.  In recent years, U.S. citizens have reported substantial financial losses from questionable transactions allegedly involving the purchase of gold and other precious metals. The Government of Ghana maintains strict regulations on the sale of these natural resources; all agents must have licenses and all transactions must be certified. 

Travelers may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Primary roads are generally paved and well maintained; however, side roads within major cities and many roads outside of urban areas are in poor condition. Poor road conditions may cause delays, making travel times variable. Avoid nighttime travel outside the major cities due to armed banditry, hazards posed by disabled vehicles, lack of street lighting outside of urban areas, inadequate road markings, and the unpredictable behavior of farm animals and pedestrians in the roadway. Daytime travel between cities is generally safe, though armed robbery does occur on intercity highways, even during daylight hours. Local drivers do not abide by the rules of the road, and police enforce traffic laws unevenly, even in major cities. Excessive speeding, unpredictable driving behavior, and lack of adherence to basic safety standards for local vehicles are widespread. Many vehicles are unlicensed, and most drivers lack basic driver training or insurance. Use defensive driving techniques, including maintaining sufficient following distances to avoid accidents.  On average, six pedestrians die each day in Ghana. Pedestrians must maintain awareness of dangers at all times: large commercial vehicles are slow to brake, vehicles may swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid potholes, motorcycles travel between vehicles and on shoulders and sidewalks, and drivers often pull out or turn despite oncoming traffic. Drivers should be prepared to avoid pedestrian crossings and expect sellers and panhandlers to mingle with traffic.

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