Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How careful should you be going to Ireland

While we are all aware that crime is happening around us on a daily basis, most of us are not immediate victims of violent crime and few actually experience petty crime. So, we feel secure in our lives, unsuspecting that others may be plotting to prey on us. Traveling to new lands and new cultures raises our risk of becoming victims because criminals prey on the unsuspecting and casual tourists. Suddenly, when we do come face-to-face with criminal acts, it can be a shocking experience. So, the purpose of this blog is to help you be prepared so that you minimize your level of risk.

Traveling in Ireland is not as dangerous as heavier populated countries. European Union data shows that in 2006, Ireland had 102,000 reported crimes while Northern Ireland recorded a 20% uplift to 121,000. For perspective, Scotland had 408,000 and the Netherlands had 1,206,000 (a smoking number for such a small country). So, relatively speaking, Ireland is pretty safe and millions of tourists visit the country every year without becoming victims of crime. As you move from the countryside to the cities, crime rates increase. European Union data shows however, that even the most dangerous city in the Irish Isles, Belfast has only 2.6 homicides per 100,000 people per year while New York has 5.6 and Amsterdam has 4.4. So, Ireland is still very safe. Yet, it is a wise precaution to be a safety-conscious traveler.

As I noted in my overview, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The political situation in Northern Ireland has improved substantially since the days of the “Troubles.” Nevertheless, the Police Service of Northern Ireland posts a severe risk of violence in Northern Ireland. Attacks by violent dissident groups primarily focus on police and military targets; however, recent attacks have targeted the private vehicles and homes of security personnel, police stations, and other justice sector buildings, increasing the potential for travelers to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. U.S. citizens traveling to Northern Ireland should remain alert to their surroundings and should be aware that if they choose to visit potential flashpoints or attend parades, sporadic violence remains a possibility.

Don’t become a victim

Petty crime such as pick pocketing is known to occur and is usually directed at foreign tourists. Prime pick pocketing areas include busy tourist attractions of Dublin and Belfast as well as train and bus stations. Be especially careful during the tourist season and in high traffic areas such as the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, or other places that attract large crowds. Late night trains where tired passengers often fall asleep are a favorite of pick pockets. The rules are the same everywhere.
  • Don't become alone at night in dark places
  • Don't go into isolated or poorly lit areas and don't use ATM's in poorly lit areas
  • Don't carry your wallet in the open
  • Don't carry more cash that you need that day, leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at home or in a hotel safe
  • Don't leave your belongings in airports, train stations and other highly trafficked areas 
Be a smart traveler. Remove the temptation - visible luggage or personal items from cars when parking, especially near popular tourist sites. The American Embassy has learned of some cases where travelers discover a flat tire and someone immediately volunteers to assist. Capitalizing on the distraction, an accomplice meanwhile steals valuables from the vehicle.

Drugs in Ireland

Hard drugs including heroin and cocaine are completely illegal in Ireland and being caught either in possession of these drugs or selling them, holds stiff penalties almost certainly including prison time. However, the use of alcohol in the form of a stiff shot of Jameson or a stout Guinness is a national pastime and will only be penalized with the requirement to sign for and with the pub patrons.

Whether you were directly involved in the event or not, your reaction will be personal and individual to you. You may immediately feel strongly affected by what has happened.

If you need to contact the police or need a ambulance, here are the numbers:
Dial 112 or 999 and ask the operator to put you through to the Gardai (Republic of Ireland) or the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
EMS and Ambulance
Dial 112 or 999 and ask the operator to put you through to the ambulance service.
Tourist Assistance service
Dial 01 478 5295

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