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Crime and Safety

Switzerland - Crime and Safety

If you are the victim of crime or believe yourself to be in danger while in Switzerland, call the police on 112. This number will also connect you with the fire service or emergency medical service and applies across the EU. Dialling 117 will also connect you directly to the police and applies throughout Switzerland.

Switzerland has always had a reputation as one of the world's safest countries and this has been a chief attraction for many expats. It used to be the case that you did not need to lock house or car doors. Sadly, these days have gone and while Switzerland is still a low-crime country when compared to European neighbours, it is important to note that it is by no means crime-free. You may be tempted to let down your guard and to be relaxed about security, based on tales you hear about the old days, but staying security conscious will serve you well. Property offences are more prevalent than any other type of crime, but violent crime rates have risen for less severe types of violence. Traffic offences have also increased. Prisons in Switzerland are now over-occupied in the French- and Italian-speaking regions.

Geneva and Basel appear to attract more criminal activity than other cities, with increasing levels of reported crime. Burglary and street crime have risen and the Paquis and Eaux-Vives districts of Geneva have been noted for having a problem, as have the train stations in Switzerland's city centres. Public parks in cities can also attract petty criminals. On a positive note, the previous crime hotspot of Zurich-West has been regenerated.

Generally speaking, if you live in a city you will be a little more vulnerable than if you live in a rural location, and central city districts are more likely to attract opportunist criminals. Minor crime such as pick-pocketing is prevalent around train stations and other crowded areas. Drug addicts also tend to congregate in city centres and there is some drug-related crime. Beggars occasionally accost people on transport or in the streets, and will often hold a piece of paper asking for money. Some beggars have more sophisticated methods of obtaining money and may take you in with convincing hard-luck stories such as needing money for a fare or a phonecall.

Incidents experienced by expats in Switzerland include pick-pocketing, mugging, bike theft, and burglary from accommodation (i.e. breaking and entering) and from gardens. On the other hand, many expats have not had the misfortune of being the target of crime, so this is by no means a universal experience. To lower your risk of being a house crime victim, keep your windows closed when away from your building and do not leave a spare key in an easy-to-find place. Take care if you have a cat flap or cat access to a window. Also ensure in shared apartment buildings that you know who you are buzzing in and that the communal door closes properly behind you when going in and out. Burglar alarms and timer lights can be useful deterrants.

In the event of being mugged or otherwise attacked, you are permitted by law to use reasonable self-defence. It is against the law to carry a tazer in Switzerland but you can carry pepper spray. If you are the victim of a crime, call the police or make your way to the nearest police station to file a crime report. Not all police staff speak English and you may wish to take someone with you if you need help with the local language. If you wish to claim for losses on your household insurance policy, you will also need to call your insurance provider.

The Swiss police force is armed. Rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas have been used to disperse crowds. The railway police also now carry guns (effective 1 October 2011).

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