MONROVIA – The U.S. Department of State has assessed Monrovia as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
The U.S. Department of State has included a Crime “C” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Liberia, indicating that there may be a widespread violent crime and/or organized crime present in the country, and/or that local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
Beginning with General Threat, the US government said in a statement, that crime remains at a critical level throughout the country, owing to growing public discontent with Liberia’s faltering economy.
The statement notes that reports of home and residential compound invasions have increased, as have violent robberies in populated areas.
There has been an increase in reporting of non-violent crimes. Many of these crimes are “snatch-and-grabs” of electronics, purses, bags, and backpacks; vehicular vandalism; and vehicle break-ins categorized as theft.
These crimes of opportunity usually occur in densely populated areas throughout the country. Most snatch-and-grabs involve young male assailants between the ages of 13 and 25.
Criminals often carry knives or homemade handguns, and occasionally work in small groups to target unsuspecting victims. Most of these cases end without violence if the victim is compliant.
Crimes resulting in the use of lethal force have also increased. Crimes of this nature tend to target local nationals, not foreigners.
Violent crimes consist of robberies, burglaries, muggings, assaults, mysterious deaths, mob justice, and ritualistic killings.
The perpetrators, usually carrying a knife or firearm, often use force even when the victim complies with the assailant’s demands, a practice that was uncommon during previous years.
These crimes generally do not target foreign nationals, but may impact their routine and normal activities. Vehicle thefts are not commonly reported; when reported, vehicles are rarely recovered. There are cases of international car thefts where authorities traced stolen vehicles discovered in Liberia to source countries through international law enforcement partnerships. Crimes of this nature are subject to investigation, but go unprosecuted due to a corrupt and ineffective judicial process.
Reports of home invasions in 2020 plagued local nationals at higher levels; particularly in outlying areas of Monrovia lacking community security organizations.
Most home invasions occur overnight, between 0100-0400, and usually involve multiple armed assailants using a combination of homemade guns or semi-automatic weapons.
Vigilante justice is common in greater Monrovia, and in most cases, directed at miscreants engaged in property theft or domestic abuse.
Members of a community often identify these criminals are as “rogues.”
Residential burglaries occur throughout the year, but are more common during the rainy season, when there are fewer people moving about to notice outdoor criminal activity, which is largely obscured by rainy conditions. Lack of effective security measures make home invasions more inviting.
Sexual assault and rape are the most reported violent crimes.
The overwhelming majority of sexual assault victims are Liberian nationals, and many are minors. Sexual violence against expatriates in Liberia is uncommon, but has been reported at public beaches.
Identifying areas of Concern, the state department disclosed that, there are no administratively imposed curfews or off-limit areas in Liberia for U.S. Embassy personnel.
U.S. Chief of Mission personnel may not drive outside the greater Monrovia area (which includes Roberts International Airport (ROB)) or between counties after dark.
Although the Regional Security Office has not designated any areas off-limits, public beaches and the area in Monrovia known as “Red Light” are less safe due to sparse law enforcement and security presence.
The US government warned its citizens to use caution when visiting any public beach, the areas of greater Monrovia known as Red Light, Waterside, Congo Town, ELWA Junction, and all market areas.
Petty crimes and armed robberies are common in those areas, especially after dark. Border areas with neighboring states are more susceptible to a variety of criminal activities due to the lack of security presence and effective security enforcement at most border crossing areas, the statement added.
Commenting on Drug, the statement said, Illegal drugs are present, trafficked into Liberia from neighboring West African countries.
The Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency publicized several success stories in 2020 highlighting the agency’s drug interdiction achievements at ROB airport and throughout the country.
On terrorism, the U.S. Department of State has assessed Monrovia as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
However, there exists a real and growing threat of regional terrorism due to the operational presence of known terrorist entities in West Africa’s Sahel region.
According to America, Liberia has not experienced terrorist attacks, but vulnerabilities exist given the country’s porous borders, and the increase in terror activities by transnational and international terrorist organizations such as al-Qai’da in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Hizb’allah, and the Macina Liberation Front (MLF).
For Law Enforcement, the report assessed following the departure of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2018, Liberian security forces took over the responsibility of maintaining nationwide security for the first time since 2003, but some security institutions such as the Liberia National Police (LNP), the principal law enforcement body in the country, have struggled to maintain the effective nationwide law enforcement and security functions that UNMIL once provided.
However, other law enforcement and security agencies such as the Liberian Immigration Service, the Liberian Revenue Authority, the Department of Customs, and the Liberian Drug Enforcement Agency have improved their capabilities and effectiveness. Safeguarding the nation’s porous borders and providing effective security outside of Monrovia continues to be problematic.
These challenges are compounded by the establishment of illegal checkpoints and solicitation of unauthorized “fines” from vehicle operators, actions which erode public confidence in security officers. Be sure to treat police officers in the same manner you would when interacting with a U.S. law enforcement official.
Ignoring reasonable lawful orders, becoming belligerent, or showing lack of respect will only exacerbate the situation and could result in arrest. Police ResponseThe primary law enforcement agency is the LNP. LNP has continued to develop its law enforcement capabilities.
Locals and visitors alike might experience inconsistency in the level of responsiveness and services provided.
Due to a lack of resources, the LNP is limited in its ability to respond to criminal acts or provide full services to crime victims. Travelers should anticipate that stolen property will not likely be recovered, nor are perpetrators likely to be brought to justice.
It is common for LNP officers to request bribes from travelers at major intersections or police checkpoints during hours of darkness, or request funding for fuel in order to respond to a report of a crime.
Liberian security services, in particular the LNP, are not always able to cope successfully with myriad security challenges, which has resulted in increased public criticism of LNP response. The LNP sometimes employs unorthodox practices, such as throwing rocks at protestors or dispensing tear gas at underage protestors to quell demonstration violence.
Law Enforcement Concerns: Emergency Contact/InformationThe local emergency line in Liberia is 911. However, emergency services are not reliable or consistent. A call to 911 in Liberia may go unanswered, and you may need to employ other resources to obtain emergency assistance. Contact the LNP Chief of Patrol at +231 (0)880-800-117.
In general, the main roads in and around Monrovia are in acceptably passable condition.
In rural areas (the area commonly referred to as Upcountry), approximately 7% of roads are paved.
A six-month rainy season, which begins in May or June, contributes to rapid deterioration of unpaved roads. Many regions are inaccessible, even with well-equipped 4×4 vehicles.
In addition to the road conditions, drivers must pay particular attention to pedestrians, vendors, motorcyclists, and taxi operators, who often demonstrate blatant disregard for rules of the road and the safety of other motorists.
Transportation accidents do occur frequently for reasons including poor maintenance of vehicles, hazardous road conditions, aggressive drivers, and widespread disregard for traffic laws. The most prevalent danger posed is vehicular accidents, especially at night.
The RSO encourages organizations to develop and implement travel plans in Liberia that incorporate personnel tracking technology and accountability. Drivers in Liberia are expected to hold either a Liberian or an international driver’s license; a driver’s license from your home country will not be sufficient.
At the same time, traffic laws are either nonexistent or not enforced. You must pull off the road to make way for high-speed car convoys carrying government officials. There have been repeated occurrences of mob violence taking place following traffic accidents with motorcycle (Pehn-Pehn or KeKe) operators.
Regardless of fault, exercise extreme caution in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. Unless it is physically unsafe to remain in your vehicle, it is often safest to stay in your locked car and call the police immediately if the situation will not defuse. When driving through populated areas like markets, keep windows rolled up and car doors locked.
Carjacking is not prevalent, but snatch-and-grab robberies do occur. For detailed, country-specific road and vehicle safety information, read the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Road Safety.
Public buses are crowded and may make you vulnerable to pickpockets or robbers. Avoid three-wheeled kekes (motorized rickshaws), which are extremely dangerous. The U.S. Embassy prohibits its personnel from using commercial taxis, buses, and motorbike taxis due to potential crimes associated with public transportation, poor maintenance and reliability, and other security concerns. Embassy personnel use commercial transportation services from a list of reputable companies maintained by the Embassy’s Community Liaison officer.
Rape of a female or male is illegal, but the government does not enforce the law effectively, and rape remains a serious and pervasive problem, especially under COVID-19 enforced lockdowns.
The law’s definition of rape does not specifically criminalize spousal rape. Conviction of first-degree rape – defined as rape involving a minor, rape that results in serious injury or disability, or rape committed with the use of a deadly weapon – is punishable by up to life imprisonment. Conviction of second-degree rape – defined as rape committed without the aggravating circumstances enumerated above — is punishable by up to ten years in prison, the statement concluded.