Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Recent Criminal Activity

The U.S. Embassy would like to inform U.S. citizens of a recent increase in certain types of criminal activity in the Lomé area. The most commonly reported activities are:

1) Pleading for Help: In a relatively new tactic, criminals will leave a person in the road, blocking traffic, either lying or kneeling, and pleading for help. When the driver stops to assist, men appear from the sides bearing machetes and home-made firearms and rob the driver or hijack the car. The risk of this type of incident increases at night.

2) Following the Victim Home: In a resurgence of an old tactic, criminals on motorcycles follow their intended victim to their residence or other destination. When the driver exits the car, they take advantage of the opportunity to rob the driver, hijack the car, or take items from the car or residence.

3) Vehicle Break-ins and Motorcycle Thefts: There have been reports of break-ins on parked cars to steal the items within the car. Criminals force their way into the car through the door or by forcing down a slightly opened window, and move quickly to take any accessible or visible items and then get away. Additionally, criminals have been stealing both parked and moving motorcycles by disrupting their driving then stealing the motorcycle.

Existing guidance should help you avoid these types of situations:

1) Situational Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to people and activities in close proximity to you. Check the interior and exterior of your vehicle prior to getting in, especially if you park in a public or shared area. Look for anything that is out of place or doesn’t appear to belong in, on, or under your car.

2) Road Security: If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to drive away from the situation if safe to do so. You can drive to the nearest police station or other public facility. Do not lead the person back to your home or stop and get out. Where possible, drive with your doors locked and windows up, especially when stopped.

3) Keep a low profile: Avoid engaging in loud conversations or arguments. Do not wear flashy or expensive clothes or jewelry/watches and avoid displaying large amounts of currency. Avoid leaving property or money out in your car while it is parked.

4) General Precautions: Control your belongings. Carry bags and purses on the front of your body where you can see and touch them, especially in crowded places. Be wary of scams. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A stranger who approaches and engages you may also be a distraction in order to facilitate another crime such as pickpocketing.

Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

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