Poland: Safer Than You Might Think

Welcome to Poland – leave your front door unlocked, your fancy car unalarmed and yourself unprotected. The figures say you’ll be just fine.

Eurostat, the EU’s official home of presentations, pie charts and PDF files just released the crime figures* for the EU and some Friends of the EU (Iceland, Norway) up through 2008 and they were chock full of numbery goodness. In short, they claim that Italians are car thieves, Lithuanians are mass-murderers, all that white stuff in Norway is NOT snow (it’s blow), British people enjoy a bit of burgling and some senseless violence on the side and the French are most likely to kick your ass while trying to take your wallet …which is odd, considering their “surrender monkey” moniker.

For Poles and people who live in Poland the car theft figures will come as a crushing shock as we generally consider ourselves excellent car thieves but it is quite possible that our car thieves have found gainful if unethical employment abroad.

Let’s run through the numbers, shall we?

Dial “M” for Murder
Poland is, generally speaking, safe. You are more likely to take an unexpected dirt nap in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Bulgaria (no surprise there), Ireland, France (probably the foreigners doing it), Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia (they’re all mad men there), Finland (likely a lot of murder-suicides), and the UK (yobs, northerners, etc.). The worst of the worst are Estonia and Lithuania …and Albania, Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia and the rest of that lot aren’t very safe either. Estonia and Lithuania are the shockers here, though. Poles would apparently be safer if they lived in Greece (surely their statistics can’t be trusted), Germany (NO COMMENT), Spain (tapas: an anti-psychotic drug?), Italians (probably untrue – likely the mob killed all the statisticians), Norway (obviously), Sweden and Austria (also NO COMMENT).

Dial V-I-O-C-R-M, extension 1 then option 3 and ask for “Violent Crime”
Eurostat says violent crime is physical assaults, robbery (theft by force or threat of force) and sexual offenses (rape). This does not include any time you’ve ever felt you’ve been bent over when paying a notary or paying for an oil change at a dealership. Poland, so say the stats, is even safer than Switzerland – just one in roughly 715 people will have to deal with a violent crime in Poland. Greece claims to be safer than Poland (still lying). Unsurprisingly, the UK is the worst here, with roughly 1.75 percent of the population (1 in 57 people) experiencing some sort of violent crime. Austria is a close second after the UK with Belgium and Sweden close. Norway, sadly, is not as safe as it should be: 1 in 204 people will suffer a violent crime in the world’s most beautiful country. Romania claims to be the safest or the most likely not to report violent crimes because they say that only 1 in 3,300 people are affected by violent crime there. Strange but, so they claim, true.

Don’t Bother the Police, It Was Only a Maluch
More strange, surprising, shocking and salaciously scintillating stats:  you are far more likely to get your car stolen while on holiday unless you happen to be on holiday in Poland. Your car is marginally safer in Turkey (really???), Slovenia (I assume they steal snowmobiles), Romania and Bulgaria. Everywhere else you are more likely to end up riding the bus because your car’s been nicked. Worst is Denmark, followed by Sweden (surprising), Italy (not surprising), France (not at all surprising), then the Ireland and the UK.  Quick anti-theft advice:  put a “Protected by Smith and Wesson” stick on your ride and occasionally take pot shots at potential thieves or guilty-looking people near your car.  Word will get around.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Norwegians are most likely to be growing, selling, transporting, importing and exporting drugs, rather than fish or those sweaters. The high and mighty in Luxembourg are not too far behind and after that it drops off pretty quickly, with Estonia, Belgium, Latvia and Finland leading the last third of the pack. Down at the bottom are the sober Poles (you will NEVER see those two words together again) and their tee-totaling friends in France and Slovakia.

The Boys in Blue
…aka the Thin Blue Line …aka The Force …aka doughnut-drunking, cheap coffee-swilling, “what smells like bacon?” fuzz. Cyprus has more cops per 1,000 people than anywhere else which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Italy has the second most cops/population except, amusingly enough, they only reported figures up to 2006 – I assume after that the mob bought the rest or Berlusconi has them escorting hookers around. Poland is in the bottom third here: one in 385 people are cops here which is about the same as Slovakia and a bit higher than Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. The UK has slightly more cops/population (one for every 370 people), Germany has a bit more than that, France clearly doesn’t have enough cops even though they have one for every 285 people, Greece has loads of do-nothing cops (one for every 220 people) and Turkey has even more bribe-takers with one for every 212 people.

So, there you have it:  not only is Poland fairly safe we manage to keep the country relatively crime-free with fewer cops than most places.  All (or most) joking aside, that’s something we can be proud of.

* Point your web browser here to get your very own copy of Eurostat’s Crime and Criminal Justice …Tolstoy, eat your heart out!

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38 thoughts on “Poland: Safer Than You Might Think

  1. krogulczas says:

    Hi there,
    Looking today through my RSS-feed, I found the article above pretty interesting. Especially this part “[…]Cyprus has more cops per 1,000 people than anywhere else[..]”. I’m actually pretty interested in the situation on Cyprus because of my studies, politically speaking :). Unfortunately, after browsing the whole document, it made me wonder – where are the numbers indicating such a situation in the link to the .pdf file you provided? Or did you, I dunno, calculated it somehow?
    Anyways, thanks for the reply in advance :)

  2. The only figures I grabbed from outside of the document are population figures …and the rest was basic math.

  3. Waldemar says:

    That statistics you have mentioned are blurred by the sipmle fact, that in 2004 many Poles went abroad worsening their crime stats and leveling up ours (as they still figure on our populaton, but doing crimes there) ;-).

    But joking aside, I admit that I feel safe in Poland. Many surveys say that however Poles think that crime level in Poland is high (media!), but when asked if this problem refers to their neighborhood (street/town) most of them says no. (sorry for my english, i hope that meaning gets through).

  4. Steve says:

    Compared to England, at least, none of this is even remotely surprising. However, I get the impression that Polish criminals are pretty clever. Apparently the police thought that burglars were putting some form of sleeping gas through the external air outlets in some local night time house robberies. Amazing!

  5. bob says:

    Brad – I saw that the crime stats really went up the weekend you were in Warsaw – any correlation?

    Actually our house was burglarized about a year ago while we were in Gdansk. Even with the alarm system, they climbed up the garage roof, entered a second story window and got my entire camera kit (about 30k €) and ripped a safe we had documents and cash in like it was made of paper.

    Same time they climbed onto a neighbor’s roof and entered through a skylight.

  6. Bob: my lawyer tells me to keep my damn mouth shut about that weekend.

    Paula and I have never had a problem here but we’ve always lived in blocks of flats or, now, in a large town house and there’s always neighbours around.

    Sounds like the thieves in your area know or suspect that most people don’t bother with the cost of putting alarm sensors on the upstairs windows.

    I do wonder about the safe though – but I suppose there may be some specialised tools (or techniques) for that sort of thing.

  7. Steve – the sleeping gas mob are safely behind bars. They rolled over an expat friend and his family in Konstancin oooh… eight, nine years ago… A particularly terrifying form of burglary.

    Much of the crime thing is a matter of perception. Look at all the burglar alarms, double and triple locks on doors, gated estates, large aggressive dogs… in Warsaw, where burglary rates are three times lower than in London. Cause or effect?

    Seeing how the crime rates are falling nicely in Poland, question is – whether levels of social trust are rising. Apparently the University of Alabama does a global ranking, but I’ve never been able to find it…

  8. island1 says:

    Culled from something else I wrote because I don’t want to write it again:

    Poland has an exaggerated fear of crime. There are plenty of statistics to back this up: in a 1987 survey 74 percent of Poles said they thought Poland was a safe county—twenty year later only 43 percent said the same, even though Poland has one of the lowest crime rates in the EU. I’ve always been astonished at the extreme home security here. The keys to my first flat in Poland were 20 centimetres long and looked like the kind of thing you need to gain access to a nuclear bunker. The door to my current flat is steel-lined and has massive bolts in every corner—it seems to have been designed to withstand charging rhinos. Are attacks by large African mammals common here?

  9. scatts says:

    That would be “mathS” :)

  10. scatts says:

    English is good, Waldek!

  11. scatts says:

    That would be “burgled”…..will nobody rid me of these pesky Yanks! :)

    Actually, I find “burglarized” quite cute. It’s like one of those Polish words where they take an English word and mess it up a bit. “Math” just sounds wrong though, very wrong.

    That’s my cultural diversity training out the window!

  12. scatts says:

    I’ve been here a thousand years and I’ve also travelled a fair bit. The only place I have felt safer (see note) than in Poland is Saudi Arabia / Oman / Kuwait and that’s only because half the population don’t need to steal anything and the other half are worried about losing body parts for the slightest indiscretion.

    Note: Safer in terms of theft, violence and so on. I didn’t actually feel comfortable there in general because you never know what’s going to happen next and the fact that you’re British with a visa means bugger all to them and nobody is going to piss them off to save my hide.

    Thinking about it, I actually felt very safe in Israel and Lebanon too but then I imagine the crime rate in terms of petty violence and theft does drop in all war zones.

  13. ONLY steel-lined? Jamie, do you know how fast someone could cut through that? You need a Tungsten-Depleted Uranium-Carbon Steel door to keep out the average amateur burglar these days …and to electrify the door (it’s not the 50,000 volts that will cook them in 2 seconds, it’s the 30 amps) to keep out those more determined thieves.

    Oh and all windows should be bricked-over and those bricks should be covered in (roughly) a half-meter of concrete. Safety first!

  14. Kuba says:

    I always felt safe living in Poland. Never had any crime problems. Then again it was on a farm.
    In the USA I feel safe as well. Protected by H&K and I leave my doors unlocked.

  15. Kuba: you’re doing it wrong! Seriously, get a semi-auto shotgun. A great all-purpose gun. Good for getting rid of crows or other naughty birds, good for shooting varmits. Plus, nothing will make someone pause whatever they’re doing when they hear the sound of a round being chambered, no matter whether they’re doing something they should be doing… or shouldn’t. :)

  16. Oh and you don’t need a permit for a shotgun. More bonuses: everything from slugs to buckshot to birdshot (though birdshot is kinda hard on ’em), plus magnum rounds and other really interesting rounds.

  17. Kuba says:


    Two 12 ga shotguns with double o buck. Should do the trick if the bang does not.

  18. odrzut says:

    Some cops do jobs that doesn’t depend on population size, amount of such jobs will be similar in every country, so smaller countries will have more such jobs per capita.

    Maybe that explains why Cyprus have so many cops ?

  19. odrzut says:

    Robbers in trains do this (sleeping gas thing) routinely.

  20. Sylwia says:

    Cyprus has many more tourists than regular inhabitants. They need all the cops to keep the place safe when the tourists come.

  21. Sylwia says:

    “Poland has an exaggerated fear of crime.”

    That’s because crime was underreported in media during the communist times. The press wrote only about local crimes, and not even all of them. They made whatever they could to give one the feeling that in the happy Communist country the problem of crime was solved once for all.

    Now that media do report crimes it feels as if they happened everywhere all the time. It’s just this big contrast that creates the feeling that it’s very dangerous now.

    At the same time people don’t feel that their neighbourhood is dangerous because nothing has changed there. They always knew about local crimes via gossip.

  22. I don’t think that’s correct. Look at the numbers:

    Cyprus pop ~800,000 w/ 5,280 cops
    Iceland pop ~315,500 w/ 646 cops
    Malta pop ~411,000 w/ 1,884 cops
    Luxembourg pop ~484,000 w/ 1,555 cops
    Estonia pop ~1,341,000 w/ 3,218 cops

    I suspect Cyprus’s police numbers are because of the fact that it is partitioned.

  23. island1 says:

    I suspect you’re right about partition. I wonder who they classify as police—possibly some conscripted units of the military are included. Also, having thousands of British squaddies running around tends to encourage large police forces.

  24. island1 says:

    I strongly suspected under-reporting in the old system was the source of this sudden change.

    I also suspect under-reporting by victims of crime contributes to the low present-day figures. From what I’ve heard and seen, the police have made massive progress, but a lot of people still don’t trust them or believe they will do anything so they don’t bother to report crimes. I’ve known people who have been the victims of quite serious crimes who simply didn’t bother to report them.

  25. A friend of mine witnessed some guys trying to steal their registration plates while on holiday in Kazimierz Dolny. While watching this activity, someone else on the street shouted at the two guys …and got his head smashed in with a rock one of the two had handy. The cops caught the guys and my friend has had to make at least two visits back there to give testimony in court. That’s the only serious crime I or a friend has been close to since I moved here.

  26. krogulczas says:

    Confirming – two friends of mine and my aunt had this kind of experience over the last four years, if I presume correctly.

  27. krogulczas says:

    Malta also is a touristic country. And Luxembourg has become a pretty bank-country, comparable even with Switzerland. And both of them them don’t have that much force around.
    These numbers surely are connected to the partitioning issue.

  28. Karl says:

    My sole run-in with the police in Poland involved drinking in public — a crime in Poland. Considering the streets are overrun with people drinking, I just naturally assumed it wasn’t a crime, but something like a national past-

    The cops let me go, after a tense moment with me holding my wallet in my hands, realising I didn’t have my carta pobytu with me and thinking there might a bribe or something required. After pretending not to speak any Polish, and feigning massive shock at drinking in public being a crime, they told me to “take these beers and go home and rest,” endearing me to Polish police forever after. :) or at least until the next run-in with them.

  29. When I first moved here I thought drinking was also allowed in public. The first time I ever road a tram – at 3 in the afternoon – there was a thoroughly drunk guy sitting behind my wife and I, drinking and being drunk. Then I got to the Rynek… :P

  30. guest says:

    The USA is definitely much more dangeous, lol

  31. Kuba says:

    Depends where you live just like Poland or any country .

  32. adthelad says:

    road the tram? You derailed it?

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself ;) Blame scatts for setting me off :)

  33. […] had altijd al het idee dat Polen veiliger is dan Nederland. Toevallig las ik daarnet dit stukje op Polandian over criminaliteit in Europa. Polen is dus misschien helemaal niet zo gevaarlijk als men in […]

  34. […] discussion of how Poland compares to other countries safety-wise – at […]

  35. […] discussion of how Poland compares to other countries safety-wise – at […]

  36. […] discussion of how Poland compares to other countries safety-wise – at […]

  37. anna says:

    Why is it so surprising , I have never been exposed to such a crime in Poland . My friends who visited Italy with their SUV come back to Poland without their luggage and by plain , never heard of thier car anymore !!!!

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