Crime Abroad: How to Deal with a Worst-Case Scenario

Posted on September 1, 2011

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Do you know what you'd do in a worst-case scenario?

We’ve already talked about hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, and thinking about what you would do if you are a victim of a crime is part of that process. If you are the victim of a crime while traveling abroad, there are ways of obtaining assistance, and knowing where to turn can help you in any situation. This article will provide the information you need if you are ever involved or affected by a crime overseas.

By Lisa Koehler

The State Department is committed to helping American citizens who have become victims of a crime abroad in any way they can. Overseas, consular officers, agents, and staff work with the victims and help them with the local police and medical systems. In the U.S., the office of Overseas Citizens Services keeps in touch with family members and helps to give the victim U.S.-based resources when possible.

What to Do:

  • Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate:
    • Officers are available for emergency assistance 24/7
    • Contact information: http://www.usembassy.gov/
    • For the Department of State in the U.S. call:
      • Business hours- 1-888-407-4747
      • After hours- 1-202-647-5225
      • Contact the local police and report the incident.
        • Request a copy of the police report.

How can they help?

  • Replace a stolen passport
  • Contact family, friends, or employers
  • Provide medical care
  • Address emergency needs that arise as a result of the crime
  • Explain the local criminal justice process
  • Obtain information about your case
  • Connect you to local and U.S. resources to assist victims of crime
  • Obtain information about local and U.S. victim compensation programs
  • Provide a list of local lawyers who speak English

They cannot:

  • Investigate crimes
  • Provide legal advice or represent you in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees

When you get home:

Some U.S. cities provide programs to help residents who are victims of overseas crime including:

  • Rape crisis counseling programs
  • Shelter and counseling programs for battered women
  • Support groups and bereavement counseling for members of murder victims
  • Diagnostic and treatment programs for child abuse victims
  • Assistance for victims of drunk driving crashes

All U.S. states have victim compensation programs, and many offer benefits to residents who are victims of violent crime overseas. Programs include financial assistance to pay for:

  • Medical costs
  • Funeral expenses
  • Lost income or loss of support

The National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards provides information on all compensation programs.

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