While most crime in the Caribbean remains infrequent and petty in nature – and is largely avoidable when exercising common sense precautions (like don’t flash your cash) – as recently as Tuesday, Dec. 8, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to violent crime in the region in his remarks to a UN Security Council meeting on drug trafficking:
“In recent years, drug trafficking has emerged as a leading threat to international peace and security. We see this most clearly in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar, where the production and trafficking of illicit drugs fuels brutal and long-standing insurgencies. But in many other places, too – West Africa, Central Asia, Central America, the Caribbean and parts of the Mekong region – criminal groups spread violence, fear and insecurity in their effort to control trafficking routes.”
The New York Times ran an article on Caribbean crime in its Travel Section on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009 titled When Crime Comes to Paradise that reported crime is on the rise in Belize, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. The story mentioned a brutal machete attack on a retired British couple at their home in Tobago as recently as August.
A review of the travel websites maintained by the U.S. Department of State (travel.state.gov) and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk) turned up some areas of concern that yachts traveling to the area may want to take under advisement. Here are some cautionary items posted on these government travel advisory sites, listed in alphabetical order by country.
There have been no more incidences of violent crime reported in Antigua and Barbuda since the tragic shooting death of Capt. Drew Gollan last January. But the U.S. State Department cautions, “Be especially vigilant when taking taxis in Antigua and Barbuda. Make certain that the taxi driver is licensed and is a member of the official taxi association. Unlicensed taxi operators have been known to extort money from passengers, despite having agreed to a fare beforehand.”
In Barbados, it’s important to stay alert in – or away from – isolated beaches at night, particularly Long Beach, Christ Church and Maycocks Bay, St. Lucy.
Belize’s crime rate is rising, including violent crimes such as armed robbery, rape and murder. Most of the incidents are reported in Belize City, but coastal and island tourist spots like San Pedro, Caye Caulker and Placencia also have been targeted.
When the H1N1 virus was reported in Cuba, local authorities put quarantine measures in place that prompted a Travel Alert by the U.S. Department of State: “In April 2009, Cuba implemented a policy that allows it to quarantine arriving passengers who exhibit fever or flu-like symptoms. Although the overall percentage of U.S. citizens being quarantined remains low, the nature of the selection process makes it almost impossible to predict when a traveler may be placed into quarantine.” The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also warns, “In view of serious accidents that have involved tourists, you should not use mopeds or three-wheel Coco-Taxis when travelling around Cuba.”
The list of petty crimes reported in the Dominican Republic runs for two pages on the U.S. Department of State website. It draws attention to incidents in which a criminal on a moped zips up to a pedestrian, grabs their cellphone, purse or backpack and then speeds away. The website also warns, “In dealing with the local police, U.S. citizens should be aware that the standard of professionalism might vary.”
There’s good news from Grenada. Vendors in St. George’s Market Square and Wall Street area in Grand Anse have joined forces and hired security guards, which has helped to decrease crime.
Street crime is a continuing concern on St. Maarten. Burglaries at hotels and resorts are increasing, and break-ins have been reported both to boats and cars. Authorities warn visitors to be sure they are sufficiently insured when renting cars on the island.
Last March, four crew members from M/Y Diamond Girl were robbed at gunpoint while hiking near Anse La Raye in St. Lucia. Crime on this island has sparked particular concern in the Caribbean. “The St Lucia government has ordered the police to take back the streets following the murder of six persons and an open threat from criminals to assassinate law enforcement officials,” said Edwin W. Carrington, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in his opening remarks at the Conference on Youth, Crime and Violence in St. Kitts and Nevis last June.
If you are sending guests on nature walks or hikes in remote areas of northern St. Vincent, authorities recommend that you consider hiring a local guide to go along with the party, as a precaution.
In Trinidad and Tobago, violent crime affecting both tourists and locals is growing, especially in urban areas. Incidents have been reported involving armed robbers accosting passengers leaving Trinidad’s Piarco Airport. Be viligant in downtown Port of Spain as well.
The winter holiday season, Carnival celebrations and Spring Break are favorites of pickpockets and petty thieves, not only in the Caribbean, but also throughout the world. Enjoy yourself, but be sure to keep one hand on your wallet!