Regional Maritime Security: The Carribean
At the end of January 2014, the U.S Embassy in Nassau advised all U.S citizens who reside within or plan to travel to the Bahamas, to be extra vigilant in regards to protecting themselves against crime. This comes as a result of an overall increase in crime rates throughout the region so far this year and throughout the later months of 2013.
Armed robbery and violent crime remain the major threat. This includes within tourist areas such as New Providence and Grand Bahamas Islands.
The Bahamas police commissioners policing plan for 2014 stated that their number one priority for this year would be the ‘Prevention and Detection of crime’. Their main objective, in regards to crime prevention was to increase the number of visible police officers on the streets, amongst others, particularly in areas renowned for high crime rates. As a result of this plan, certain divisions are already putting additional procedures in place, such as in the North eastern Division. They have begun to reinforce rules of the road which lead to 207 drivers being cited for traffic violations and a number of arrests were made in regards to disorderly behaviour. Likewise the South eastern Division cited 201 drivers for traffic violations and the Mobile Division Officers made 20 arrests within the New providence area within a 24 hour period on 31st January which included 13 arrests on persons for outstanding warrants issued by the courts.
Although positive steps are being taken by the local police force with the intention of reducing crime and minimising the ability for criminals to commit crime, February has still seen an alarming number of crimes published by the ‘Royal Bahamas Police’ which highlight the need for increased situational awareness for any citizen living or planning to travel to the region.
According to the police reports, the highest level of reported crime throughout February was armed robbery which had in excess of 30 separate incidents, each one involving possession of a firearm by the assailants. A high degree of these incidents involved the robbery of the victim’s car and almost all of the incidents involved being robbed of cash.
We would advise you to limit the amount of cash that you carry and opt for using credit or debit cards instead. Should you need to use an ATM whilst out and about, we strongly advice that you take someone with you and avoid using ATM’s alone, as these can be an easy target for attempted robbery.
Over 17 reports were published this month which involved a person or persons being shot, and in some cases the shots were fatal. A number of these incidents were undertaken in the form of a drive by shooting which involved the assailants driving up alongside their victim and firing their weapon from inside the car.
There was a major blow to the drug traffickers in the Bahamas this month with police reports showing a number of intelligence based operations taking place which has led to the seizure of large quantities of dangerous drugs. Officers of the Drug Enforcement Unit along with the Bahamas customs and the U.S customs conducted a search of a 20ft container at the Freeport Container Port and discovered a total of 80 taped packages hidden amongst bags of coffee.
The packages are believed to contain Cocaine with an estimated street value of $2 million dollars. It was also reported later in the month that the Drug Enforcement Unit and the Royal Bahamas Defence force, conducted an intelligence based operation within the Sea Breeze area where they were able to observe a large quantity of dangerous drugs being off loaded from a vessel and into a truck. The seized amount was later reported to be Marijuana with an estimated street value of $800,000.
St Kitts & Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis are known for their unspoilt, natural beauty. With well-preserved ecosystems, white sandy beaches and beautiful resorts. These two tranquil islands are becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Like most of the Caribbean islands, crime exists and in particular violent crime, which is currently on the rise with statistics showing the number of murders in the region rose during 2013, proving gun related crime is becoming increasingly problematic.
The majority of these crimes tend to occur within local communities however there have been incidents in recent years involving British nationals including a double murder and a violent attack.
It is important to remain vigilant at all times. You are advised not to travel alone or in isolated areas which also include the beaches. Instead opt for travelling in groups and keep to the areas you are familiar with, particularly during the hours of darkness.
St Kitts saw its first murder of 2014, when the son of an opposition politician was shot dead as he was about to enter his home. Unfortunately, this was not the only murder to occur in the region so far this year, others include:
January 9th – 30 year old male shot and killed as a result of a drive by shooting.
February 21st – male found dead in Nevis. Suffered trauma to his head which appeared to the result of a gunshot wound.
February 27th – 73 year old woman stabbed to death outside her apartment building. Her husband has been arrested in connection to this case.
In addition to these murders there were in excess of 7 separate shooting incidents so far this year with each case resulting in an injury. As a result of these shootings, some victims still remain in a critical condition. During January this year the Nevis police called on members of the Nevis community to assist the police in their efforts to reduce crime. This came after an 8% increase in overall reported crime on the tiny Eastern Caribbean Island. The increase was reflected in all categories, the most prevalent being armed robbery, wounding and murder. Positive steps are clearly being taken to help combat the increasing crime rate. In February it was reported that CCTV coverage had expanded across St. Kitts and Nevis which, although it does not stop crime, it is a useful tool to help solve crime issues and create possible leads.
As with a high number of Caribbean Islands, the illegal drug trafficking combined with the increase in number of firearms appearing on the streets is a lethal mix and one which appears to be apparent in this region. On February 6th, in excess of $12,000 worth of drug and $465 in cash were seized by Niagara Regional Police following information on a possible drug operation at a St. Catharines Home. Four persons were arrested in connection. In other news on St. Kitts and Nevis, the government has identified the importance of yachting in the region and views it as a priority area for development. It was agreed that by developing the yachting sector, there would be tremendous economic benefits for the region. Charter boats and privately owned yachts are among the clientele that visit this destination therefore the arrival of ‘Christophe Harbour’, an additional marina at Porte Zante and a new marina in New Guinea will be a welcome addition.
Like most of the Caribbean destinations, crime will occur in Puerto Rico. The majority of crime is directly or indirectly linked to the illegal drug industry. A police report stated that more than two thirds of the islands murder cases are tied to the drug trade, which is quite astonishing when you consider the region boasts a murder rate which is six times higher overall, in comparison to the that of the U.S mainland.
Puerto Rico has become a transshipment point for illegal drugs which are smuggled from source countries such as Columbia and Venezuela and then onto the U.S mainland. Most of the drugs are transported to and through the island by known drug trafficking and criminal organisations. Known drug gangs like ‘La ONU’ and ‘Rompe ONU’ are two rival housing project gangs where members have recently been found guilty of drug trafficking and murder charges. There are also drug cartels moving their businesses to the island from Mexico. This became more apparent when back in 2009, a group of gunmen opened fire on a crowd of revellers at a bar on its opening night in Toa Baja, the target being a rival drug trafficker. Eight innocent bystanders were killed that night as the gunmen sprayed bullets into the crowd with little regard for collateral damage. It was the first high profile example of criminals operating in this way and began the widespread fear amongst the general public, which has since continued.
Other drug related headlines in the region are: January 14th – US customs and Border protection officers seized 78 pounds (35.5 Kilos) of cocaine inside a container at the San Juan seaport. Estimated Street value US$850,000. January 17th – US customs and Border Protection Officers seized 12 pounds (5.35 Kilos) of cocaine on a vessel arriving at the San Juan seaport. Estimated street value US$119,000. March 5th – US customs and Border Protection Officers along with the US coastguard, intercepted a vessel attempting to smuggle in 38 bales of cocaine totalling 2,432 pounds (1,103 kilos) which has an estimated street value of $27.5 Million.
Puerto Rico has been in recession for the last 8 years and has seen public debt climb to $70 billion, and unemployment rate rise by 14% with the cost of living soaring. During this time there has been a large surge in the number of reported crimes across the region. In 2011, murder rates hit an all-time high with 1,130 recorded murders in that year alone. Puerto Rico not only suffers from an unstable economic situation which limits available resources, but the crackdown on crime is also hampered by a troubled police force which has been accused of police brutality and corruption. This year however, the U.S Justice department and the government have finalised a deal to reform the Islands police force. The U.S has pledged $10 million to Puerto Rico and under the deal, Puerto Rico’s Police force must rebuild public confidence by the use of additional training for officers who are assigned to the streets, and implement new disciplinary procedures among other reforms.
Additional Caribbean headlines 2014
£60M Cocaine haul in the Caribbean:
On 28th January, it was reported that more than a tonne of cocaine had been seized by RAF Wave Knight and US Coastguards. The drug bust took place south of the Dominican Republic, when the RAF tanker and the US coastguard Allies pounced on a small speed boat. By the use of disabling fire they managed to halt the boat and later recovered 45 bales of cocaine with a street value in the UK of more than £60 Million. This brings the total of drugs confiscated by the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary this winter to more than £230m.
2nd Multi-million pound cocaine seizure in three weeks:
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) struck again on 11th February. Along with the US coastguard, whilst on patrol in the Caribbean sea, a suspicious speedboat was operating in the area. A US coastguard helicopter was dispatched and once on the scene witnessed two men throwing packages into the sea. warning shots were fired forcing the speedboat to a standstill and they later recovered several packages totalling 170 kilos of cocaine, with an estimated street value of £8.5 Million.The ship has been deployed to the Caribbean since January 2013 as part of the UK’s commitment to the region in support of the overseas territories and stands ready to provide hurricane and disaster relief and take part in counter-narcotics operations.
Tons of Cocaine seized on the Caribbean Coast:
On Wednesday 13th March, it was reported that Costa Rican Police have seized 1.7 tons of cocaine from a boat on the Caribbean coast with an estimated street value in the region of US $10 million. 69 packages were recovered from a go-fast boat which was spotted by Air Surveillance Service officials. Each package contained in the region of 25 kilos of cocaine. The four suspects that were initially spotted on board the boat managed to escape into the jungle indicating that a member of the group had expert knowledge of the area.This incident highlights the subject of this Central American nation is fast becoming a drug transhipment point.
Puerto Rico earthquake:
On Monday 10th March, a strong earthquake out at sea shook Puerto Rico during the early hours. This was one of the largest to hit U.S territory in recent year and measured a magnitude of 6.4, causing cracked floors, broken windows and some power outages. 70 aftershocks were reported since with at least 3 of them measuring a magnitude of 3.5 or greater. No major damages or injuries have been reported.
Allmode Summary and Advice:
This 2nd edition of the Caribbean report is based on a few of the Caribbean Islands. Each edition will highlight news on different regions of the Caribbean to help create better situational awareness and highlight the threat and risk of visiting the region.
It is important to remember the Caribbean, in general, relies heavily on tourism and news of criminal activity or threat to life can be devastating to their economy, so it comes as no surprise that not all criminal activity is reported and those that are reported are not always released to the media. Statistics and information available do not always reflect the true threat.
Before you decide to travel to any particular region, it is always advisable to check for local travel advisories or warnings before you go. The best place to gain this type of advice would be your foreign office or state department. You will be able to obtain a broad overview of your destination which will include crime and safety facts which will help build your situational awareness of the region and you will also be able to find out information on any current travel warnings in place.
Throughout this edition of the Caribbean report, the illegal drug trade has featured heavily. There are severe penalties for all drug offences throughout the Caribbean so it is vital that you protect yourself from this type of crime. Ensure that you pack all luggage yourself and never let any other person carry your luggage for you through customs. Keep your belongings with you at all time and never leave bags unattended.
As a tourist you may also find yourself in the position where you are offered drugs in pubs/bars. The police in some areas can be vigilant and you could face a substantial fine,deportation or even imprisonment should you be found to be in possession of an illegal substance. In areas of known drug activity you are at heightened risk of having your drink ‘spiked when out socialising in bars/clubs. It is important that you protect yourself from this type of act by ensuring that you purchase your own drinks and do not accept any drinks from unknown persons. In addition to this, ensure that you keep your drinks with you at all times and avoid leaving them unattended. Remember, should you wish to receive further information on how to remain safe whilst travelling, more in depth knowledge on a particular area you wish to visit or require more advanced levels of security, then Allmode can provide training courses and information to help improve your safety and situational awareness in a number of ways.
Chikungunya in the Caribbean: Confirmed cases of Chikungunya have continued to be reported this month throughout the Caribbean. According to the Pan American Health Organisation, confirmed cases have been found in the following destinations: French Guiana, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin (French), Sint Maarten (Dutch), Anguilla, Aruba, Dominica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Virgin Islands. The Government of Canada issued a ‘Travel Health Notice’ to Canadians who are due to travel to the Caribbean this month, advising travellers to protect themselves against Mosquito bites. For full details about the disease see http://www.news- medical.net/health/What-is-Chikungunya.aspx.
￼Dengue Fever in the Caribbean:
Back in December 2013, the United Kingdom issued a health advisory for Britons travelling to the Caribbean. This came after an increase in the number of confirmed cases of Dengue fever in England, which were diagnosed in travellers that have been to certain destinations which included parts of the Caribbean, in particular Barbados and Jamaica. The total number of cases in England in 2012 was 343 compared to 223 in 2011. Any person who is in or planning to travel to the Caribbean should be aware of the health risks and endeavour to practice strict mosquito bite avoidance at all-time which will help to minimise the risk of becoming unwell. For full details on how to protect yourself from mosquito bites visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mosquito-bites/basics/prevention/con-20032350
Cholera in Dominican Republic and Haiti:
The Cholera epidemic in the Dominican Republic and Haiti began in October 2010 with thousands of reported Cholera cases and related deaths. New cases continue to be reported to this day throughout both countries; however during the first few weeks of 2014 the number of cases has decreased compared to the same time period in 2013. Any person who wishes to travel to the areas should be aware however that the number of cases could increase during seasonal heavy rainfall which is likely to occur in the months May to July and September to October.
Other places which have seen cases of Cholera in recent years are Cuba and Mexico. In Cuba there were suspected cases in 2012 which authorities continue to monitor, however no new cases have been reported since August 2013. In Mexico, Cholera cases were reported in Mexico City and the states of Hidalgo, Mexico, San Luis Potosi and Veracruz during 2013 as a result of tropical cyclones which caused heavy rain, floods and landslides. It currently stands that no new cases have been reported since November 2013. ￼Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the Bacterium Vibri cholera which is commonly spread through contaminated drinking water and eating food. For more information on how to protect yourself from Cholera visit http://www.cdc.gov/cholera/prevention.html
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Finally, Allmode would advise that you discuss the appropriate insurance needed with your Broker before transiting or visiting the region. If you wish to undertake any excursions or take part in any sport activities during your stay to a particular area or resort, ensure that the operator has adequate insurance cover and that health and safety precautions are evident.