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Regional Maritime Security: Caribbean 2015

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Crime throughout the Caribbean continues to be an ongoing issue for politicians to address, as the local communities are living under fear of personal attacks and property crime, which does not appear to be abating.

A number of the Caribbean countries are now looking towards the employment of private security guards rather than increasing the number of local police, due to the ingrained mistrust of the police. (Jamaica opened the Guardsman private-security group command centre in Kingston in May 2014). As a result it is now thought that private security guards probably outnumber police by three to one in Jamaica. In Trinidad and Tobago they make up perhaps 8% of the entire workforce.

Caribbean murder rates are still among the world’s highest, with Honduras topping the table, but when broken down into regions within the Americas, the Caribbean figures highly (see figure 1 ). As mentioned, fear of violence and property crime is rife and a UN report found that less than a quarter of respondents believed their under-resourced police force could control robberies and burglaries; in Trinidad and Tobago, barely one-tenth thought so. 

 

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On a more positive point, visitor numbers are up generally in the Caribbean. In the first quarter of 2014, tourism grew 4.7% overall in the Caribbean compared with the same period the previous year; the UK specifically was up 6% - More recent statistics from individual

slands show that by mid-year, the UK tourist market was up almost 10% to Antigua, 8% to Barbados, 12% to Jamaica, 16% to Grenada, and 20% to the Dominican Republic.

New hotels are being developed to encourage visitors and help boost visitor numbers, as have the number of direct flights to the region. However, the Caribbean cannot shy away from their responsibility towards tourism and they must be realistic in the information that they hand out to visitors regarding their own security. Many Caribbean islands are still guilty of hiding the true picture and glossing over the levels of crime, particularly against tourists.

Following a number of high profile crimes against tourists, cruise ship operators are now warning passengers about disembarking in certain stop-off locations as they attempt to offer appropriate and responsible advice. A number of Cruise lines have also been known to alter their destinations due to the crime rates associated within that location.

Much of the crime in the Caribbean revolves around drug and gun culture and the gangs that run these illegal businesses. Due to the lack of employment opportunities for the local youth, the attraction of this potentially fast living and lucrative lifestyle is very appealing and draws many at a young age. However, it is also a short lived lifestyle choice for many, as the mortality rate for the young is staggering. (Unicef report – the Caribbean has the highest rate of homicide among young people aged between 15-17, with boys 6 times more likely to be victims than girls).

The Caribbean remains a major transit route for drugs and drug use itself is rife. The drug culture dominates the poorer communities and this itself drives crime. Drug dealers carry guns to reinforce their territories and those involved in the operations are almost certainly armed, almost as a fashion accessory. Drug users require a constant stream of ready cash, which they gain from street robberies and burglaries from properties, both domestic and commercial. The prison system is over-run with numbers that they are not able to cope with.

Some Caribbean islands are attempting to put in place alternative schemes to attract the disillusioned youth, but progress will be slow and the influences from nearby America are effecting choices.

For the visitor to the Caribbean, it may well be that you see none of this sub-culture, but it would be foolish not to be aware of the possible circumstances that you may find yourself in. Sometimes it is just a case of being caught in the cross fire of a turf war and a case of the wrong place at the wrong time.

Take sensible precautions and heed local advice about where not to go. Don’t flaunt your cash or valuables and don’t venture into places alone at night. Lock up valuables in the hotel reception and don’t leave valuables on show on your yachts when anchored, especially when you are not in attendance. If you are being robbed, do not attempt to apprehend the criminal, as this could turn violent.

Read the local newspapers to get a clear picture of local news and crime. 

To read the full Caribbean security report click here

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