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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Turks & Caicos 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Turks & Caicos at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

Review OSAC’s Turks & Caicos-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is moderate risk from crime in Turks & Caicos. Crime represents the primary security threat in Providenciales, where the vast majority of crime occurs. Royal Turks & Caicos Police (RTCIPF) statistics for 2018 highlight an overall drop in crime of 3% from 2017; murders have doubled, albeit from four to eight, in two years.

Residential security remains a major concern. An increase in burglaries remains a threat facing Turks & Caicos. Burglaries have increased by 36% from 377 in 2017 to 510 in 2018. However, robberies and firearms-related crimes are down by 17% and 48%, respectively. Do not leave belongings unsecured outside your residence. Vehicles, bicycles, generators, and other property will attract criminals. If you cannot store items inside, visibly secure them with a chain and lock as a deterrent.

The holiday season historically serves as a potential catalyst for an increase in crime and violence in Turks & Caicos. In the past year, several U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed home invasions while in hotel rooms and private homes, as well as armed robbery while walking after dark. Two U.S. citizen victims were shot and seriously injured in 2018.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybersecurity is a major challenge for computer network operators across the Caribbean. There is limited technical capacity, outdated legislation, and the absence of compliance and disclosure polices. There have been increased data breaches, network attacks, and computer viruses in the region. Turks & Caicos has signaled its intent to bolster their cybersecurity framework; there is no indication of implementation. Take normal security precautions when using electronic devices.

Other Areas of Concern

Instead of carrying large amounts of cash, use a debit/credit card for payments when possible. Avoid using ATMs located in isolated areas; only use machines that have security coverage. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when making withdrawals. Skimmers create duplicate cards with stolen information, and then withdraw money from the victim’s account. If you observe a skimming device on an ATM, take a picture of it (if it is safe to do so) and contact police immediately. For more information, review OSAC’s report, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Traffic drives on the left in Turks & Caicos. Primary roads are in generally good condition, while secondary roads are often unpaved. Hazards such as blind intersections, construction, unmarked changes in road conditions, and a lack of familiarity with roundabouts may cause problems while driving. Due to a rising trend in traffic deaths, Turks & Caicos Police announced an enhanced police presence on roadways, specifically targeting drivers who do not wear seatbelts, those impaired by drugs or alcohol, careless and dangerous driving, and speeding. Enforcement of traffic laws remains below U.S. standards. Pedestrians, cyclists, and runners should exercise extreme caution on roads.

At a roundabout, drivers must yield to those on their immediate right, and those who enter the roundabout first. Animals often wander on the roads, presenting a hazard to drivers, especially at night.

Vehicles are available for rent and normally are left-side drive; however, right-side drive vehicles imported from the United States may be available; this poses a safety challenge for travelers unfamiliar with driving on the left. You need a valid driver’s license to drive in Turks & Caicos. A valid U.S. or International Driving Permit is good for up to a month; after that, a Turks & Caicos license from the Department of Road Safety is required. Speed limits are 20 mph in town and on side roads, and 40 mph on the highway. The use of seatbelts is mandatory. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

There is no public transportation, but taxi-buses are readily available. Only use marked taxis and wear a seatbelt. Car and scooter rentals are available, but renters must have a valid driver’s license and be 21 years or older.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Turks & Caicos’ Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of TCI’s air carrier operations.

Providenciales International Airport (PLS) is the major airport in Turks & Caicos, with the majority of flights coming from Nassau. There have been no reports of items stolen from checked baggage. Passengers should maintain awareness of their belongings at all times, use Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, and retrieve checked bags as soon as possible.

Terrorism Threat

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Turks & Caicos. Terrorist groups native to the Western Hemisphere do not typically operate in the northeastern Caribbean.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is minimal risk from political violence in Turks & Caicos.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Turks & Caicos is a low-lying area subject to natural disasters during the hurricane season that runs from June 1 through November 30. Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Turks & Caicos in 2017, resulting in severe damage; however, most of the damaged infrastructure has been completely restored. Hurricane activity frequently causes flooding along the coastline, often creating potholes and causing disruption to the infrastructure and essential services. Public services (e.g. water, electricity, transportation) are likely to be unavailable for a significant period following a powerful hurricane.

Consider devoting resources and time to emergency planning for the possibility of inclement weather, particularly during hurricane season. Pay close attention to the weather forecast during hurricane season.

Critical Infrastructure

Many buildings in Turks & Caicos do not have fire alarms or fire suppression equipment in close proximity at all. Fire alarms at tourist hotels are sporadic with some evacuation plans in place. For more information on fire safety in hotels, review OSAC’s report, Fire Safety Abroad.

Economic Concerns

Counterfeit and illegitimately reproduced goods are accessible; transactions involving such products may be illegal under Turks & Caicos law, and bringing such products into the United States may result in forfeitures/fines. Organized, systematic criminal activity centers on the illegal importation and smuggling of illicit drugs, weapons, and people throughout the region. There is no need to exchange money prior to travel to Turks & Caicos; the country pegs its currency to the U.S. dollar, and merchants widely accept U.S. dollars.

Personal Identity Concerns

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Turks & Caicos.

There are very few buildings with special facilities for people with physical challenges and disabilities. Accessibility of buildings, and communications and information for persons with disabilities is not mandated. There are no special accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

The Northeast Caribbean has a long history of being a route for smugglers of narcotics, illegal immigrants, and weapons, but this activity has been trending down in recent years. Drugs, including marijuana, are illegal. The number of offenses for possession of drugs with intent to supply illegal drugs has dropped from 16 to 13 instances since 2017; possession has decreased from 79 to 66 instances in the same period. Arrested individuals can expect to serve prison time and/or pay a substantial fine.

Police Response

In general, the Royal Turks & Caicos Island Police (RTCIPF) responds to reports of crime and takes crimes against visitors seriously. The current police command structure is proactive about deterring crime; however, a lack of resources or physical constraints, such as geography, infrastructure, and traffic, can hinder police response. Unmarked streets and houses can impede first responders from locating affected residences or victims quickly. To ensure a faster response, victims may need to go to the local police station. Reporting crime can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If police detain or arrest you, cooperate. U.S. citizens should identify themselves and request to make contact with the American Citizen Services (ACS) section of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as soon as possible. After hours, contact the Embassy duty officer at 242-357-7004.

Police harassment of U.S. citizens is rare. Attempting to bribe an RTCIPF officer is a serious offense; strictly avoid doing so. Do not attempt to tip police officers for their services.

Crime Victim Assistance

If you are the victim of a crime, contact the local police in Turks & Caicos and ACS in Nassau (+242 322-1181). The Embassy staff can help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members/friends, and explain how to transfer funds. Consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and how to find an attorney if needed.

Report crime to the RTCIPF as soon as possible. Prompt reports to the police increase the prospect they can identify and arrest the perpetrators. The police respond rapidly to crime reports from hotels and establishments foreigners frequent.

Use 911 and 999 interchangeably for police and medical emergencies.

Policy/Security Agencies

The Royal Turks & Caicos Island Police is the primary agency that handles all law enforcement matters for Turks & Caicos (649-338-5901). RTCIPF officers wear bright white dress coats, light blue or white short-sleeve shirts, a black patrol cap emblazoned with a red stripe, and black trousers with a red tripe. Officers also wear a more subdued navy blue uniform with solid black pants when responding to crime scenes. Officers regularly walk foot patrols or ride bicycles in areas tourists frequent.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For a list of available medical facilities, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance webpage.

Available Air Ambulance Services

The National Hospital works frequently with international evacuation services, primarily out of its Providenciales location, as well as its Cockburn Town location.

Insurance Guidance

Due to the surgical limitations of hospitals in Turks & Caicos, emergency care frequently requires medical evacuation (medevac) to the United States. Check in advance with your insurance company that your health insurance covers the cost of medevac to the United States, or obtain traveler’s insurance that offers such coverage. Serious health problems requiring hospitalization/medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Turks & Caicos physicians and hospitals do not usually accept U.S. medical insurance policies, and typically expect immediate cash or credit card payment/deposits for professional services. For serious cases, treatment in even the best hospitals would probably require medevac after stabilization.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Turks & Caicos.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council in Turks & Caicos. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Americas Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Nassau

P.O. Box N-8197

42 Queen Street, Nassau, next to the downtown McDonald’s and across the street from the British Colonial Hilton.

Nassau, The Bahamas

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator (242) 322-1181

Marine Post One (242) 322-1181 ext. 4311

Website: http://bs.usembassy.gov

Embassy Guidance

The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens to sign up for the Smart Traveler Program (STEP). STEP is a free service provided by the U.S. government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State and the U.S. Embassy can assist you in an emergency.

Additional Resources: Turks & Caicos Country Information Sheet

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