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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
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Turks & Caicos 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, which oversees security for U.S. interests in Turks & Caicos. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Turks & Caicos. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Turks & Caicos 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.

Travel Advisory

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. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime & Safety Situation

Crime Threats

There is moderate risk from crime in Turks & Caicos. Crime represents the primary security threat in Providenciales, where most crime occurs. The Government of Turks & Caicos highlights a 30% drop in overall crime over the past five years. Murders have more than doubled, albeit from four to ten, in three years. The small population means this nominal increase has placed Turks & Caicos among the 20 countries with the highest murder rates, commensurate with many other Caribbean island nations. (Depending on year, small Caribbean nations or territories popular with tourists make up half of the top 20.) One U.S. citizen was among the murder victims in 2018. The Turks & Caicos Government has placed concern on the increase of firearms-related crimes, which more than doubled from 2018 to 2019. Two U.S. citizen victims were the victims of shootings in 2018, receiving serious injuries.

Residential security remains a major concern. An increase in burglaries remains a threat facing Turks & Caicos, with local tourism authorities noting that “between zero and four” hotel room invasions occur each year. 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. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

U.S. citizens are not specific targets for crime. However, crimes of opportunity (e.g. petty larceny, burglary, automobile break-ins) as well as incidents of violent crime (e.g. murder, sexual assault, robbery, shootings) occur occasionally. 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. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

The holiday season historically serves as a potential catalyst for an increase in crime and violence in Turks & Caicos.

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. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

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 has been an increase in data breaches, network attacks, and computer viruses in the region. Turks & Caicos has signaled its intent to bolster its cybersecurity framework; there is no indication of implementation. Take normal security precautions when using electronic devices. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

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 have enhanced their 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 to 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. Right-side drive vehicles imported from the United States may be available, posing 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, you must obtain a Turks & Caicos license from the Department of Road Safety. Speed limits are 20 mph in town and on side roads, and 40 mph on the highway. Despite the low speed limits, traffic accidents are on the rise and are often fatal. The use of seatbelts is mandatory. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

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 at least 21 years of age.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the 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 most flights coming from Nassau in the Bahamas. Passengers should always maintain awareness of their belongings, use Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, and retrieve checked bags as soon as possible. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

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, and there is no indication of international terrorist interest in the islands. Nevertheless, All travelers should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. These could take place in public areas; terrorists tend to target sites expatriates and foreign travelers frequent.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

There is minimal risk from political violence in Turks & Caicos, and no prevalent anti-U.S. sentiment.

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; damaged infrastructure has been restored. Although Turks & Caicos is located at the far eastern end of the string of islands that includes the Bahamas, it was unaffected by Hurricane Dorian in 2019. 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 nearby. 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 accept U.S. dollars widely.

Personal Identity Concerns

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+ events in Turks & Caicos. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

There are very few buildings with special facilities for people with physical challenges and disabilities. The government does not mandate accessibility of buildings, and communications and information for persons with disabilities. There are no special accommodations for persons with disabilities. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

The northeast Caribbean has a long history of being a route for smugglers of narcotics, illegal immigration, and weapons, but this activity has been trending down in recent years. Turks & Caicos is a transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the U.S. and Europe. Drugs, including marijuana, are illegal. Arrested individuals can expect to serve prison time and/or pay a substantial fine.

Kidnapping Threat

There is minimal threat from kidnapping in Turks & Caicos. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

Local laws provide for specific fishing limits, and the protection of plants and wild birds. National Park Zones prohibit certain activities harmful to ecology. Find further information from the Turks and Caicos Government’s Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs. All other hunting is illegal. Many protected species live in Turks & Caicos. You may receive severe penalties if you disturb, harass, or otherwise threaten wildlife.

Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

Police Response

The emergency lines in Turks & Caicos are 911 and 999. In general, police respond to reports of crime and takes crimes against visitors seriously. The current police command structure is proactive about deterring crime, but a lack of resources or physical constraints, such as geography, infrastructure, and traffic, can hinder 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.

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.

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.

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 stripe. 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

The emergency lines in Turks & Caicos are 911 and 999. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major tourism zones. First responders may be unable to access areas outside of major tourism zones. Two hospital facilities on Providenciales and Grand Turk are able to handle non-life-threatening medical needs. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy in Nassau’s Medical Assistance webpage.

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. Due to the surgical limitations of hospitals in Turks & Caicos, emergency care in even the best hospitals 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. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

The repatriation of the remains of those who die in Turks & Caicos can take weeks because Turks & Caicos does not always have a pathologist available to perform autopsies. Periodically scheduled nonresident foreign pathologists often travel to Turks & Caicos to perform this public service.

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

There is no U.S. diplomatic representation in Turks & Caicos. U.S. Embassy Nassau oversees security for U.S. interests.

P.O. Box N-8197, 42 Queen Street, Nassau, The Bahamas

Embassy Operator 1-242-322-1181

Website: http://bs.usembassy.gov

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

·         OSAC Risk Matrix

·         OSAC Travelers Toolkit

·         State Department Traveler’s Checklist

·         Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

·         Turks & Caicos Country Information Sheet

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