OSAC logo

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

201 all time - 2 last 7 days

Trinidad & Tobago 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Trinidad & Tobago. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s T&T country 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 Trinidad & Tobago at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping. Do not travel to Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite, and the interior of Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain due to crime. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Port of Spain as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) continues to face numerous challenges in its effort to reduce crime. These include an overburdened legal system, bureaucratic resistance to change, unemployment in crime-affected areas, disenfranchised youth, gangs, drugs, weapons, and low economic growth.

Although foreigners are not specific targets, crime is the principal threat to visitors. U.S. citizens have been victims of pickpocketing, assault, theft, robbery, fraud, and murder. Guests at hotels have reported the theft of items from their rooms. While not common, murders, robberies and petty theft can occur during daylight hours. Murders, robberies, burglaries, vehicular break-ins, home invasions, and assaults, including sexual assaults, occur in areas tourists frequent and in expatriate communities. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and Outs, and Considerations for Hotel Security.

T&T Police Service (TTPS) 2019 crime statistics show a 4.2% decrease in overall serious criminal activity compared to 2018. Violent crime remains a major concern for local security services and the general population.

Despite the seizure of 888 firearms in 2019, 80% of murders involved firearms, highlighting the problem of imported, and often illegal, firearms. Drug trafficking and gang-related activities continue to fuel the demand for illegal weapons.

TTPS reports 539 murders nationwide in 2019, after 517 in 2018, 495 in 2017, 462 in 2016, and 420 in 2015, in a population of approximately 1.4 million people. The 2019 numbers represent an increase of 4.3%. According to the Trinidad and Tobago government, gang and drug-related activities continue to drive the murder rate.

The Northern Division of Trinidad, which includes Arima and Tunapuna, once again reported the highest number of murders, at 141. The Port of Spain Division, which includes Laventille and Beetham Gardens, reported 80 murders. The Western and North-Eastern Divisions reported 75 and 63 murders.

Exercise caution at waterfalls and on isolated beaches in Tobago due to muggings. U.S. government personnel and their families may not travel to the following areas: Laventille, Sea Lots, Cocorite, or Beetham. Additionally, the following locations are prohibited after dark: the interior of Queen’s Park Savannah, downtown Port of Spain, Ft. George, and all beaches.

Crimes related to sexual offenses continued to increase in 2019 to 791, from 757 in 2018, and 531 in 2017. There were 986 domestic violence reports in 2019.

Approximately one-third of violent crimes result in arrest and even less end in prosecution.

Notable violent incidents in Trinidad in 2019 include:

Even though most crimes occur in Trinidad, foreigners are at risk for the same types of crimes in Tobago, to include murder, home invasion, petty theft, fraud, and theft from hotel rooms. Several violent home invasions targeted homes and tourists villas in Tobago, in particular in the Mt. Irvine, Buccoo Bay, and Bacolet areas. Tobago reported ten murders in 2019, nine in 2018, and 13 in 2017.

Although infrequent, incidents of piracy in the waters between T&T and Venezuela occurred in 2019. In one instance, assailants fired upon a yacht, which sustained damage. In another case, kidnappers held anglers for ransom. As a result, T&T Coast Guard (TTCG) increased patrols. Yacht owners traveling in and out of T&T should submit their float plans and coordinates to TTCG. In emergencies, contact TTCG headquarters at 1-868-634-8824.

Many locations accept only cash or debit card for payment. Use caution with U.S. credit cards. If using a credit card, ensure that the card stays in sight. Do not withdraw large amounts of cash from banks or ATMs. Instead of withdrawing a large sum of money, consider cashing a check or conducting an electronic transfer. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Cybersecurity Issues

There is no current reporting related to cybersecurity issues specifically impacting Trinidad and Tobago. 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

Trinidad has modern six-lane highways and one controlled-access highway. The speed limit on major highways is 100 kilometers per hour. Road quality decreases quickly on secondary roads. Avoid nighttime travel if possible. Rural roads are narrow, in poor repair, and often have deep drainage ditches on either side of the road. Roadside assistance exists but is extremely limited and may be subject to lengthy delays. Carry water and a charged cellular telephone.

T&T is a right-side drive country, but there is no prohibition on importing left-side drive vehicles. Local law requires the driver and all passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets. The use of cellular phones while driving is illegal unless used with a hands-free device. Drivers caught talking on a cellular telephone, without a hands-free device, are subject to fines.

Be alert for the use of hand signals by other drivers to indicate turning, slowing, or stopping; these do not necessarily correspond to hand signals used in other countries. Drivers are generally courteous, but can be flexible with the rules of the road. Do not stop if a stranger flags down your vehicle along the road. Do not pick up hitchhikers.

Road travel is generally safe; however, road fatalities increased to 121 in 2019, up from 118 in 2018. The fine for driving under the influence is $12,000 TT (approx. US$1,900) for a first conviction. Traffic wardens help monitor and enforce traffic safety, but they have no powers of arrest, and often request TTPS assistance. Unannounced road checks are not uncommon, and may occur at any time.

Police increased patrols on the Beetham Highway, a main thoroughfare for Port of Spain and a primary route to and from the airport, due to a number of robberies occurring while drivers were stopped in heavy traffic; it continues to be a dangerous road for stopped vehicles. Drivers may encounter persons running out into the road or throwing debris (e.g. bricks, chairs, trash) to cause accidents and force vehicles to stop. Once this occurs, accomplices descend upon the accident victims, robbing them of valuables, and often assaulting them violently, even if they are compliant. If this type of situation occurs and the vehicle is still operable, continue to a safer area before seeking help.

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

Traditional, non-shared, marked taxis do not exist in T&T. Uber is no longer active in T&T, but there are similar riding-hailing applications in operation. Private taxis are available at the airports and major hotels, but they are unmetered and unmarked. You can hire them to travel door-to-door, but negotiate the fare in advance. Private taxis and route taxis have plate numbers beginning with the letter “H.” Use only private taxis for transportation around Port of Spain, and only private taxis or full-sized inter-city buses for travel between cities. Crimes (e.g. rapes, assaults, robberies, thefts) have taken place in taxis. Route taxis will pick up additional passengers and have caused serious traffic accidents swerving across several lanes to pick up or discharge passengers. Avoid small buses and vans (referred to as Maxi Taxis) for the same reasons. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of T&T’s air carrier operations.

The Piarco International Airport (POS) is a hub for Caribbean flights. Airport services may be slow, but there are no concerns for safety or scams. T&T police and Airport Authority officers appear throughout the airport; private security in the parking lot areas may assist in an emergency.

The Piarco Airport Taxi Cooperative Society (1-868-669-0282) provides service to/from the airport. Taxis are located outside the arrival area; drivers wear a white shirt, black/blue trousers, and sport a yellow photo identification pass. You must have local currency for taxi fare; negotiate fares in advance with the taxi driver.

There have been reported incidents of criminals following travelers from the airport and robbing them either while en route or at their destination.

Immigration authorities turn over incoming passengers not granted entry into T&T to the airline for return to the originating country. If a flight is not available, the airline uses a subcontractor to escort the passenger to a private hotel, often located several miles away from the airport. Immigration maintains control of the passenger’s passport and the passenger remains at the hotel until a flight to originating country is available.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Port of Spain as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The threat from ISIS sympathizers in T&T and the possible return of persons who traveled, or attempted to travel, to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS is the primary terrorism threat in the country.

The T&T government continues preparation of an operational plan to implement a national counterterrorism strategy adopted in 2018. An interagency government task force created in 2018 to develop policies related to the possible return and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters and other persons that traveled to the Middle East to join ISIS continued its work in 2019. Notable terror-related incidents include:

  • In 2018 the government disrupted a terror plot against T&T carnival. The government eventually released detained suspects from custody.
  • In 2017, the U.S. government designated Trinidadian ISIS fighter Shane Crawford, also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Sa’ad al-Trinidadi, as a terrorist.
  • In 2015, the T&T High Court declared Trinidadian national Kareem Ibrahim a terrorist, allowing the state to proceed with freezing his local assets in accordance with the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005. The judgment was the first under the law and played an important role in setting legal precedent on terrorism rulings. Ibrahim died in 2016.
  • In 2015, an ISIS propaganda video featured several young men claiming to be Trinidadian nationals fighting in Syria.

Given weaknesses in border control, there remains a continued concern that potential terrorists or terrorist organizations could use T&T as a transit point.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Port of Spain as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There are periodic labor union demonstrations over salary negotiations, tax structures, and other issues involving public resources or government operations. The disruption of utility services occasionally occurs in relation to industrial action group protests organized by labor organizations. General elections will take place in 2020, which may increase frequency and fervor of demonstrations.

All demonstrations require police approval in advance and police typically provide appropriate coverage. They usually take place in or near the Parliament building downtown or outside the Prime Minister’s offices in St. Clair. Visitors should avoid political rallies and demonstrations. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

According to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, there are on average 280 earthquakes in T&T annually, with an average of 50 seismic events above 3.5 on the Richter scale. The Central Range fault runs through the center of Trinidad, leaving T&T vulnerable to catastrophic seismic activity.

The country is located below the Atlantic hurricane belt, though some storms have occurred nearby, impacting T&T with heavy rainfall. Inadequate infrastructure and drainage cause flooding in some areas, resulting in landslides/mudslides that can block or erode roads. Drivers should use extreme caution during inclement weather.

Do not enter the water at unmarked, unpatrolled beaches. Tides and undercurrents can be dangerous, and waves can exceed five feet in height.

Economic Concerns

The country is slowly emerging from a recession that began in 2015 and was caused by a drop in gas production and lower energy prices. Economic growth and productivity remain low, despite rising global commodity prices and various energy projects that increased natural gas production. Major issues affecting companies are an ongoing foreign exchange shortage, inefficient government bureaucracy, crime, poor work ethic in the labor force, and corruption. Some foreign investors have seen the decision-making process for tenders and the subsequent awarding of contracts turn opaque without warning, especially when their company’s interests compete with those of well-connected local firms. For more information related to economic concerns visit the Country Commercial Guide.

Personal Identity Concerns

Previously, T&T law criminalized same sex-sexual activity, with penalties of up to 25 years in prison. Authorities rarely enforced this provision, except in conjunction with serious offenses such as rape. A court ruling has now deemed the law unconstitutional. The government’s appeal of the ruling is pending with the intention to make the ruling settled law. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against LGBTI+ persons. There were reports of harassment and threats against LGBTI+ persons, but victims tended to avoid media attention, and discrimination did not appear to be serious or widespread. Immigration law also bars the entry of homosexuals, but this is also rarely enforced. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Walkways are not compliant for persons with disabilities. Most sidewalks are narrow and uneven, with utility poles situated in the middle of the walkway, making it impassible for wheelchairs, due to the deep gutters that run alongside most roads. Cars parked on sidewalks, uncovered manholes, and other obstacles may force persons with mobility issues onto the main roadways. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

Drug-related Crimes

Trinidad is a trans-shipment point for illicit drugs heading to Europe and Northern America; drug-related incidents are a significant contributor to crime.

Major brands of pharmaceuticals are subject to counterfeits and parallel imports, which smugglers import from a third country and re-sell without the permission of the rights-holder.

Kidnapping Threat

According to TTPS crime statistics, there were 147 kidnappings in 2019, 133 in 2018, and 102 in 2017. There were 15 kidnappings for ransom in 2019, one of which authorities solved. The motivation behind kidnappings is typically drug and gang related. T&T Kidnapping Hotline: 1-868-623-6793. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

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

It is illegal to carry ammunition when arriving, departing, or transiting through T&T. Authorities have detained, charged, and fined individuals found with one bullet, a previously discharged bullet casing, or spent ammunition used in items such as jewelry or keyrings. You may not import any camouflage-pattern material without approval from the Ministry of National Security. You may not wear camouflage clothing in public unless you are in the country on official military business. Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

T&T law prohibits the use of obscene language to the annoyance of other persons on the street. Using obscene language in public may result in a fine or detention if a police officer is in proximity.

Police Response

The local emergency line is 999. Call the anti-crime hotline at 555 or 1-868-800-TIPS. The TTPS falls under the Ministry of National Security, with almost 8,000 police officers and Special Reserve Police. The TTPS is organized into multiple Divisions, Branches, Squads, and Units. Report suspicious activity to the TTPS so they can dispatch or redirect appropriate patrol units to the location of need. Foreign crime victims can expect treatment and assistance with the same level of cooperation and fairness as that given to a local citizen. In recent years, in response to citizen concerns, the government has bought additional police cruisers, constructed and renovated police stations, recruited new officers, and made efforts to improve police customer service to earn the trust of members of the public.

Detained or arrested U.S. citizens should notify the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain immediately by email or by telephone at 868-622-6371. U.S. citizens may also wish to contact their family and an attorney. During the initial interview, the police may defer a request to contact family, but local law provides for both consular notification and an attorney upon request. Harassment is uncommon with foreigners; however, U.S. citizens should report any incident to the U.S. Embassy. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Medical Emergencies

The emergency line for major trauma only is 811. Medical care is below U.S. standards for treatment of serious injuries and illness, with limited access to supplies and medications. Private medical care available in Port of Spain is adequate but still below U.S. standards; it is substandard in the rest of the country. Patients requiring blood transfusions must arrange for others to donate at least the same amount on their behalf. Physicians and nurses have gone on strike, straining public and private medical services. For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Ambulance service is often extremely limited in response time due to low availability and high demand. Ambulances provide basic life support services, with some moving toward advanced life support capabilities.

A recompression chamber is located in Roxborough, Tobago. Before diving, check if the chamber is operational.

Adequate evacuation insurance coverage (medevac) for all travelers should be a high priority. Highly specialized cases or complex emergencies may require evacuation to Miami. While care at some private facilities is better than at most public health facilities, facilities may expect patients to prove their ability to pay before they give assistance, even in emergencies. 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 following diseases are present: Zika; Chikungunya; ; Dengue; and Yellow Fever. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Trinidad & Tobago.

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Port-of-Spain Country Council launched in 2017. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

15 Queens Park West, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Business hours: Monday-Friday, 0730 – 1630.

Switchboard: +868 622-6371

Security Office: +868 822-5927

Marine Guard (24 Hours): +868 822-5999/5912

Website: http://tt.usembassy.gov

Helpful Information

Before you travel,consider the following resources:

 

Processing

Warning

Error processing!