Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Crime and Safety Report
Burglary; Drug Trafficking; Kidnapping; Murder; Theft; Hotels; Maritime; Earthquakes; Stolen items; Transportation Security; Travel Health and Safety
Western Hemisphere > Trinidad and Tobago > Port of Spain
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has rated crime in Trinidad and Tobago “critical.”
Most crimes are crimes of opportunity. American citizens have been victims of pickpocketing, assault, theft/robbery, fraud, and murder. However, there is no evidence to indicate that foreigners, specifically the expatriate communities, are being targeted in particular, but crimes do occur in areas frequented by tourists. Crimes, to include robbery, breakins/burglary, vehicular break ins, home invasions, and assaults (includes sexual assault), regularly occur in the areas in which the expatriate community live.
The U.S. Department of State has rated residential crime as “high” due to the fact that other less violent crimes regularly occur in the areas in which the expatriate community live. Those crimes include robbery, break-ins/burglary, vehicular break-ins, home invasion, and assault (includes sexual assault).”
Violent crime is a concern for the local security services and the general population. The 2012 murder rate as was 37.9 per 100,000 people. There were 379 murders in 2012, 354 murders in 2011, 480 murders in 2010, 508 murders in 2009, 550 (record high) murders in 2008, and 391 in 2007 out of a population of approximately 1.3 million people resident on both islands (approx 1.25 mil in Trinidad and just over 50k in Tobago). The murder rate continues to be driven primarily by gang and drug related activities. Crimes related to economic gain, sexual assault, and domestic violence continue to plague the country. Sexual offenses have seen a steady increase from 692 in 2008 to 1020 in 2012.
The majority of violent criminal activity (i.e., homicides, kidnappings, assaults, sexual assaults etc.) in Trinidad is gang/drug-related or domestic disputes. A significant and growing portion of this violence is attributed to the influence of gangs, illegal narcotics, and firearms. Many crimes go unreported. Further, there are instances in which crimes are reported, but not documented. Most reported crimes occur within the metropolitan areas of Port of Spain and San Fernando. Around 17 percent of reported crimes result in an arrest.
As for Tobago, crimes of murder, home invasion, petty theft (including theft of large sums of cash and passports taken from hotels rooms), and hustling continue to affect tourists. In particular, several violent home invasions have targeted well-to-do homes and villas sometimes rented to tourists.
In August 2011, the government implemented a State of Emergency (SoE) to deal with what they deemed as specific and emerging crime threats. A curfew from 9pm to 5am in several areas of the country--mainly in Port of Spain and San Fernando--was implemented along with the SoE on August 22, 2011. The curfew ended on November 7, 2011. During the SoE, the crime was greatly reduced. The SoE ended on December 6, 2011.
Overall Road Safety Situation
Traveling on the roads in general can be safe, though there continue to be a relatively high number of traffic fatalities. Some 1,000 traffic fatalities were reported from 2008-2012. In 2012, there were 189 deaths, up from 181 in 2011. The government has passed legislation both to allow law enforcement to utilize breathalyzers to reduce the number of drunk driving relating fatalities and to make it illegal to talk on cell phones while driving. They are creating Traffic Wardens to monitor traffic safety throughout the country.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The radical Muslim organization Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM), which is locally based, was responsible for a violent, unsuccessful coup attempt in July 1990. Since then, JAM and its leaders have focused on Islamic education and a number of business venture, but have been linked publicly to serious crimes, including murder, and to alleged get-out-the-vote irregularities during national political campaigns. Meanwhile, the government continues to seek restitution against JAM for damages associated with the 1990 coup attempt.
Over 100 criminal gangs have been identified, and these gangs, as well as other organizations, have been linked to crimes related to weapons smuggling, fraud, and other organized criminal activities.
Radical elements are thought to make occasional contact with individuals and groups with possible terrorist ties around the world, and given the crime rate and some weak aspects of border control, there remains a continued concern that Trinidad and Tobago could be utilized as a transit point for potential terrorists or terrorist organizations. The relatively porous borders allow the country to be utilized as routes for drugs and weapons trafficking, and it is possible that organizations could use similar routes for terrorist-related activities.
The country has remained mostly peaceful since the attempted coup of 1990, with periodic demonstrations by labor unions over salary negotiations, tax structures, and other issues involving public resources or government operations. Some political demonstrations do become violent, with the occasional clash with the police. In the past year, demonstrators have closed major highways and thoroughfares and burned tires.
Immediately after September 11, 2001, JAM members and others protested in public venues regarding U.S. policy on the war on terrorism. In one particular protest in Port of Spain during 2001, the American flag was burned.
Trinidad and Tobago has been rated in the “extremely vulnerable” category for seismic activity. The 2011 University of West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Center Annual Report indicated that seismic activity remains elevated in the Paria Penninsula (extends eastward off Venezuela toward Trinidad). In 1955, an earthquake occurred off of N. Trinidad, which UWI deemed would have been catastrophic if it occurred in the same location under the islands’current composition. The same report indicated that in 2011 there were 879 earthquakes in the Caribbean, four of which were 5.1 “moderate” and occurred near Trinidad and Tobago.
The islands are also considered below the hurricane belt, though some storms have passed close by. Inadequate infrastructure and drainage and heavy rains occasionally cause flooding in certain urban areas and landslides that can block remote roads.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Industrial accidents are not a significant concern, but the possible disruption of utility services caused by industrial action groups and non-violent demonstrations by labor organizations are concerns.
The risk of serious vehicular traffic accidents, including accidents causing death, is moderate to high, particularly at night.
Port of Spain experiences the effects of persons addicted to illicit drugs. Trinidad continues to be viewed as transshipment point for illicit drugs, and drug-related crimes are a significant part of the overall crime picture.
There were 182 kidnappings in 2012. Kidnapping for ransom continues to be a problem in Trinidad. There were three in 2012, five in 2011, four in 2010, eight in 2009, and 17 in 2008. Of the three reported in 2012, none were solved.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GOTT) is making a sincere effort at combating crime. However, an overburdened legal system, bureaucratic resistance to change, unemployment in marginal areas, the negative influence of gangs, and a growing illegal narcotics industry create significant barriers.
In response to concerns of the general populace, the GOTT has provided the police service with new/tangible support in the form of additional police cruisers, renovations of several police stations, and recruitment of new officers. The new commissioner of police has implemented a plan aimed at changing the way the police service responds to crime and criminals. The change is suppose to bring about proactive policing and faster police response to calls for service.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens detained or arrested by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service should be given the opportunity to contact friends or family. Take this opportunity to contact the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain immediately at 622-6371. Harassment is not common with foreigners, but should it occur, you should report the incident to U.S. government authorities.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
Foreigners who are crime victims can expect to be treated and assisted with the same level of cooperation and fairness as that given to a local citizen. Police stations are located throughout the country. Police response may be obtained by phoning 999. However, response time can be sporadic due to a lack of resources, specifically vehicles and manpower.
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics
In the event of a medical emergency, readily available assistance (ambulance service) can be reached by dialing 811.
Additional contact numbers are:
Seventh Day Adventists Centre: (868)622-1191
San Fernando General Hospital: (868)652-3581
St. Clair Medical Centre: (868)628-1451
Port of Spain General Hospital: (868)623-2951
Tobago Regional Hospital: (868)639-2551
Complex, Mt. Hope: (868)645-2640
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
For specific recommendations on vaccines and health guidelines, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/trinidad-and-tobago.htm.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Visitors to local hotels have reported the theft of items from their rooms. While not common during daylight hours, robberies and petty theft have also been reported.
The utilization of “date rape drugs” is common in furtherance of thefts and other crimes.
The use of maxi taxis and gypsy taxis are not recommended because of poor condition of the vehicle and the unreliability of the drivers. It has also been reported that individuals have been robbed while traveling in maxi/gypsy taxis, sometimes with the collusion of the drivers.
Areas to be Avoided
To the extent possible, the areas of Laventille, Sea Lots, and Cocorite should be avoided. All isolated areas and public beaches should be avoided after dark.
Best Security Practices
Do not travel with valuable items. When traveling, carry traveler’s checks and major credit cards but not large amounts of cash. There are several banks in the metropolitan areas. Foreign bank cards can be used in ATM machines. Money dispensed can either be in local currency or U.S. dollars, depending on the machine. Check the machine before use as some machines do not accept foreign cards and will either reject or retain the card without warning. Getting the bank card back can be difficult.
If possible, do not travel alone after dark, and do not walk in isolated areas at night. Carry your belongings in a secure manner and be alert/aware of your surroundings, especially when in crowds. Do not leave your valuables unattended on deserted beaches, and to the best extent possible place articles in your trunk before arriving at your destination. Do not stop your car if you are flagged down along the road; hitchhikers are usually hustlers and can be threatening. Criminals are also known to follow travelers from the airport to their destination.
U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
The Embassy is located at 15 Queen's Park West, Port of Spain. In the event of an emergency during business hours (7:30am – 4:00pm), the U.S. Embassy operator can assist American travelers in contacting the American Citizen Services (ACS) officers in the consular section. After business hours and on weekend and holidays, the U.S. Embassy Marine Security Guard can assist American travelers in contacting the embassy’s Duty Officer for assistance with their emergency. The Marine Security Guard is there to assist in emergency situations only. All other calls should be placed during normal embassy business hours.
Embassy contact numbers: Embassy Operator and Marine Post One.
US Embassy – (868) 622-6371
Emergency Only – (868) 622-6682
Marine Post One - (868) 822-5999
OSAC Country Council Information
The Department of State and Embassy Port of Spain supports an active OSAC Council with a growing membership. Regional Security Officer, Jennifer McHugh, is the point of contact. Ms. McHugh can be reached at (868) 822-5915 and firstname.lastname@example.org.