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Barbados 2012 Crime and Safety Report

Western Hemisphere > Antigua and Barbuda; Western Hemisphere > Barbados > Bridgetown; Western Hemisphere > British Virgin Islands; Western Hemisphere > Dominica; Western Hemisphere > Grenada; Western Hemisphere > St. Kitts and Nevis; Western Hemisphere > St. Lucia; Western Hemisphere > St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Barbados 2012 Crime and Safety Report

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Bridgetown Chief of Mission (COM) responsibility extends to seven independent nations of the Eastern Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Consular American Citizen Services and RSO also cover three British overseas territories (Anguilla, Montserrat, and the British Virgin Islands) and four French islands (Martinique, St. Barthelemy, St. Martin, and Guadeloupe).

Crime Threats

American citizen (AmCit) tourists visiting anywhere in the Eastern Caribbean are not targeted for crime to a greater degree than other Western foreigners. AmCits who reside in the Eastern Caribbean region and live on local economies do not always enjoy the same level of police protection that regional governments provide to tourists who frequent a more narrow set of tourist areas. Tourism is a major contributor to regional GNPs. According to records kept by the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, in 2011 AmCit homicides in the Eastern Caribbean fell from two to one, but AmCits who reported being victims of crime rose from six to 16. 

Resorts, hotels, and other businesses that cater to American tourists provide walled-in compounds with access controls, private security staffs that conduct background checks on employees, and hired drivers for safe transportation of guests. (All beaches in Barbados are open to the public, even those at exclusive resorts.) 

The following are notable crime statistics for several countries in the Eastern Caribbean:

Barbados – 27 homicides in 2011, down from 31 in 2010.  
St. Lucia – 50 homicides in 2011, up from 48 in 2010. 
St. Kitts and Nevis - 34 homicides in 2011, up from 20 in 2010. 
St. Vincent and the Grenadines – 25 homicides in 2011, up from 23 in 2010. 

The following general characterization of crime and public safety environments apply throughout the Eastern Caribbean. Generally, individuals or groups are free to roam day or night with few restrictions; burglars and thieves target residential and hotel/resort areas for opportunistic crimes. High-traffic business areas commonly frequented by tourists are likely areas for opportunistic street crimes like purse snatching and pocket picking. The Barbados news media carries a good deal of crime reporting but has been reluctant to report criminal incidents against tourists that could negatively impact the tourism industry. 

Road Safety

Road conditions on the main coastal highways in Barbados and other Eastern Caribbean islands are adequate but may deteriorate rapidly on small roads in the interior of the country. Smaller roads are often narrow, with poor visibility particularly in curves. These roads are also generally not marked, and informal signs at road junctions, particularly on small inland roads, are often the only way to find your way to your destination. 

Political Violence 

Historical Perspective

The islands of the Eastern Caribbean have experienced little political violence or revolution. The last major incident in the Eastern Caribbean occurred in 1983 when a military coup took place in Grenada, leading to a U.S.-led military intervention.

AmCits and American-owned businesses in the Eastern Caribbean have not been the focus of terrorist actions or political violence. Violent public protests and demonstrations are practically non-existent. Peaceful protests only rarely are directed at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados.

Historically, the islands of the Eastern Caribbean are tranquil. The political climates are stable with little threat of political violence. The labor riots of the 1930s were the last major event to transcend the entire Eastern Caribbean. The U.S.-led invasion of Grenada is the last occurrence of political uprising in the region.

Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime

The Eastern Caribbean remains relatively safe from regional terrorism and organized crime.

International Terrorism or Transnational Terrorism

Most of the island nations are generally porous insofar as borders and transnational terror is concerned. Most ports of entry are easily accessible to would-be terrorists; however, on most islands of the region, no terror-related crime has been reported. 

Civil Unrest

Very little civil unrest occurs on the islands. Mostly unrest is connected to labor issues, which are usually settled by union and government intervention.

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards
The Eastern Caribbean is occasionally victim to hurricanes with the season lasting from June until November. Hurricane Tomas, the most significant hurricane since 1955, hit Barbados in November 2010.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the last significant earthquake in the region occurred on November 29, 2007, 30 miles northwest of Martinique. The magnitude 7.4 earthquake caused one fatality in the region. Grenada has the only known submarine volcano (Kick 'em Jenny) in the region. It is located just north of mainland Grenada. The first recorded eruption reportedly occurred in 1939. Studies dating back to 1972 indicate that minor eruptions have been occurring on a fairly regular basis and that the summit of the volcano is growing at a rate of approximately four meters (13 feet) per annum. The potential hazard of Kick 'em Jenny to Grenada and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean lies in the form of tsunamis, should a major underwater volcanic eruption occur.


In Barbados, reported kidnappings rose from 12 in 2010 to 13 in 2011. In Dominica, kidnappings fell from four in 2010 to three in 2011. No other data is available.

Drug and Narco-terrorism
Many tourists report being harassed by individuals attempting to sell illegal narcotics. All Eastern Caribbean nations and territories have laws prohibiting the purchase, possession, transportation, sale, or use of illegal substances, but enforcement of these laws is somewhat reduced by lack of resources.   

While local drug dealers do get involved in shootings, this type of activity is localized and not directed at innocent citizens. Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries are primarily drug transshipment points for drugs coming from South America (Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Venezuela) en route to Europe, West Africa, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. 

Police Response

In comparison to large metropolitan police departments in the United States, the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) response times are slower, and resources are fewer. However, the RBPF enjoys comparatively greater resources than its Eastern Caribbean neighbors. Generally, uniformed police are adequate to have an influence on crime deterrence, but uniformed police response to alarms or emergency calls are sometimes below U.S. standard. Police performance and conduct varies from poor to acceptable in professionalism and training, and regional police organizations have definite resource/manpower limitations that inhibit their deterrence and response effectiveness.

Founded in 1987, the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP) promotes and facilitates law enforcement within 24 Caribbean countries. The ACCP promotes regional cooperation among the 24 countries to fight crime through:

1) Collaboration to develop and implement policing strategies, systems and procedures;
2) Developing the professional and technical skills of police officers; and,
3) Taking proactive measures to prevent crime and improve police community relations.

The level of professionalism and quality of service can vary from island to island, and the level of protection is directly proportional to its impact on the tourist trade. Residential and business areas frequented by tourists command a more visible uniformed police presence than other parts of the islands. Police stations and police outposts are strategically located in those areas. The RBPF response in these areas is usually timely and efficient, but response delays to the non-tourist, less populated, and rural areas of the islands can be significant.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Any AmCit detained by police or other security services should immediately contact American Citizen Services (ACS) at the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados, at: 1-246-227-4000 for 24/7 assistance. Consular Officers are not substitutes for legal counsel, but they routinely check on the well-being of incarcerated AmCits and work to ensure that AmCits have access to legal counsel, if desired, and are treated fairly in accordance with local and international laws.

Any U.S. citizen detained or harassed by the police or who becomes a victim of crime should contact the American Citizen Services (ACS) at the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown immediately to seek assistance. 

Where to Turn for Assistance if you Become a Victim of a Crime and Local Police Telephone Numbers

Emergency Numbers: 211 or (246) 430-7100 
Police Headquarters: (246) 430-7105
American Citizen Services: (246) 227-4913, or 227 4000

Medical Emergencies

Emergency Care should be sought at:

FMH Emergency Medical Clinic Telephone: 228-6121 OR 228-6120. The clinic is located at 3rd Avenue, Belleville, St. Michael. FMH Emergency Medical clinic is open from 8:00 am to midnight. The last patient is taken at 11:30 pm.

Sandy Crest Medical Clinic, Sunset Crest, St. James Telephone: 419-4911. This clinic provides a 24 hr service. It is wise to call before going, especially after midnight.

Both FMH and Sandy Crest Clinic will refer cases beyond their capabilities to Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Bridgetown. They do not have overnight facilities for extended medical care. 

QEH is a 600-bed facility. It has the capacity to manage major trauma, medical, obstetric emergencies. QEH is the only major trauma facility in Barbados with a 24-hour accident and emergency room. The hospital has on-staff physicians and surgeons of almost all specialties. Be prepared for long waits in the emergency room for minor emergencies; such cases are dealt with in priority order based on severity.

Ambulance service in Barbados can be slow, so for minor incidents it is advised to proceed immediately to the emergency room at the FMH or Sandy Crest. In the event of a major accident/emergency await the arrival of QEH ambulance service or contact Island Care ambulance service at 435-9425. There are six ambulances at the QEH and two at the Barbados Defense Force. Ambulance crews are allowed to perform CPR, and they are trained to administer IVs and other advanced life support services.

Contact Information for Local Hospitals and Clinics

FMH Emergency Medical Clinic: (246) 228-6121 OR 228-6120
Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH): (246) 436-6450
Sandy Crest Medical Clinic: (246) 419-4911
Ambulance Service: 311

Air Ambulance Service

Air Ambulance professionals: 1 -800-752-4195 or (954)-491-0555

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

In general, travel outside of tourist areas should be undertaken with caution, especially at night, due to the prevalence of unmarked and unlit roads. Be vigilant when using public telephones or ATM machines, especially those located near roadsides or in secluded areas. As in many U.S. metropolitan areas, wearing expensive jewelry, carrying expensive objects, or carrying large amounts of cash should be avoided. While at the beach, visitors should safeguard valuables. Although hotels and resorts are generally safe, loss of unattended items is possible. Hotel burglaries may occur in less reputable hotels, and all valuables should be locked in room safes when possible. Keep doors and windows locked especially at night. Burglaries of residences are generally achieved by exploiting a vulnerability such as unlocked doors and windows, substandard door and window grills, and poor or non-existent outdoor lighting.

Another common concern is visitor harassment. Beach merchants will offer a variety items for sale, including drugs, and visitors should use caution in dealing with them. 

Further Information

In Barbados, the U.S. Embassy is located in Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael. 

Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy Main: (246) 227-4100
Marine Post One: (246) 227-4066
RSO Bridgetown George Gaines: (246) 227 4130
Consular Affairs: (246) 227-4193
Political Affairs: (246) 227-4229

OSAC Country Council

No OSAC Country Council exists in Barbados.