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Suriname 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Western Hemisphere > Suriname; Western Hemisphere > Suriname > Paramaribo

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats 

While some areas of Paramaribo are safer than others, there are no areas that can be considered completely safe. Criminals move without restriction into and out of neighborhoods where expatriates live, often utilizing scooters or motorcycles to evade police.

Street crimes, including thefts of backpacks and purses, jewelry (especially necklaces), and cell phones, are also regular occurrences. These incidents often occur in those areas frequented by foreigners. Tourist areas are common targets for thieves and muggers who often rob victims of their possessions during the hours of darkness. There is a steep increase in these types of crimes around the holidays. In September 2013, an armed robbery occurred one block from Embassy residences in which police fired “warning shots” in an attempt to stop the fleeing subject. 

There have been reports of tourists and foreigners being robbed while traveling in the countryside, and occasional reports of bandits on rural roads.

There have been reports of criminal incidents in the vicinities of the major hotels. Guests at major hotels have reported thefts of personal items, including cell phones, bags, and other items in common areas (restaurants, bars, gyms, and pools). 

Violent crimes, such as murder, residential/business robbery, carjacking, burglary, and street mugging, occurred regularly in 2013. Criminals often carry firearms and other weapons and do not hesitate to use them, especially if victims resist. Although the possession of handguns is illegal, many criminals possess them. Shotguns are the only form of firearm that is permitted to be owned by civilians in Suriname. As such, many criminals make use of shotguns in committing crimes.

Several expatriates, including foreign diplomats, were victims of home burglaries, seeming to indicate the brazen determination of the burglars breaking into residences. There are also reports of guard dogs being poisoned as a tactic to commit the burglary. However, there were no reports of burglary at homes where Americans reside or at homes that deploy residential security guards. The Regional Security Office recommends that a monitored security system and residential guards be part of the residential security program. In July 2013, the house next to the Embassy (though not leased by the Embassy) was burglarized. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Vehicle accidents are a very real safety threat. In general, roads and driving conditions are below average, particularly outside Paramaribo. Police sporadically enforce local traffic laws, and, as a result, local drivers drive recklessly. Traffic cameras are in place but are not utilized. Driving while talking on a cell phone is illegal and is one of the few traffic offenses that is regularly enforced.

Drivers should be very cognizant of mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles, especially when making turns. They are very common and always have the right of way, as they are considered pedestrians (not motor vehicles), according to local laws.

The use of public transportation, such as mini-buses, by visitors unfamiliar with the country is highly discouraged. Traveling by public transportation, especially outside Paramaribo, can be very dangerous. The three highways are often the sites of horrendous accidents, usually due to speeding and often involving buses or vans transporting passengers. The use of reputable taxis, however, is generally acceptable.

While driving in any vehicle, make sure your doors are locked and windows are rolled up. Check the interior and exterior of your vehicle prior to getting in. Look for things that are irregular or abnormal. In traffic, always attempt to leave space in which to maneuver. Always leave yourself an exit. Be prepared to take evasive action at any time. Avoid choke points in travel. Be wary of diversions. If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to find the nearest police station, hotel, or other public facility to call the police or RSO. Never lead the person back to your home or stop and get out.

If involved in an accident, one is expected to leave the vehicle exactly where the accident occurred and stay at the scene until the police arrive to take a report. If one leaves before the police arrive, one will be found at fault and could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. The wait can often stretch into hours, and it is not uncommon for roads to be completely blocked by a minor accident while waiting for the police to arrive.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The U.S. government is not aware of any regional or indigenous terrorist groups operating in Suriname. However, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been arrested and deported to Colombia. All indications are that these individuals have been in Suriname on narcotics and/or weapons trafficking-related missions. There are no indications that any other international or transnational terrorist group is operating in Suriname.

Civil Unrest 

There have been several incidents of violence and crime directed toward illegal immigrants and especially toward illegal Brazilian gold miners in the past few years. Police regularly conduct raids in Suriname’s outlying areas to thwart illegal gold mining; however, Brazilian miners return and resume operations once the police leave. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards 

Flooding regularly occurs in Paramaribo during the “big” rainy seasons (typically May-August and November-February). During these periods, many roads are often flooded, and driving is extremely difficult and dangerous. Paramaribo has many canals, and during the worst of the flooding, it is often impossible to see where roads end and canals begin. Due to poor drainage, this flooding can last for a few days. 

In May 2006, Suriname experienced severe flooding in the interior. The crisis stretched the government’s resources beyond capacity, and in the ensuing state of emergency; the government relied heavily on foreign and international assistance. The government would likely approach the UNDP and U.S., French, and Dutch Embassies for guidance and assistance should a major emergency take place in Paramaribo.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents 

In November 2012, IAMGold experienced a cyanide leak of less than one liter from one of their pipelines. IAMGold stated in a press release that they acted immediately, following all safety and medical protocols. Two workers were hospitalized with symptoms of cyanide poisoning. 

Privacy Concerns

Journalists have had their websites hacked, and there is concern that their communications and movements may be monitored. 

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Suriname does not have any regional travel concerns or restricted travel areas. Over 90 percent of Suriname is uninhabited rainforest, and there are inherent natural dangers. Anyone venturing into the interior is advised to have a seasoned guide and some form of communication. Although illegal, gun traps are used for hunting purposes in the interior. An American volunteer died as a result of a gun trap accident in 2007.

Drug-related Crimes

Suriname is a transit zone for South American cocaine en route to Europe, Africa and, to a lesser extent, the U.S. Inadequate resources, limited law enforcement training, the absence of a law enforcement presence in the interior, and lack of aircraft or sufficient numbers of patrol boats limit the capacity of the government to control its borders. 

There have been sporadic instances of narcotics-related violence between individuals associated with competing drug trafficking organizations. These have included assassinations, drive-by shootings, and hand grenades tossed over residential walls. 

Kidnapping Threats

Kidnapping is a relatively rare occurrence. Of the kidnappings that do occur, many are related to personal/business conflicts. To date, the Embassy is not aware of kidnappings involving foreign victims.

Police Response 

Police response, especially during the night, is a rarity for all but the most serious crimes. 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Incidents of police detention or harassment should be reported to the U.S. Embassy Duty Officer as soon as possible. If arrested or detained, declare your U.S. citizenship and politely ask the police to contact the U.S. Embassy Emergency Duty Officer at 597-710-1112. If calling from the United States, dial 011-597-710-1112.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

"115" is a general emergency number for police, fire, or medical emergency. Those answering this line may or may not speak English. Victims of crimes can also contact the “Bureau Slachtofferzorg” (Victim’s Assistance Office), Ministry of Justice and Police, Keizerstraat 155, Phone/Fax # (597) 424-016, hours: Monday-Friday 0800-1430. Crimes can be reported in person or over the phone during business hours to any of the below police stations:

Paramaribo
Keizerstraat Station (Central Paramaribo)
Keizerstraat 23 
Tel: (011) 597 471-111 / 477-777

Nieuwe Haven Station (Paramaribo South)
Havenlaan 
Tel: (011) 597 403-101 / 403-508 / 402-656 / 404-022 / 401-025 / 404-943

Geyersvlijt Station (Paramaribo North)
Basitostraat
Tel: (011) 597 451-677 / 453-570 / 451-222 / 453-748 

Latour Station 
Indira Ghandiweg / Tamanoeastraat
Tel: (011) 597 481-524 / 483-547

Livorno Station
Sir Winston Churchillweg
Tel: (011) 597 481-941 / 483-400

Uitvlugt Station
Kasabaholoweg
Tel: (011) 597 498-573 / 435-392

Outside Paramaribo 
Lelydorp Station: Tel: (011) 597 366-785 / 366-116
Zanderij Station: Tel: (011) 597 325-222
Brokopondo Station: Tel: (011) 597 880-4611
Coronie Station: Tel: (011) 597 235-122 / 235-123
Nickerie Station: Tel: (011) 597 231-530 / 231-222
Moengo Station: Tel: (011) 597 341-321 / via Suralco 341-280
Albina Station: Tel: (011) 597 342-080 / 342-077

Various Police/Security Agencies 

There are three major law enforcement/security entities in Suriname: 

The largest in size and the most published in the media is the Korps Politie Suriname (KPS). This is a traditional police department model and is responsible for all the policing efforts. Under the main umbrella of the KPS, there are three branches. The city police handle all issues inside the city limits of Paramaribo; the rural police handle everything outside of Paramaribo; and the Judicial Police is comprised of specialized police units (i.e. forensics, fraud, homicide, etc.).

The second largest law enforcement/security entity is the Military Police, a branch of the Surinamese Armed Forces, which polices all members of the Surinamese Military and handles border control/immigration functions. 

The third largest law enforcement/security entity is the Surinamese Bureau of National Security, which is responsible for the Central Intelligence and Security Service (CIVD) and the presidential personal security unit. 

Medical Emergencies

"115" is a general emergency number for police, fire, or medical emergency. Those answering this line may or may not speak English. Traditional ambulance services are unreliable, difficult to contact, and often require upfront cash payments before transporting patients. They cannot be relied upon in case of emergency. For life threatening emergencies, private vehicles or taxis are the best option for transportation to the hospital.

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

The Academic Hospital is most commonly used for responding to medical emergencies and trauma, such as traffic accidents. The Academic Hospital is located less than one mile from the U.S. Embassy at the intersection of Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat and Prof. Kernkampwegand and has adequately trained staff and equipment to stabilize those in need of attention before medical evacuation can be arranged. Tel: (011) 597 442-222

Diakonessenhuis Hospital
Zinniastraat, Flora
(011) 597 427-288

St. Vincentius Hospital (in the northern part of Paramaribo) just opened an emergency ward, which has not yet been assessed by the U.S. Embassy. Travelers should be aware that medical standards are below what one would expect in the United States.
Koninginne 4, Centruum
Tel: (011) 597 471-212

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Hi Jet Helicopters operates an air ambulance service from the Zorg En Hoop airport in Paramaribo. Hi Jet can retrieve patients from anywhere in the country that a helicopter can land and transport them to one of the hospitals in Paramaribo. Companies wishing to use this service should have a guarantee letter on file with the company or expect to pay in cash before a patient is transported. 

Hi Jet Helicopter
Zorg En Hoop Airport
Doekhieweg Oost 1
Business Hours (011) 597 531-933, (011) 597 432-577, Fax: (011) 597 432-556
Emergency (011) 597 881-1230, (011) 597 718-0008

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

For vaccine and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/suriname.htm.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Areas to be Avoided 

It is recommended that visitors avoid walking in the Paramaribo Central area and the Palmentuin (Palm Garden) area after dark, as these areas are often used by criminals targeting foreigners.

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

Walking alone outside at night, even in the immediate vicinity of these hotels, is highly discouraged. If you do walk around the city, carry only what is necessary for your outing. It is not recommended to carry passports or other valuable documents, large quantities of cash, or anything else that you cannot afford to lose.

Maintain a low personal profile by not doing anything that draws attention to you. Most foreigners are very visible in public and should take precautions to prevent becoming a victim. Visitors should avoid wearing expensive jewelry, displaying large sums of cash in public, or otherwise appearing ostentatious. If confronted by an armed criminal, do not argue or attempt to confront him/her in any way. Quickly relinquish what you are asked to surrender.

Visitors are advised to make every attempt to change currency at hotels, local banks, or official cambios. Visitors are strongly discouraged from exchanging currency on the street, as this is both dangerous and illegal.

Services offered through major hotels and tourist agencies are usually safer, more reliable, and inexpensive. Travelers wishing to visit the interior are advised to make use of well-established tour companies for safer experiences. 

The presence of a professional 24-hour guard service serves as one of the best deterrents to criminals. Other security upgrades including alarms, grilles, lighting, and perimeter barriers are also highly recommended. Keep your doors locked and windows closed (residence and vehicle).

Identify and report to your RSO, vehicles or persons possibly involved in surveillance of your activities. Be alert to what is going on around you. Make your colleagues and family aware of your daily plans and how to reach you. Whenever possible, do not have a set day for shopping, errands and personal needs. Be unpredictable. Vary your times and routes to and from work. Allow your staff to vary their hours of reporting (i.e., you do not schedule meetings the same time early each morning that would preclude the staff from varying their reporting times). See 3 FAM 4127 for further information. Schedules that are the most predictable leave you the most vulnerable. Be unpredictable when possible in both your work and social schedules.

Never give out your personal information such as family member and household staff names, addresses and telephone numbers in an open setting.

Ensure all of your family members are briefed on the aforementioned security countermeasures.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

United States Embassy Suriname129 Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat, Paramaribo, Suriname

Hours of Operation: M-F 0730-1600

Embassy Contact Numbers

U.S. Embassy Operator 
(0700-1630 M-F) (011) 597 472-900
VOIP:202-609-9890 or 202-609-9765
Fax (Admin/Primary): (597) 410-972

American Citizen Services (ACS) FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY: (0700-1630 M-F) (011) 597 472-900 x2236

U.S. Embassy Duty Officer: (Afterhours) (011) 597 710-1112

Regional Security Office: (011) 597 472-900 x2066

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no active OSAC Country Council in Suriname.