Crime Against Caribbean Travelers: Getting to the Bottom of It
By Jennifer Smith
Since the 1980's the Caribbean region has been struggling against its own inner demon: crime. The islands of the Caribbean have quickly learned that rising crime rates on one island can still effect other islands in the region negatively. While the islands still offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, travelers may feel less secure in their relaxation.
Several recent news stories about crimes in the Caribbean, the most well-known being the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, have brought back the debate over how to keep the islands safe for travelers. It has even inspired a conference in late October and a statement by the Caribbean Commissioners of Police. These efforts have been made to help travelers feel more secure in their vacations, especially as the Caribbean's tourist season approaches.
One of the biggest problems in studying crime among the islands has been that, until recently, few efforts had been made to distinguish crime against island residents from crime against visitors. This has become an important trend in fighting crime in the islands. Since these studies have begun exploring these statistics it has become clear that violent crimes against vacationers in the Caribbean islands are indeed rare occurrences. While Jamaica, for example, may be known for its high murder rates, the vast majority of these are crimes by Jamaican nationals against Jamaican nationals.
Vacationers planning a trip to the islands are more likely to encounter petty theft and other nonviolent crimes than anything else. However, as recent events have shown, this is not a certainty. Some believe that areas that have become inundated with tourists have higher crime rates against tourists because there are as many tourists as residents, while others believe that the relaxed attitude of most visitors is the main contributing factor in these crimes. Though there are several different theories about this, one thing is certain - travelers who take precautions generally do not experience such problems during their stay.
The best way to be safe during Caribbean travel is to avoid making the mistakes most vacationers make - just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious. Leaving valuables in plain view in a hotel room or rental car, leaving doors unlocked, displaying too much wealth, and wearing flashy jewelry are all ways to attract thieves. Remember that you are far from home, and replacing items like a stolen wallet will be even more difficult - take the same precautions you would take at home or in any big city to avoid losing such items.
Another way that travelers can stumble upon trouble is by walking into "bad areas of town. It's common sense to avoid walking down a dark alley in most cities, but vacationers may not always recognize a part of town that locals know to avoid. If an area makes you feel uneasy, or would make you feel uneasy at home, it's probably best to avoid that area - especially at night. Women particularly should take extra precautions at night and avoid walking alone.
While some believe that tourist-heavy areas inspire more crime toward tourists, these areas have also set up much more rigid security measures to help travelers stay safe. It is difficult to determine whether these areas are more or less safe than any other location. However, one certainty is that most travelers to the Caribbean have never experienced any sort of crime.
Travelers who return year after year to experience what the Caribbean has to offer rarely have stories of vacations turning into horrible experiences. So, with just a bit of caution in mind, it's still safe to relax on an island vacation while the island governments work to put a stop to the troubles that keep travelers from their shores.
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