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Caribbean Crime Warnings

Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French West Indies, Grenada

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Cuba

Crime statistics are significantly under-reported by the Cuban government. Although crime against American and other foreign travelers in Cuba has generally been limited to pick pocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended items, there have been increased reports of violent assaults against individuals in connection with robberies. Pick pocketings and purse snatchings usually occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana and the Prado neighborhood. U.S. visitors should also beware of Cuban jineteros, or street "jockeys," who specialize in swindling tourists. While most jineteros speak English and go out of their way to appear friendly, e.g. by offering to serve as tour guides or to facilitate the purchase of cheap cigars, many are in fact professional criminals who will not hesitate to use violence in their efforts to acquire tourists' money and other valuables. Thefts of property from air travelers' baggage have become increasingly common. All travelers should ensure that valuables remain under their personal control at all times, and are never put into checked baggage.

Dominica

Petty street crime occurs in Dominica. Valuables left unattended, especially on beaches, are vulnerable to theft.

Dominican Republic

Crime continues to be a problem throughout the Dominican Republic.  Street crime and petty theft involving U.S. tourists does occur. While pick pocketing and mugging are the most common crimes against tourists, reports of violence against both foreigners and locals are growing.  Criminals can be dangerous and visitors walking the streets should always be aware of their surroundings.  Valuables left unattended in parked automobiles, on beaches and in other public places are vulnerable to theft, and reports of car theft have increased.  Cellular telephones should be carried in a pocket rather than on a belt or in a purse.  One common method of street robbery is for at least one person on a moped (often coasting with the engine turned off so as not to draw attention) to approach a pedestrian, grab his or her cell phone, purse or backpack, and then speed away. 

Many criminals have weapons and are likely to use them if they meet resistance.  Be wary of strangers, especially those who seek you out at celebrations or nightspots.  Traveling and moving about in a group is advisable.  The dangers present in the Dominican Republic, even in resort areas, are similar to those of many major U.S. cities. 

Burglaries of private residences continue to be reported as well as crimes of violence.  Criminals may also misrepresent themselves in an effort to gain access to your residence or hotel room. Some travelers have been stopped while driving and asked for “donations” by someone who may appear to be a police officer before they would be allowed to continue on their way.  Usually, the person(s) stopping the American drivers had approached from behind on a motorcycle. In some cases, the perpetrators were dressed in the light green uniform of “AMET,” the Dominican traffic police or military fatigues. In 2006, the U.S. Embassy received reports of Americans and others who were victims of vehicular-armed robberies in the northern provinces of the Dominican Republic.  At least three of the reports indicate the victims were intercepted during the morning hours, when there was little other traffic, while driving on rural highways connecting Santiago and Puerto Plata.

Although kidnappings are not common in the Dominican Republic, in 2007, two American citizens were kidnapped and held for ransom, in separate instances.

Passengers in “carros publicos” are frequently the victims of pick pocketing, and passengers have on occasion been robbed by “carro publico” drivers. There are continuing reports of thefts that target Americans as they leave the airport in a taxi that lacks air-conditioning.  The driver rolls down the windows and when the taxi stops at a traffic light, a motorcyclist reaches in and steals a purse or anything they can grab. The U.S. Embassy strongly advises Americans to restrict severely the use of credit/debit cards in the Dominican Republic.  The increase in credit card fraud is particularly pronounced in the eastern resort areas of the Dominican Republic.  According to reports, store workers, restaurant service staff and hotel employees may conceal devices that can instantly record the credit card information. The use of ATMs should be minimized as a means of avoiding theft or misuse.  One local ATM fraud scheme involves sticking photographic film or pieces of paper in the card feeder of the ATM so that an inserted card becomes jammed.  Once the card owner has concluded the card is irretrievable, the thieves extract both the jamming material and the card, which they then use. The overall level of crime tends to rise during the Christmas season, and visitors to the Dominican Republic should take extra precautions when visiting the country between November and January.

The Embassy occasionally receives reports of instances of sexual assault at the resorts, particularly while at the beach.  “All-inclusives” are well known for serving abundant quantities of alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption may decrease a person’s ability to be aware of their surroundings, making them an easy target for crime. 

French West Indies (Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin (the French side) and St. Barthélemy)

Petty street crime, including purse snatching, occurs throughout the French West Indies. Visitors should take care whenever traveling to safeguard valuables and always lock hotel rooms and car doors.

Grenada

Street crime occurs in Grenada.  Tourists have been victims of armed robbery especially in isolated areas and thieves frequently steal credit cards, jewelry, U.S. passports and money.  Mugging, purse snatching and other robberies may occur in areas near hotels, beaches and restaurants, particularly after dark.  Visitors should exercise appropriate caution when walking after dark or when using the local bus system or taxis hired on the road.  It is advisable to hire taxis to and from restaurants.

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