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Violence is spiking in The Bahamas, Jamaica, triggering travel warning to US citizens

The port at Nassau in the Bahamas is full with five ships including from left to right, the Carnival Ecstacy, Carnival Fantasy, Disney Dream, Norwegian Sky and Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. (Richard Tribou/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS)

A significant increase in crime in The Bahamas and Jamaica has led the the U.S. State Department to issue travel advisory warnings for the two Caribbean destinations.

In the past week, the State Department has warned U.S. citizens to exercise “increased caution” when visiting The Bahamas, where two killings over the weekend added to an already alarming homicide rate, and to “reconsider travel” to Jamaica.

The warning on Jamaica was updated on Jan. 23, and is now at Level 3, just one level below the strictest “Do Not Travel” advisory.

“Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts,” the advisory warns. “Local police often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”

A crime report from the Jamaica Constabulary Force for this year shows the country recorded 33 murders in the first 13 days of January. Despite the totaling rising to 65 as of Jan. 27, the force says the number represents a drop in the country’s homicides.

In The Bahamas, the number of killings aren’t as high, but still worrisome for the island-nation of about nearly 408,000 residents.

Since the beginning of the year there have been 19 homicides in Nassau, the Bahamian capital. The killing spree, according to the State Department, is due to an increase in “gang-on-gang violence” that is mostly affecting the local population.

“Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets. Retaliatory gang violence has been the primary motive in 2024 murders,” the State Department said. The travel advisory was raised from a Level 1 to a Level 2, which recommends “Increased Caution.”

In its warning, the State Department said that violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas. U.S. citizens are warned to especially be vigilant when staying at short-term vacation rental properties where private security companies do not have a presence.

On Sunday, while insisting that the country was still safe, the Bahamian police announced increased levels of vigilance.

Police Chief Superintendent Chrislyn Skippings said during a press conference that police have arrested over 100 individuals, and confiscated nine guns and 1,500 rounds of ammunition in recent days.

“When we talk about 1,500 rounds of a certain ammunition, we have saved 1,500 lives because it only takes one round to kill or injure someone,” she said.

Also confiscated: Over 100 pounds of drugs valued at $200,000. Skippings said authorities are determined to remove all of the illegal weapons and drugs that are contributing to one of the deadliest spikes in violent crime recent memory.

While The Bahamas is the latest country to see its travel warning raised, it is not the only Caribbean country in the midst of a spike in crime. Besides Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and Trinidad and Tobago are all seeing increases in violent crime.

Last week, local media in Trinidad reported that one of the country’s most recent victims was businessman Richard Ramkissoon, the husband of well-known Caribbean economist Marla Dukharan. He was killed during a home invasion robbery.

A travel advisory by the United Kingdom said that gang-related attacks and shootings are increasing around the city center of Port-of-Spain, the twin-island nation’s capital, and armed robbery is a continuing risk.

Last year during a meeting of leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community, CARICOM, Trinidadian Prime Minister Keith Rowley asked for help to deal with the region’s worsening crime problem. Violent crime, Rowley said, had become a public health issue. “There are very few diseases that kill more people in CARICOM than arms and ammunition,” he noted.

On Monday, Rowley was in Washington, where he and the Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a joint press conference before a meeting where the two will discuss a number of issues including security and gun trafficking in the region.

In his remarks, Blinken said that the U.S. is partnering with Trinidad “to fight violent crime and firearms trafficking, and this is a priority for the work that we’re doing.”


© 2024 Miami Herald

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