Trinidad & Tobago 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report's publication assesses Trinidad and Tobago at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution. Do not travel to Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite, and the interior of Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain due to crime.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

Review OSAC's Trinidad and Tobago-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is serious risk from crime in Port of Spain. The government of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) faces numerous challenges in its effort to reduce crime, including an overburdened legal system, bureaucratic resistance to change, unemployment in marginal areas, disenfranchised youth, the negative influence of gangs, drugs, weapons, and an economic recession.

Crime is the principal threat to visitors; most crimes are crimes of opportunity. U.S. citizens have been victims of pickpocketing, assault, theft/robbery, fraud, and murder. Guests at hotels have reported the theft of items from their rooms. While not common, robberies and petty theft can occur during daylight hours. There is no evidence to indicate that criminals target foreigners in general or expatriates in particular, but robberies, break-ins/burglaries, vehicular break-ins, home invasions, and assaults, including sexual assaults, do occur in areas tourists frequent and in expatriate communities. Do not physically resist any robbery attempt. Statistics show that victims who resist are more likely to be injured or killed by their attackers.

T&T Police Service (TTPS) 2018 crime statistics show a 2.5% increase in overall serious criminal activity compared to 2017. Violent crime remains a major concern for local security services and the general population.

Despite the seizure of 988 firearms in 2018, 80% of murders involved firearms, highlighting the problem of imported, and often illegal, weapons and firearms smuggling. Drug trafficking and gang-related activities continue to fuel the demand for illegal weapons.

According to TTPS statistics, there were 517 murders nationwide in 2018, after 495 in 2017, 462 in 2016, 420 in 2015, and 403 in 2014, in a population of approximately 1.4 million people. The 2018 numbers represent an increase of 4.4%. The detection rate for murder was 16.6% for 2018, a decrease from 17.9% in 2017. Gang and drug-related activities continue to drive the murder rate.

Since 2016, murders have been more widespread; previously, most concentrated in a few urban areas. In 2018, the Northern Division, which includes Arima and Tunapuna, reported the highest number of murders, at 118. The Central Division, which includes Chaguanas and Enterprise, reported 81 murders. The Southern and Port of Spain Divisions reported 68 and 66 murders, respectively.

Reported instances of crimes related to sexual assault and domestic violence increased to 757 in 2018 from 531 in 2017; 491 were reported in 2016.

In Trinidad, the majority of violent crime (e.g. homicides, kidnappings, assaults, robberies, sexual assaults) is gang/drug-related or domestic in nature. A significant, growing portion involves the influence of gangs, illegal narcotics, and firearms. Most reported crimes occurred within the metropolitan areas of Port of Spain and San Fernando; however, the areas of Arima and Central Trinidad contributed heavily to the 2018 crime statistics. There were 13,444 reported serious crimes in 2018, 331 more than in 2017.

Approximately one-third of crimes result in arrest

Notable violent incidents in Trinidad in 2018 include:

In January, gunmen ambushed a car in the Morvant district. The car caught on fire and burned a 15-year-old boy and the driver to death. Two other boys travelling in the car at the time managed to escape with injuries.

In March, police found the bodies of four persons, two of whom were teenaged girls, at an apartment in La Brea, south Trinidad. All four had been bludgeoned to death, with one of the girls' throat slit. The incident reportedly stemmed from a love affair gone sour. Police subsequently charged a man who was previously in a relationship with an adult female victim with the crimes. The fourth victim was a 69�year-old male.

In July, gunmen opened fire on a group at the Boardwalk in Chaguaramas, a popular beach facility, shooting six people and killing three, including an eight-year-old boy.

In November, police discovered the bodies of a pregnant 19-year-old woman and her common-law husband in a vehicle in the Wallerfield, Arima district, after residents heard gunshots.

In December, there was a home invasion of a Canadian diplomat's home in an affluent neighborhood in Port of Spain. The suspects tied up the occupant, ransacked the house, and fled with jewelry and other valuables, including a vehicle.

Nearly all murders are on Trinidad. There were nine murders in Tobago in 2018, 13 in 2017, and four in 2016. Crimes affecting foreigners in Tobago include murder, home invasion, petty theft, swindling, fraud, and theft from hotel rooms. Several violent home invasions targeted wealthy homes and villas frequented by tourists.

According to the 2012 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Caribbean Human Development Report and the 2013 Council on Hemispheric Affairs report entitled Gangs Are the New Law in Urban Trinidad & Tobago, approximately 100 criminal gangs operate in T&T. These gangs, as well as other organizations, are involved in organized criminal activities including weapons smuggling and fraud.

Jamaat al-Muslimeen is a Muslim religious organization focusing on Islamic education and a number of business ventures. Its members and leadership have figured into serious crimes, including murder and narcotics trafficking.

There have been incidents of piracy in the waters between T&T and Venezuela, in which pirates boarded vessels and assaulted, robbed, and in some cases, murdered the occupants. While the majority of incidents involve local fishermen, a small community of private boat owners who stay in Trinidad during the hurricane season have also been affected. Sailors should report any incidents to the T&T Coast Guard and local police. Check with the Coast Guard and yacht facility managers for current information.

Use caution with U.S. credit cards, as most do not offer the same levels of protection as many international credit cards that require a PIN for transactions. If using a credit card, ensure that the credit card stays in sight. Do not withdraw large amounts of cash from banks or ATMs. Instead of withdrawing a large sum of money, consider cashing a check or conducting an electronic transfer. For more information, review OSAC's report, The Overseas Traveler's Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

Cybersecurity Issues

The use of computers by the local population is moderate, as is the level of sophistication.

Other Areas of Concern

It is illegal to carry ammunition when arriving, departing, or transiting through Trinidad and Tobago. Authorities have detained, charged, and fined individuals found with as little as one bullet, a previously discharged bullet casing, or spent ammunition used in items such as jewelry or keyrings on their person or in their luggage at the airport. You may not import any camouflage-pattern material without approval from the Ministry of National Security. You may not wear camouflage clothing in public unless you are in the country on official military business.

T&T law prohibits the use of obscene language to the annoyance of other persons on the street. Using obscene language in public may result in an arrest if a police officer is in proximity.

U.S. government personnel and their families may not travel to the following areas (yellow shaded areas on map): Laventille, Sea Lots, Cocorite, Beetham, the interior of Savannah Park, downtown Port of Spain (after dark), Ft. George (after dark), and all beaches (after dark):

Source: Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)