I have always wanted to travel to the Caribbean islands of Trinidad & Tobago, of course I have always wanted to explore the Caribbean in general, but for some reason these two islands appealed to me more than the others. The people have always struck me as easy going, friendly, and it seemed like a safe and pleasant place to go on an annual vacation. I am not sure why I had that impression, maybe it is the close proximity to the rich mans paradise of The Bahamas, maybe it was all too easy to write off Jamaica as the one with the crime problem. I am now glad that I googled 'Trinidad crime' as it told me everything that I needed to know about going. I hear a lot of horror stories of course, about people being stuck in their hotel complex for fear of being robbed or kidnapped, and those horror stories are often enough for me to remain in the comfort of safer western societies when travelling abroad. In this case though I will let you make your own mind up after presenting you with the stats!
Crime In Trinidad: The Rising Trinidad & Tobago Murder Rate
A commentary on the fast growing gang-fueled murder rate of the Trinidad & Tobago islands, a major problem.
Murder In Trinidad & Tobago
The Republic of Trinidad & Tobago consists of two main islands, 'Trinidad' and 'Tobago', which together have a population estimated at 1.3 million; this is actually larger than I had expected, perhaps showing my geographical ignorance there a little. The first thing that I found on 'Google News' was an article from a Caribbean news source which listed murder victims from May & June 2009. The list was astonishingly long, with most days in these months showing at least one murder, and this lead me to delve a little deeper into the crime problems. It transpires that Trinidad & Tobago had a little more than 500 murders during 2009 which, although a little lower than the 545 murders in 2008, equates to a depressingly high murder rate.
In fact, the murder rate in Trinidad & Tobago is now almost as high as that of crime-ridden Jamaica. To put this into perspective there were 466 murders in the one time murder hot bed New York during 2009, a city with a population of approximately 8.3 million (6.4 times that of Trinidad & Tobago). Another good comparison would be the American city of Dallas, which has a population of 1.2m (almost the same as Trinidad & Tobago's), where there were believed to be 166 murders in 2009. Perhaps these figures are most worrying for the innocent and decent citizens of the two islands, who have seen the homicide rate rise by around 1000% over the recently finished decade. The murder rate in Trinidad & Tobago was 55 per 100,000 people in 2008, the worst in the whole of the Caribbean and one of the worst in the world.
Should You Travel To Trinidad?
If you ask me, no. You should head to one of the more pleasant Caribbean Islands until Trinidad & Tobago sort out their gang related issues. The official line of both the UK and the USA is one of caution, with South Florida Caribbean News stating"The US and the UK issued travel advisories warning travelers about increasing violence and the failure of police in Tobago to apprehend and prosecute criminals.". An official US travel advisory warns:-
“Violent crimes, including assault, kidnapping for ransom, sexual assault and murder, have involved foreign residents and tourists (and) incidents have been reported involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and accosting them in remote areas…the perpetrators of many of these crimes have not been arrested.”
Why Is Trinidad Suffering So Many Murders?
Much of the violent crime can be attributed to the drugs trade, with many Caribbean tourist spots doubling up as transit points for the trafficking of South American drugs to Europe and parts of the United States. This trade has traditionally been centred around Jamaica but in recent years gangs have infiltrated other Caribbean Islands including Puerto Rico, Bahamas, and of course Trinidad; it is the turf wars between rival drugs gangs in these islands which are blamed for the rising death tolls. The situation is unlikely to improve either, in fact it will probably intensify in coming years, with the US stepping up it's anti-drugs efforts on the Mexican border - a move which will likely see even more drugs and even more drugs gangs moving into these Caribbean Islands. This is a situation which has been acknowledged by Obama who has asked the Congress for $45m in aid to help Caribbean governments fight the drug lords, although increasing political instability in the region could see this fight becoming a tough one.