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Despite low tourist crime incidents, U.S. outlines concerns in safety report

While overall crime levels in The Bahamas have been decreasing, the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) warned that crimes against U.S. citizens in the country have increased.

“Crime represents the country’s primary security threat,” the OSAC said in its 2019 Crime and Safety Report.

The report said that the most common crimes against tourists were rape, sexual assault and robbery, and said that there have been reports of taxi drivers luring visitors to crime hot spots where they were targeted by criminals.

“Despite the publicized numbers, incidents involving U.S. citizens (mostly rape, sexual assault and robbery/theft) increased by 32 percent,” it said.

“Armed robbery, property crime, purse snatching, theft, fraud and sexual assault remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.”

The report, however, does not contextualize the numbers.

Last month, in light of a travel advisory released by the United States, the Ministry of Tourism released data showing that out of the six million visitors to The Bahamas in 2018, the vast majority of whom were from the U.S., there were “only 43 incidents involving tourists, of which 30 involved U.S. nationals and nearly all were minor offences”.

The report acknowledged that most crime on New Providence occurs in non-tourist areas, but said that tourists have sometimes been targeted.

“Most reported violence perpetrated against Bahamians occurred in areas of saturated criminality tourists do not typically visit,” it said.

“However, New Providence has witnessed crime in locations tourists frequent.

“Gangs are involved in targeted violence.”

The report added, “There have been anecdotal reports of taxi drivers colluding with criminals to drive tourists to known high-crime areas where the criminals target them.”

The report also raised concern over police killings and gun violence in The Bahamas.

“There were 11 police-involved shootings resulting in death in 2018; an additional nine police shootings resulted in non-life threatening injuries,” the report said.

“Many criminals carry weapons. The vast majority of murders involved firearms, including fully automatic rifles and pistols illegally modified to shoot in full automatic mode.

“Unless provoked, criminals committing property crimes typically did not engage in gratuitous violence.

“However, there were reports of armed robbery during which the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted.”

The OSAC also warned tourists of hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

“There is no legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” the report said.

“There have been reports of harassment and crime against persons based on sexual orientation.”

The report heavily criticized the water sports industry.

“The Bahamian government loosely regulates the water sports rental industry,” the report said.

“U.S. citizens have reported sexual assaults by jet-ski operators for a number of years.

“According to the criminal complaints, the majority of these sexual assaults occurred on relatively ‘safe’ beaches on Paradise Island and along Cable Beach, which tourists frequent heavily.”

The report also said that while police generally take crimes against tourists seriously, they face a number of issues that hinder their ability to respond efficiently.

“The current police command structure is proactive about deterring crime; however, a lack of resources or physical constraints, such as geography, infrastructure and traffic, can hinder police response,” the report said.

“Unmarked streets and houses can impede first responders from locating affected residences or victims quickly.”

The report added, “Reporting crime can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process.”

Rachel Knowles

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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