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Crime hot spots in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago is a country made up of two Caribbean islands, with vastly different characteristics.Trinidad is larger, better suited to travelers who are looking for cities,sightseeing and nightlife. In contrast, Tobago maintains its old Caribbean island charm. These twin cultures offer a unique travel experience in the Caribbean.
A general safety rule of thumb in Trinidad and Tobago, is to sight-see during the day, and to always carry a mobile phone in case of an emergency (if your phone is unlocked, consider purchasing a localsim card during your trip).
There are a few areas of the capital, Port of Spain on Trinidad, that can be dangerous. Communities like Laventille, Morvant, Sea Lots, South Belmont are prone to violent crime, such as sexual assault, robberies and gang violence, and should be avoided.
Queen’s Park Savannah, one of Trinidad’s largest parks and open spaces, is often lonely during weekdays and travelers might be targets fortheft.
However, Queen’s Park Savannah is generally safe during carnival events and on weekends when a small food fair is on where you can try Trinidadian food, such as riots and the famous “doubles” (curried chickpeas wrapped in a spicy flat bread).
Try to resist the temptation to seek out remote beaches, like Englishman's Bay, Las Cuevas (just beyond Maracas Bay), and King Peter's Bay.Travelers are often targets for sexual assault or robberies along these isolated beaches, especially at night.
When renting a villa or apartment, make sure there are security measures in place to avoid break-ins:
Airport scams in Trinidad and Tobago
Airports are often a hot spot for criminals who are waiting to take advantage of tired and unsuspecting visitors. There have been unfortunate incidents where travelers have been followed from the airport to downtown Port of Spain, and as far as outside their accommodation, and then robbed.
If you are traveling after dark from Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport, be cautious of your surroundings on your way to the car park or transportation pick-up. If you suspect someone is following you, try to make a detour to a public place, like a restaurant, or call the police.
Highway robbery in Trinidad
Trinidad is well connected by road, but some are more dangerous than others. Beetham Highway, a main road in and out of the city, has been the scene of incidents where cars have been forced to stop when someone runs out onto the road or blocking the way with bricks and debris.
When the car stops, attempts are made to smash the car window sand drivers are robbed of their valuables – and in some cases, violently assaulted.
Avoid stopping, don’t get out of your car, and try to maneuver your way around the debris.
Bump and rob incidents in Trinidad and Tobago
Another thing to look out for while driving in Trinidad and Tobago is ‘bump and rob’ incidents, especially in Laventille. In this situation, thieves will try to get you to stop your vehicle by lightly hitting the back of the car, usually causing only minor damage.
Once the driver of the car that has been hit stops and gets out of the car to inspect the damage, they are robbed. If this happens to you, and the car can still be driven, leave the area before seeking help.
Smash and grab
Smash and grab style theft from cars is also relatively common in Trinidad and Tobago. Always keep valuables out of sight if you leave them in a parked car.
ATM crime and scams in Trinidad
This ATM scam is common for Trinidad in particular: a thin magnetic sheet is placed in the card slot of the ATM. When you insert your card, you won’t be able to withdraw money, nor will you be able to eject your card.
A bystander will approach with advice to enter in your PIN backwards, while watching to see what your PIN number is. As you leave without your card, the thief will then remove the magnetic sheet, which has captured your card, and will also know your PIN number.
Never share your PIN with a stranger. Always inspect an ATM before using to check it hasn’t been tampered with.
If you are lucky, you may be able to pull out the film yourself.If not, cancel your card as soon as possible.
Aggressive hawkers in Trinidad and Tobago
Throughout Trinidad and Tobago there are a lot of street vendor sand hawkers. This might be overwhelming but be stern yet polite while continuing about your business, and they will generally leave you alone.
Safety for women in Trinidad and Tobago
Women may be frequently catcalled by men on both islands. Be firm yet polite – saying ‘good morning’ is usually better than ignoring someone completely. Give short evasive responses and limit smiling, as this might signal to the Trinidadian that you are up for more conversation.
Is Trinidad and Tobago safe for LGBTQ+travelers?
LGBTQ+ relationships are becoming more accepted in Trinidad and Tobago, but the LGBTQ+ community is still generally restricted to underground clubs and socializing. LGBTQ+ travelers, while safe in Trinidad and Tobago,should avoid public displays of affection.
Local laws in Trinidad and Tobago
Fashion faux pas or not, it’s illegal for civilians to wear camouflage clothing in public in Trinidad and Tobago and you can be fined or imprisoned.
Drug laws and penalties in Trinidad and Tobago
There are hefty penalties concerning drug use in Trinidad and Tobago – so even if you see locals smoking marijuana, don’t indulge, because itis illegal. If you are caught, you will be fined and imprisoned.
Safety during Trinidad Carnival
Carnival is a big event in Trinidad and Tobago, held in February each year, when tons of visitors arrive to join in the festivities.Unfortunately, it’s also a time when petty crime increases.
Some key safety tips during Trinidad Carnival are:
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.
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:
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.
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):
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Trinidad has modern four-lane highways and one controlled-access highway; however, road quality decreases quickly on secondary roads. Rural roads are narrow and often have deep drainage ditches. These are in poor repair and are frequently congested. Avoid nighttime travel other than on major highways. Roadside assistance exists, but is limited and may be subject to lengthy delays. Carry water and a charged cellular telephone.
Vehicles drive on the left side of the road. Local law requires the driver and all passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets.
You may not use cellular telephones while driving, unless with a hands-free device. Drivers caught talking on a cellular telephone are subject to fines. Be alert for the use of hand signals by other drivers to indicate turning, slowing, or stopping; these do not necessarily correspond to hand signals used in other countries. Drivers are generally courteous, but can be flexible with the rules of the road.
Road travel is generally safe; however, there continues to be a relatively high number of traffic fatalities from speeding and drunk driving. Road fatalities increased to 118 in 2018, up from 117 in 2017.
Do not stop if a stranger flags your vehicle down along the road; hitchhikers are usually swindlers and can be threatening.
The Beetham Highway, a main thoroughfare for Port of Spain, is dangerous in the event of broken-down vehicles. On the Beetham stretch, there are regular incidents of persons running out into the road or throwing debris (e.g. bricks, chairs, trash) at cars to cause accidents and force cars to stop. Once the accident occurs or vehicle stops, a group of accomplices then descends upon the accident victims, robbing them of valuables, and often assaulting them violently, even if they are compliant. If this type of situation occurs and the vehicle is still operable, continue to a safer area before seeking help.
The fine for driving under the influence is $12,000 TT (approx. US$1,900) for a first conviction. Traffic wardens help monitor and enforce traffic safety; however, they have no powers of arrest, and often request the assistance of the TTPS. Unannounced road checks are not uncommon and may occur at any time.
The speed limit on major highways is 100 kilometers per hour. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.
Public Transportation Conditions
Traditional, non-shared, marked taxis do not exist in T&T. Uber is active, but may not be available outside of Port of Spain. Use caution with ridesharing. Ensure you are in a safe area when using a phone to order an Uber or report an incident. For more information on ride sharing, review OSAC’s Annual Briefing report, Safety and Security in the Share Economy.
Private taxis are available at the airports and major hotels, but they are unmetered and unmarked. You can hire them to travel door-to-door, but agree on a fare in advance. Private taxis and route taxis have plate numbers beginning with the letter “H.” Use only private taxis for transportation around Port of Spain, and only private taxis or full-sized inter-city buses for travel between cities. Ensure your taxi is not a route taxi before getting in, because route taxis will pick up additional passengers. Crimes (e.g. rapes, assaults, robberies, thefts) have taken place in taxis. Taxis have also caused serious traffic accidents swerving across several lanes to pick up or discharge passengers. Avoid small buses and vans (as referred to as Maxi Taxis) for the same reasons.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of T&T’s air carrier operations. Find further information on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
The Piarco International Airport (POS) is a hub for Caribbean flights. Airport services may be slow or not up to Western standards, but there are no concerns for safety or scams. T&T police and Airport Authority Officers appear throughout the airport; private security is located in the parking lot areas to assist in an emergency.
The Piarco Airport Taxi Cooperative Society provides service to/from the airport. Taxis are located outside the arrival area; drivers wear a white shirt, black/blue trousers, and sport a yellow photo identification pass. You must have local currency for taxi fare; negotiated fares in advance with the taxi driver.
Piarco Airport Taxi Cooperative Society: 868-669-1689
Dispatcher Contact Number: 868-669-0282
Criminals have followed travelers from the airport to their destination.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There is moderate risk from terrorism in Port of Spain. There are several known indigenous extremist/terrorist ISIS affiliated groups operating in T&T. To date, these groups’ activities have been largely aspirational. T&T authorities monitor these groups’ activities carefully. Local newspapers cite government sources that report T&T nationals have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS. Due to recent defeats in Syria and Iraq, many fighters have died or been captured due to the fluid situation on the ground by anti-ISIS forces. Muslims make up about 5-8% of the population and comprise those with African and Indian heritage. Fighters appear to have come from both the Afro-Trini and Indo-Trini Muslim communities; many appear to have had prior affiliations with criminal gangs.
In July 2018, T&T took steps to address foreign terrorist fighters by passing an Antiterrorism law. The new law takes into account international and domestic commitments in combatting terrorism and the specific nature of the terrorist threat to T&T. The Ministry of National Security identifies and closely monitors the travel and activity of persons of interest. The new Minister of National Security continues to discuss national security in the areas of crime and counterterrorism with stakeholders and Parliament. In 2017, the Minister of National Security announced a Counterterrorism Strategy for T&T, and broadened law enforcement and intelligence functions. Notable terror-related incidents include:
Given the crime rate and weaknesses in border control, there remains a continued concern that potential terrorists or terrorist organizations could use T&T as a transit point.
The call for self-radicalization, whether disseminated on extremist forums or via social media, continues to be a global concern. It is difficult to determine what message will inspire a violent extremist.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is minimal risk of civil unrest in Port of Spain. The cycle has started for T&T’s 2020 general elections; visitors should avoid political rallies.
Trinidad experiences periodic labor unions demonstrations over salary negotiations, tax structures, and other issues involving public resources or government operations. The disruption of utility services due to industrial action group protests and non-violent demonstrations by labor organizations remain a concern.
Occasional demonstrations are often large, and usually take place in or near the Parliament building downtown, or outside the Prime Minister’s Offices in St. Clair. The police must approve demonstrations in advance, and typically provide appropriate coverage. Foreigners should avoid demonstrations.
T&T is extremely vulnerable for seismic activity. Venezuela’s Paria Peninsula, which extends eastward toward Trinidad, is especially so. Scientific research and past events suggest that the possibility exists of an event of sizeable magnitude can occur within proximity to T&T. Both islands have avoided major recent calamity, but increased population and urban development have increased the potential for catastrophe. A 6.9-magnitude quake in 2018 was the largest in fifty years.
The country is located below the Atlantic hurricane belt, though some storms have occurred nearby. Inadequate infrastructure and drainage, as well as heavy rains, cause flooding in certain urban areas, resulting in landslides that can block or erode remote roads.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The U.S. Trade Representative removed T&T from its Special 301 Report Watch List in 2016. Significant problems exist with the protection or enforcement of intellectual property rights (IP) and market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection. T&T’s lax enforcement leaves the content owner – who in many cases is not in the country – as likely the only one who could uncover wrongdoing. Private companies are hesitant to pursue IP claims in T&T because of the small market size and reputation for having a slow legal system. Those that have pursued claims generally receive limited engagement by law enforcement. T&T Police Service’s (TTPS) statistics indicate that they have not detected an intellectual property crime in several years. Companies have noted that Customs Officers are hesitant to search containers, even with significant evidence that counterfeit products are present. A U.S. company reported counterfeit products to T&T officials, but the allegedly infringing products disappeared from shelves just hours before an inspection, suggesting collusion between law enforcement and the seller of the counterfeit goods.
Personal Identity Concerns
Trinidad and Tobago law criminalizes same sex-sexual activity, with penalties of up to 25 years in prison. Authorities rarely enforce this provision, except in conjunction with serious offenses such as rape. Immigration law also bars the entry of homosexuals, but this is also rarely enforced.
Most sidewalks are impassible for wheelchairs, due to the deep gutters that run alongside most roads. Many sidewalks are also narrow and uneven. Cars parked on sidewalks, uncovered manholes, and other obstacles may force persons with mobility issues onto the main roadways in what can be very dangerous traffic conditions.
Trinidad is a major transshipment point for illicit drugs; drug-related incidents are a significant contributor to crime.
According to TTPS crime statistics, there were 102 kidnappings in 2017, 102 in 2016, and 106 in 2015. There were six kidnappings for ransom in 2017, four of which were solved.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Detained or arrested U.S. citizens should notify the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain immediately by email or by telephone at 868-622-6371. U.S. citizens may also wish to contact their family and an attorney. During the initial interview, the police may defer a request to make contact with family, but local law provides for both consular notification and an attorney upon request.
Harassment is uncommon with foreigners; however, U.S. citizens should report any incident to the U.S. Embassy.
Crime Victim Assistance
The local emergency line is 999. Crime victims should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy ACS Office (1-868-622-6371). If your passport is stolen, the Embassy can help with obtaining a replacement. For violent crimes, ACS can help find medical care, contact family or friends, and assist in sending money, if needed. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney.
Report suspicious activity to the TTPS by phoning 999 so they can dispatch or redirect appropriate patrol units to the location of need.
Foreign crime victims can expect treatment and assistance with the same level of cooperation and fairness as that given to a local citizen.
The TTPS falls under the Ministry of National Security, with more than 6,500 police officers and Special Reserve Police. The TTPS is organized into nine Divisions and 18 Branches, Squads, and Units: Community Police, Police Complaints, Special Branch, Guard and Emergency Branch, Criminal Investigation Division and Criminal Records Office, Organized Crime, Narcotics and Firearms Bureau, Homicide, Fraud Squad, Court and Process, Police Band, Mounted and Canine Branch, Police Training College, E-999, Traffic and Highway Patrol Branch, Transport and Telecom, Criminal Gangs Intelligence Unit (CGIU), and the Cybercrime Unit.
In recent years, in response to citizen concerns, the government has bought additional police cruisers, constructed and renovated police stations, recruited new officers, and made efforts to improve police customer service. Several units of the TTPS use dashboard cameras, which support the TTPS goal to continue to earn the trust of members of the public through honesty, transparency, and accountability. Some units use body cameras, but the practice is not widespread.
Medical care is significantly below U.S. standards for treatment of serious injuries and illness, with limited access to supplies and medications. Adequate private medical care available in Port of Spain is not up to the standards of industrialized countries; it is substandard in the rest of the country. Patients requiring blood transfusions must arrange for others to donate at least the same amount on their behalf. Physicians and nurses have gone on strike, straining public and private medical services.
Ambulance service is often extremely limited in response time due to low availability and high demand. Ambulances provide basic life support services, with some moving toward advanced life support capabilities.
SCI EMS: (868) 694 2404 (private service)
GMRTT: 811 for major trauma only (public service)
A recompression chamber is located in Roxborough, Tobago. Before diving, check if the chamber is operational.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
International SOS (ISOS) Assistance Inc.
3600 Horizon Blvd., Suite 300 Trevose, PA 19053
Philadelphia Assistance Center: +1-800-523-6586 or +1-215-942-8226; Fax: +1-215-354-2338
Operates fixed-wing fleet/aircrews based in South Florida, Puerto Rico, Phoenix, AZ, and San Diego, CA. Offers international service via network of affiliated aeromedical providers.
1745 NW 51st Pl, Hanger 73, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
24-hour response center number: +1-800-752-4195; +1-954-730-9300
Adequate evacuation insurance coverage (medevac) for all travelers should be a high priority. Highly specialized cases or complex emergencies may require evacuation to Miami. While care at some private facilities is better than at most public health facilities, facilities may expect patients to prove their ability to pay before they give assistance, even in emergencies.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Trinidad and Tobago.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Port-of-Spain Country Council launched in 2017. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Port of Spain, 15 Queens Park West, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Business hours: Monday-Friday, 0730 – 1630.
Embassy Contact Numbers
Switchboard: +868 622-6371
Security Office: +868 822-5927
Marine Guard (24 Hours): +868 822-5999/5912