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Caribbean Now the World's Murder Capital: Why, and Which Islands are Safest & Most Dangerous?

Over 22 million tourists, and another 20 million cruise ship passengers, flock to the Caribbean islands each year to take advantage of the sun, the endless miles of coastline and the tropical "no worries" environment.

Caribbean's average murder rate

The Caribbean's average murder rate is 30 per 100,000 people, compared with seven per 100,000 in the United States.

But there is a growing dark cloud that's threatening all of the Caribbean's clear, blue seas: a swiftly growing crime rate that now rivals some of the most infamous and unstable regions in the world, like southern and western Africa.

The Caribbean is Now the Murder Capital of the World

"High rates of crime and violence in the Caribbean are undermining growth, threatening human welfare, and impeding social development," according to a new report by the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report, "Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean," found that murder rates in the Caribbean are higher than in any other region in the world.

Overall, murders occur in the Caribbean at a rate of 30 per 100,000 people. Comparably, in East Europe, murder rates are at 17 per 100,000, in the United States, seven.

Assault rates in the Caribbean are also significantly above the world average, and rates of rape, kidnapping and other violent crimes have also been on the rise, according to the report.

Most of the crime in the Caribbean stems from massive narcotics trafficking, which helps spur crime rates in the following ways:

  • Diverts police and other resources away from other important activities

  • Increases and brings in violence

  • Undermines social and community unity

  • Increases addiction-related crimes

  • Increases the availability of firearms

The crime is threatening the region's image as a "paradise," which is seriously undermining their tourist industry. Meanwhile, if murder rates were reduced by one-third, the report found, per capita economic growth in the region could be doubled. And in Haiti and Jamaica, a reduction in murder rates could boost annual economic growth by 5.4 percent.

safe caribbean trip

Despite the rising crime rates, the U.S. Department of State says that most people who visit the Caribbean have a safe trip.

Although the report points out that small countries in the Caribbean can get high murder rates from a relatively small number of incidents, the authors noted that crime levels are definitely rising to concerning levels.

Is it Safe to Travel to the Caribbean?

Despite the high crime rates, the majority of visitors to the Caribbean have a safe trip, according to the U.S. Department of State. You should still, of course, exercise commonsense precautions when traveling anywhere, and remember to be extra careful around the Caribbean beaches, as drowning is one of the leading causes of death for Americans in the Caribbean, according to the Department of State.

If you are thinking of planning a trip, which islands are the safest and the most dangerous? Here we've compiled a guide to some of the safer and riskier Caribbean islands.

caribbean travel dangers

If you are planning to travel the Caribbean by cruise ship, remember that you can minimize your risk of catching norovirus and other contagious illnesses on board the ship by using PerfectClean Hand Wipes. They're small enough to carry in your pocket, yet effective enough to kill contaminants that can't be seen with the naked eye (and you can use them wet or dry)!

Generally Safer Caribbean Islands

These islands have a reputation for being among the safest in the region:

  • Anguilla

  • Aruba

  • British Virgin Islands

  • Cayman Islands

  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Potentially Dangerous Caribbean Islands

  • Haiti: The poorest and most unstable country in the region. The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning for Haiti because of frequent violent kidnappings of Americans for ransom.

  • Jamaica: Criminal acts are a major problem and can rapidly turn violent. According to the Department of State, "Visitors should exercise common sense, not walk around at night, and use only licensed taxis or hotel-recommended transportation. Valuables should not be left unattended anywhere, including hotel rooms and the beach, and care should be taken when carrying high value items such as cameras, wearing expensive jewelry, or displaying large amounts of cash on the street."

  • Trinidad and Tobago: Murder and other violent crimes are increasing (though Tobago is typically much safer than Trinidad). The Department of State suggests that travelers may not want to travel alone in the area.

Recommended Reading

How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

Fear of Flying: How to Get Over Your Phobia of Flying in an Airplane


The World Bank

U.S. Department of State

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