Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Americans warned of Trini crime hotspots

US State Dept releases report

The US State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security “has assessed Port of Spain as being a critical-threat location for crime directed at or affecting US Government interests”.

It however identified the capital city as “a low-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official US government interests”.

This is stated in the bureau's 2017 Crime and Safety Report issued three days ago,

The report added, however, that “given the crime rate and some weaknesses in border control, there remains a continued concern that T&T could be utilised as a transit point for potential terrorists or terrorist organisations”.

Crime was identified in the report as the principal threat to visitors to Trinidad and Tobago.

“US citizens are advised that US government personnel and their families are restricted from travelling to the following areas — Laventille, Sea Lots, Cocorite, Beetham, the Interior of (Queen's Park) Savannah, Downtown Port of Spain (after dark), Fort George (after dark), and all beaches (after dark),” the report says.

The report stated “most crimes are crimes of opportunity”, adding that “American citizens have been victims of pickpocketing, assault, theft/robbery, fraud, and murder” and while “there is no evidence to indicate that foreigners, specifically expatriates, are specifically targeted, crimes (robbery, break-ins/burglary, vehicular break-ins, home invasions, assaults (including sexual assaults)) do occur in areas frequented by tourists and in which the expatriate community lives.”


Global risks


The report pointed out that “Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) 2016 crime statistics show a 1.4 per cent increase in overall serious criminal activity, as compared to 2015” but “violent crime remains a major concern for local security services and the general population”.

“Despite the seizure of 765 firearms in 2016, almost 81 per cent of the murders were committed by firearm, continuing to highlight the problem of imported and often illegal weapons and firearms smuggling.

“According to TTPS statistics, there were 462 murders in 2016, 420 murders in 2015, and 403 murders in 2014, out of a population of approximately 1.3 million people,” the report says.

The State Department Bureau's report, which is prepared and published annually states, “there are no known indigenous terrorist groups operating in T&T” but “local newspapers cite government sources reporting that T&T nationals have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS”.

“Given the crime rate and some weaknesses in border control, there remains a continued concern that T&T could be utilised as a transit point for potential terrorists or terrorist organisations.

“Although terrorism poses a low threat to travellers to T&T, all should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. These could take place in public areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

“Travellers should review the US Department of State's most recent Worldwide Caution,” the 2017 Crime and Safety Report states.


Terrorist ties


It further says “radical elements of gangs are also thought to make occasional contact with individuals/groups with possible terrorist ties” and “the call for self-radicalisation, 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”.

“Muslims make up about 5 per cent of the population and are roughly equally split between African and Indian heritage.

“Fighters appear to have come from both the Afro-Trini and Indo-Trini Muslim communities, and many appear to have had prior affiliations with criminal gangs,” the report stated.