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Crime In the Bahamas
While many destinations in the Caribbean call for normal safety precautions - like guarding valuables - and carry only a small risk of crime, the Bahamas are the opposite. The crime rate on this popular island locale is quite high, and tourists are often targeted.
Some of the crime is petty, like pick pocketing, but there have also been serious incidents where weapons have been used.
In October 2009, 11 tourists were robbed at gunpoint while touring Queen's Staircase. Later that year in November, 18 cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the day near Nassau. They had been participating in a popular Segway tour. In February 2010, an American tourist was attacked with a cutlass on Harbour Island.
Armed robbery has occurred at more remote locations as well. Tourists posting on a cruise web site reported being mugged on recent visits to the Bahamas, including one woman who was in front of a hotel with her young daughter. Some people reported police being of little help. Statistics show armed robbery on the whole has increased on the island.
It gets worse -- the country had the fifth highest murder rate among 15 Caribbean nations in 2010 with a record 96 murders. That equates to 29 murders per 100,000 people, well under the internationally-accepted rate of 5 murders per that same number of people. More worrying is the fact that the Bahamas' rate of population growth hasn't kept up with the murder statistics. Authorities chalk up many of the murder cases to drug-related incidents and domestic violence, saying random attacks as scarce.
Most of the homicides took place in the Southern, Southwestern and Southeastern parts of New Providence, the most populated island in the Bahamas and home to capital city Nassau. New Providence has seen an overall surge in crime, and incidents occur, though less often, on more far-away islands.
Violent crime tends to happen most in Nassau's "Over The Hill" neighbourhoods, a place where tourists have no business going. The Freeport section of Grand Bahama also attracts its fair share of crime. The outer Family or Out Islands, such as Bimini and Abaco, of the Bahamas have far less crime than New Providence.
According to detailed crime statistics, most of the murders -- 51 -- happened on the street, followed by residences. Others occurred in parking lots, the beach and the bushes. Eighty percent of the victims were male. Most were killed by guns, followed by knives. The majority of homicides occurred over the weekend between 4 p.m. and midnight. Obviously, tourists go out during the night on weekends like locals, meaning that visitors can put themselves in danger just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Drinking and clubbing are popular social activities in the Bahamas, and the addition of alcohol and lowered awareness can increase the risks of both petty and violent crime substantially.
Rape and sexual assault cases have increased on the islands as well and can often be linked to excessive alcohol consumption. According to a 2007 United Nations report, the Bahamas has the highest rape rate in the Caribbean. Many rapes have occurred near hotels and in casinos and some have involved the victim being drugged. Some have involved very young girls.
Women have also reported catcalls and sexual harassment while going about their business on the streets of the Bahamas. Females should reject rides from strangers and taxi drivers who appeared unlicensed.
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There are a few cultural differences and local elements of which to be aware on your visit to the Bahamas. One of the biggest things first-time travellers to the island may notice is the heavy traffic and somewhat unnerving driving tactics employed by locals.