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Theft In The Dominican Republic
Petty crime is common on this island, and it may start as soon as you land at the airport. Smugglers target luggage tags, removing them to place them on their own bags, which contain drugs.
There's also been an alarming increase in 2012 of armed robbery of tourists leaving the Las Americas international airport. Criminals impersonating police force taxis or private vehicles to stop and rob travellers at gunpoint. The situation is particularly bad at night and you should try to arrange to arrive in the Dominican Republic in daylight hours.
It's also common for thieves on motorcycles swoop in at a red light and reach into vehicles to lift whatever they can. Either suffer through the stifling heat with the windows rolled up, or put a stronghold on your purse or bag.
Also, avoid unmarked taxis, which may try to scam riders.
Overall, this country ranks very low in areas of personal security for actual residents, so the commonality of theft if understandably high. Almost a fifth of the population reported being a victim of theft over a yearlong period, according to the 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index.
One in 10 people had been assaulted over the same period. It is possible for robberies to turn more violent: in 2007, a Canadian traveler was attacked with a machete, resulting in a cut-off finger. The man had recently won the lottery.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of safety if you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort. Recent travellers who’ve stayed in accommodation of this type have reported having their rooms broke into, including the normally iron-clad safes.
Others have been sexually assaulted at their resorts or on the beaches near them, sometimes after receiving a reportedly spiked drink. Cases involving criminals who misrepresent themselves to enter rooms also occur. In rare instances, these interactions can lead to assault or murder; two men killed a U.S. tourist in 2005 after posing as repairmen to get into his apartment. In a more recent case, a maintenance man in a building participated in a crime.
It’s probably smart to trust what many travellers say about sticking to your resort and avoiding many areas outside, especially at night, but still take precautions and be extremely leery of anyone who tries to enter your room. Becoming a crime victim is also possible on the beaches, but guards patrol many of the ones at the resorts, travellers say.
Another resort danger involves “sankies.” The term describes local men who try to wine and dine female travellers so they can eventually extort money from them or get access into their countries. These rogue romantics often work at the resorts, but they can pop up anywhere.
Whether at a resort or strolling the streets, you’ll only make yourself more of a target for theft by donning flashy clothing and showing off valuables like jewellery or cameras on the island.
Avoid isolated tourist areas and walking around at night. One traveler to Santo Domingo said the area of Independencia and el Malecon west of Parque Independencia in the city centre is shadier. The area around the casinos is also more likely to include hustlers and prostitution and put tourists at risk for pickpocketing or robbery.
Like in some European countries, more and more thieves are striking while cruising by with the engine off on a moped, often snatching a purse and possibly knocking over the victim. Tourists also increasingly report theft from cars.
Other types of theft include credit card and ATM fraud. In fact, the U.S. Department of State goes so far as to warn travellers against using credit cards at all; some have reported fraudulent charges appearing on their statements months after their trip to the D.R. Another danger is “progressive keno,” in which players can lose large amounts of money quickly.
The latter is a big con in the DR, so move onto another game if frequenting the casinos.
Some tourists say the rules are confusing, which leads to some of the money-wasting. Other names this game goes by include “Super Keno,” “Caribbean Keno” or “Progressive Roulette.” A traveler to Provincia de Puerto also reported that bars outside the resort areas will run up your tab past what it should be or overcharge for drinks.
There are also beggars in the street, including children. A Santo Domingo resident advised tourists against giving money to anyone, even if they truly look needy or appear to be crippled, as locals simply ignore their pleas.
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The Dominican Republican is very strict on drug offences, and penalties can range from large fines to long jail sentences.
The sex industry is alive and well in the Dominican Republic, the prostitution rate per capita is one of the highest in the world, and travellers will see legal brothels, massage parlours and prostitutes in many of the downtown areas such as the Puerto Plata province and Santo Domingo.
A USA TODAY analysis of State Department data in late 2010 ranked the Dominican Republic as the third most likely country in the world for Americans to die in a car accident.