Is There a lot of Crime in Jamaica? 13 Safety Tips

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How safe is Jamaica for travelers? A Jamaican local shares her tips on crime, drug violence , LGBTQ+ safety and corruption.

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Tourists at a market in Jamaica Photo © iStock/Global_Pics

Jamaica is a country too beautiful to be missed and there are plenty of safe places to visit. As a Jamaican local who has grown up traveling solo around my country, I have plenty of advice on how to stay safe. The media often reports a different story, and you may be worried that Jamaica is unsafe. However, most crime against travelers in Jamaica is centered around petty theft.

Here are some tips on how you can stay safe while traveling in Jamaica.

1. Petty crime in Jamaica

Millions of travelers visit Jamaica each year, staying in resorts, Airbnbs, and villas. One of the key concerns travelers should have on the island is petty theft.

To avoid theft, keep your valuables and jewelry out of sight, don’t walk with your cell phone out, and before you book your accommodation ask if it provides a safe to keep your valuable items in, and if all doors and windows in your room have locks.

While out walking in Jamaica, look out for motorbike riders who can quickly snatch your handbag, phone or other valuables that are within reach.

Remember, most petty thefts are non-violent in nature, but if someone tries to rob you, don’t resist and just hand over the item to avoid getting injured or risking your life.

2. Gang crime in Jamaica

Jamaica has a high crime rate, but much of it is focused on gang violence in the inner-city, in communities that you're unlikely to visit as a traveler.  Ask your accommodation which areas to avoid if you’re unsure.

3. Drug crime in Jamaica

While it is unlikely you will be a victim of drug trafficking in Jamaica, it is important to be careful to keep an eye on your bags and belongings at all times.

As a visitor, you’re more likely to be offered marijuana (locally known as ganja or weed), than you are to be used to smuggle drugs.

However, contrary to popular belief, the use of ganja is merely decriminalized in Jamaica. According to Jamaica’s Dangerous Drug Act, persons are allowed to possess a maximum of two ounces of marijuana, and anything exceeding this amount can result in a fine or jail time.

You cannot leave Jamaica with these two ounces. If any amount of marijuana is found in your possession at the airport, it will be confiscated, you will be fined or jailed, and you will most definitely miss your flight.

Other drugs are illegal in Jamaica and penalties are severe, including jail time.

Your best option is to simply not do drugs.

4. Jamaican police

The government has stepped in to help enhance security in the travel and tourism sector by assigning special police to patrol on foot and bicycle. These police can be seen around major tourist sites.

There has been an extended state of emergency, since January 2020, in several parishes important to tourism. These “zones of special operations” (ZOSO) are often in inner-city communities, away from high tourism areas. The extended state of emergency is to ensure increased levels of security for both locals and visitors on the island.

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5. Crime hotspots in Jamaica

Travelers are rarely victims or targets of crime in Jamaica, but there are some areas in Kingston, Negril and Montego Bay that are considered a higher risk. 

Crime in Kingston

Communities such as Cassava Piece, Tivoli Gardens, Downtown, Trench Town, Arnett Gardens, Denham Town and Mountain View are sometimes prone to crime but are limited to locals and not targeted to travelers.

Tivoli Gardens, Downtown, and Trench Town, have sites of historic cultural importance in Jamaica, and have reputable organized tours that take visitors into the community and are safe so long as you stick with your guide and follow their advice. 

Kingston Creative Artwalk offers monthly walking tours around Downtown Kingston, highlighting its colonial history and art influences, and is guided by more than 70 local volunteers.

Culture Yard in Trench Town guides visitors around the community where reggae legend Bob Marley lived, and showcases the influence of Trench Town on reggae music.

Safety in Montego Bay

Areas to avoid include Norwood, Clavers Street, Hart Street, Rose Heights, Canterbury and Flankers. It’s highly unlikely any travelers would visit these communities, but avoid them as they are unsafe.

Is Negril safe?

Considered to be more popular than Kingston, Negril is a small resort town on the north west side of Jamaica. Stick to the well-traveled areas, such as West End, which are generally safe.

Take particular care at night in Negril, and take taxis to avoid walking alone.

Blue Lagoon in Port Antonio, Jamaica
Boats in the blue lagoon Port Antonio. Photo credit: Getty Images/Westend61

6. Staying safe in Jamaica’s cruise port towns

Ocho Rios and Falmouth are the two main cruise port towns in Jamaica, plus there’s a newly opened cruise port in the historical town of Port Royal.

Tourist police, who are wearing white hats and shirts with black pants, can be found all around the cruise ports. Since they were introduced in 2008, their presence has helped to reduce pickpocketing, petty theft and prevented potential armed robberies. They also act as impromptu guides for new travelers to Jamaica.

While visiting the port towns, keep your valuables out of sight from others and on you at all times.

7. Safety after dark

Jamaica has a vibrant nightlife, especially in major towns such as Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. There are numerous nightclubs and outdoor parties that showcase our dance and music culture every night.

But, be aware that walking around, especially alone, after dark is not recommended. If you must walk somewhere, stick to main roads and more populated areas.

It’s better to use a chartered or registered taxi (indicated by a red license plate) instead of walking or using public transportation at night. Here are several Jamaican taxi companies that you can call to charter a cab:

8. Is Jamaica LGBTQ+ friendly?

An important rule to follow, based on discussions I’ve had with local LGBTQ+ activists and friends, is to limit all public displays of affection while in Jamaica.

Jamaica is conservative, and despite its large gay population, there is no noticeable LGBTQ+ tourism scene. There are, however, some hotels and tours in Jamaica which are LGBTQ+-friendly.

9. Is Jamaica safe for families?

Jamaica is a great destination for families. There are lots of family-friendly accommodation options to choose from, but ask before you book to make sure there are kid-friendly facilities. If you’re traveling with children, here are a few tips to keep everyone safe:

  • Keep your family close together in crowded areas to avoid separation. You could also introduce a code word to keep children alert and know when they need to stay by your side
  • Larger resorts and hotels on the north coast of Jamaica tend to be more family-friendly but you can easily find places suitable for families all across the island
  • Keep constant watch of children at the beach or pool.

10. Is Jamaica safe for solo female travelers?

Jamaica is relatively safe for women to travel alone, but unfortunately, sexual harassment and sexual advances are not uncommon – especially against female travelers.

However here a few quick safety tips to consider:

  • Women may be frequently catcalled by Jamaican men. Be firm yet polite – saying you are in a hurry so you can’t stop to talk is usually better than ignoring someone completely 
  • Avoid hitchhiking
  • Don’t walk alone at night or in poorly lit areas
  • Dress modestly while out and about
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Avoid leaving your drink unattended and don't accept drinks from strangers.

11. Natural dangers

  • Hurricane season: the official hurricane season is from June to November but the months of May and October are usually very wet
  • Weather warnings: local weather forecasts give adequate warnings and evacuation procedures, however if there’s a hurricane during your visit, make sure to stock up on non-perishable foods (like canned food) beforehand, and stay away from windows during the storm
  • Earthquakes: Jamaica is located near two tectonic plates. However, the island does not usually experience many major earthquakes. The last major earthquake was in 1993. However, on January 28, 2020, there was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that occurred 86mi (139 km) north of Montego Bay, which was felt all over the island. While there was no reported damage, here are some tips on what to do if there’s an earthquake during your trip.
Bamboo Rafting on the Rio Grande, Jamaica
Bamboo Rafting on the Rio Grande, Jamaica. Photo credit: Getty Images/Douglas Pearson

12. Travel health in Jamaica

Travel with insect repellent because Jamaica has mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and chikungunya virus, especially after long periods of rain. Also, follow these preventative measures to minimize the chance of being bitten by a mosquito.

Vaccination from Yellow Fever is required before entering Jamaica but only if you are traveling from a Yellow Fever-endemic country. Other travel vaccinations recommended for Jamaica by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include, Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and rabies.

If you get unexpectedly sick or injured overseas, your medical bills could be expensive. Make sure you pack travel insurance, with 24/7 emergency assistance.

So, is Jamaica safe?

Jamaica is a destination where you should exercise extra safety precautions – be alert not alarmed. Use your common sense and you should have no troubles traveling in Jamaica. And don’t forget to buy travel insurance – get a quote below.

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33 Comments

  • JJ said

    Hello Paul I'm a resident of Jamaica and it's not as bad as this article makes it seem. Yes we all have to use our common sense and be mindful of our surroundings and this is not just in Jamaica, it's anywhere in the world. Jamaica is a beautiful island that is filled with friendly natives. I would advice anyone to come here and experience my home island because I garantee that they are going to fall in love with it just as much as I am in love.

    Reply

  • bob cox said

    The best way to stop the crime there is stay away . Then the money tourism won't generate will cause the Government there to set on crime like never before.

    Reply

  • Bob said

    You are very ignorant I'm white an I go to JA every year by myself visiting people all over the island in bad places and good places I have never had a problem and I'm always wearing expensive clothes and watches and having my brand new iPhone with me at all times
    It's sad that white people like you are so afraid of having fun and intimidated by black people. You can be fine there as long as you have respect and not be an idiot!!!!!!!!!!!
    Gaza fi life!!!!!!

    Reply

  • Cathy said

    Any more information on the tourist robbed in Treasure Beach about 4 days ago it's July 24

    Reply

  • Autumn said

    i am leaving Saturday for my 8th trip to Jamaica, I have been all over, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril. This is the first solo trip (swf mid 30s) and the first time NOT staying at a resort in Negril.. I met an amazing dive instructor when i was there last year and I am staying at his place in a gated community.
    Jamaica is a gorgeous country, the locals are great, helpful and friendly. Is there anywhere that is truly safe in the world right now? There are murders, rapists, thieves in every country on every continent in the world. Don't miss out on Jamaica just because some people have had a bad experience.
    I have never felt unsafe in Jamaica.

    Reply

  • jesse said

    A report released by the United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) lists Jamaica as having the sixth highest homicide rate in the world. It's not about having bad experiences as the poster above claims. Or scaremongering. It's just a fact - Jamaica is a dangerous country.

    Reply

  • Facts said

    This is indeed true. I am a Jamaican citizen, i lived in the US for a few years then returned to Jamaica, and believe me it is the biggest regret of my life. I am constantly paranoid on a daily basis, i worry about my young kids, my husband, my family, and people in general. It is true, Jamaica is crime ridden and the real issue is the government and police who are excessively corruptted. The government's role here is to place heavy taxes on business personnel, they hide crimes, they could care less. Most crimes are not reported and there is almost never a break through, the criminals live in the ghettos and countryside and target individuals who are working, especially business people, they rob and kill these people who are trying to build the country and provide jobs for them. Meanwhile this is happening in this country, the government secure themselves in gated communities and never tries to combat this problem. Many times the government and the police are friends with some of these criminals too. Do not be fooled, yes Jamaica is beautiful but the corruption level of the leaders is the main problem here, and crime and violence is rampant these days. Many of the successful locals decide to migrate because of the corruption here. I would not encourage any one to come here for an extended stay, maybe a few days as a tourist and be extra safe. God blessings

    Reply

  • Darlene Allen said

    I go to Jamaica a few times a year with family and friends and alone since 1976, 1998-present. I feel like Jamaica is my second home. You must be careful as I am careful in Detroit. Out of about 50 trips I have been robbed once because I didn't listen to the natives who told me to come off the Barbican streets at 2:00 am. The robber too the native cell phones, cash & car which had my stuff in it for the airport including my passport, which was a trip. I have always loved JA and have walked the beach alone all hours in Negril. I depend heavily on the locals and now follow their lead as I would expect them to follow mine in the US. I look forward to my next trip.

    Reply

  • laz Vegas said

    My friend Michelle went to Montego bay on Sept 16 by herself and reported dead yesterday ,

    Reply

  • Mad Scientist said

    Went to Montego Bay Labor Day wkd (American holiday) and stayed and the Rui Palace resort. Had a good time. Went to local bars..margaritaville and pier 1. Had no issues. Even went to a concert. I found that shuttle service from the resort was quite expensive, but it was the thing that kept me safe. Was thinking about returning in a few months (booking Airbnb) but not sure how safe that is. Looking for feedback...

    Reply

  • Booboo said

    Wow, this sounds quite interesting..... I have traveled to almost all Caribbean countries in the last 18 years except for Jamaica, Haiti/Dom Rep and Cuba.... I just booked a trip to an AI resort in MB from late Dec to early Jan and expect to have a great time as I always do when I travel. I don't normally do AI resorts but after a couple months of research, it seems appropriate for the first visit to Jamaica as I am bringing my gf that has limited travel experience. I would like to go venture off the resort a bit, Negril, etc and mingle with some locals as that is what travelling is truly about IMO... if anyone can suggest some cool areas to check out I would appreciate it.

    As a seasoned 20+ year traveler in over 30 different countries I am very diligent about my safety, have street smarts and can tell when something is not right but I have came across some unwarranted sketchy situations in Mexico (this was by far the worst experience), Belize, Honduras, Venezuela and Columbia and it sounds to me like Jamaica is no different, you can be in a bad place at a bad time anywhere you go.

    Reply

  • William Alexander said

    It seems RIDICULOUS to travel to Jamaica with the crime situation as it currently is when there are a multitude of destinations in the region that are safe, friendly and economical.

    I have lived and worked in several Caribbean countries and I have not once felt unsafe or unwelcome.

    Cayman Islands, BVI, Cuba, Belize, Costa Rica, etc. etc. are all better bets for a relaxing holiday.

    The Jamaican government will never crack down on crime significantly until the mighty tourist dollar dries up in response.

    Reply

  • Zan said

    Jamaica as like anywhere .
    Peace, Love and Harmony
    With crime.

    Reply

  • Claire said

    Thanks for the info; there are simply too many other beautiful places to choose from for a family vacation. Why would we hassle with Jamaica and risk being robbed or worse?

    Reply

  • joe trefethen said

    My Wife and I have been going to Jamaica for over 6 years now. We have been all over the island so far, Such as Negril, Montego Bay, Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios. We have never had any issue before. We actually feel safer in Jamaica than we do in Mexico. Its a great place to visit!!!!, you just have to remember you are a visitor just like in any other country. The biggest issue we have ever had was the people on the beaches asking if you want to buy some drugs, all you need to say is no thank you and most will leave you alone. Jamaica is still not as bad as in Mexico, Hawaii, Punta Cana, or Barbados in my opinion. If you are going for the first time I would recommend Negril or Ocho Rios areas and have a great vacation!!!.

    Reply

  • Selvin Gayle said

    I have read a lot of various comments and can only add my personal experiences of what I would call a very speacial place, Jamaica !! I have spent time in Kingston up town and down town, Ochios Rios, Mandeville all these palces offered differing experiences but I would only use on word to describe them, beathtaking ! I have probabely been to the most varied part of the island and can say I had no problem what so ever, lovely people beautiful scenery, in Kingston I went to the Cinema to watch a film at Soverening shopping mall in new Kingston and we saw a play at the little little theatre in up town kingston, we used a duta bus to get around the island and we were treated like royalty. Stop all the negitive talk and visit this magnificent country. I was blown away with the share beauty, the food and the vastness, so will you.

    We always need to be smart and aware all over the world Jamaica is no exception to those views and observation.

    Go and enjoy this wonderful place, if you don't you will miss an experience of a LIFETIME!!

    Reply

  • George said

    This sounds like almost any city in America. Larry must feel at home there.

    Reply

  • Robert said

    Hey sarah when are you going me and some friends are going and would love to meet up with ppl from the us the bigger the group the more that can watch

    Reply

  • Pippa said

    Really sad reading all this! Such a beautiful country, with generally fabulous people! Show me a country anywhere in the world which is truly SAFE! Where there are people, there will be good ones and...not so good ones. I love Jamaica, the country, food and people have always been great when I have been - and I am not a native. Common sense is all any visitor needs. Behave courteously and sensibly...as you would at home (wherever 'home' is for you) and it is a fabulous place. I would not dream of wandering around at home in London in the middle of the night, or going anywhere unfamiliar taking risks, (mobile phone theft in London is rife! So only idiots walk around flashing their iphone X) so why would I do that in another country?!

    Reply

  • Memories said

    As Americans living in Jamaica, we want to offer some advice to those wanting to experience Jamaica. This is an amazing country but please don't be stupid. Daily, we witness tourists just really asking for bad things to happen. Look, there are so many places in the US that you would never venture to visit or drive through for that matter.
    1. Stay out of the mountains while in Jamaica...period. When you are here, don't offer up so much information about yourselves.
    2. It is ok to keep walking and not stop to engage in all of the questions being asked of you. When you stop, you are opening yourself to petty crime and possible other more serious offences.
    3. Know where you are going. Try not to stick out so much by coming out of an area with your phones in hand, digging in your handbags, or having the "unsure of anything" look on your face.
    4. Jamaicans are conservative. Please do not wear your bikini top and a sarong to walk the streets for shopping. Guys, tone down those Affliction and US flag shirts. It is ok to go with plain T-shirts absent of all the sport teams.
    5. Be aware ...Jamaican taxi drivers will always be driving on their birthday when you get in the car. Secure the price of the ride BEFORE you get into the car. Again, don't offer up too much information about yourselves.
    6. Don't be loud! There is no reason to be yelling and drawing attention to yourself.
    7. Don't stand on the median trying to cross the street in a gaggle. Nobody does that.
    8. There is always a story of struggle. Those stories will pull and rip at your heart strings. By mindful. There is a reason for that story being told.
    9. Be nice. Seriously, the vast majority of Jamaican people are good and friendly people. However, many are also used to being mistreated by snobby or rude tourists so, keep that in the back of your mind.
    10. Have fun but please keep it classy. Let loose at your resort and stay put. When you venture into town, be smart and stay sober.

    Reply

  • Petergai Kowalke tour guide said

    No word about traveling with pets. People in Rio Nuevo set poison traps around their property. Who cares if an animal or a young Child ingested poison if they happen to get lost and wonder on to set evil property the owner does not care because he or it rather is trying to protect fish. FISH...the stuff we eat..this idiot is willing to kill innocent animals or small children?!? #sick worse that the Dominican Republic. Stay far from Rio Nuevo unless you want to have a sad experience.

    Reply

  • Bartholomew said

    Jamaica is very overhyped. The media are part of the problem, even asserting that Haiti---whose residents flee in their droves to Jamaica for safety---is safer!

    No security risk firm ranks Jamaica as violent a country as Haiti. In fact, it's (Haiti) ranked just behind the most violent MidEast and African countries. That's how bad Haiti is, Jamaica's nowhere near that.

    Bottom line: DON'T use the media, use more robust sources when seeking to find out how dangerous someplace is.

    Reply

  • Kenneth William Bailey said

    I've been going to Jamaica since 1971. My best friend has a house in Mt. Airy above the West end of Negril. First time stayed in a thatch roof hut on stilts for a dollar a day. That was when Negril was pristine. Not even a telephone there. Had to go to Savanna La Mar to make a call. Peace and Love was written on the little bridge before the roundabout.

    Super Clubs and all inclusives have ruined Negril; the best 5 miles of white sand beach on the Island.

    Can't walk unaccosted on the beach. Way too many hustlers selling everything including methamphetamines and calling it cocaine. I am also a drug counselor and meth produces more aggression than any other drug on earth. The people who sell it on the beach are frequently high on meth. you figure it out. You can still stay on the Cliffs on the extreme west end, or maybe even Treasure Beach or Green Island or Lucia and go to the beach at Calico Jacks. You can even visit the Blue mountains and stay there a few days.

    As everyone else says be careful and very respectful. Just say Irie to the hustlers and smile. Also doesn't hurt to carry some small U.S. bills and say respect Mon and show your appreciation for being a guest in their beautiful, underpriveleged island.

    Reply

  • Jason said

    Two main reasons why Jamaica is seen by non-experts as 'very violent' despite not being a particularly violent country are:

    1. Unlike many countries (looking at you Haiti for starters) It has very accurate murder statistics that artificially and significantly bloat it's real murder problem above lots of countries that actually have more murders, often far more murders (neighbor Haiti says hi!). The country isn't excessively murderous, with the possible exception of Montego Bay in recent years and that's hardly challenging the world #1 spot anytime soon. The country also has low corruption. And..

    2. Jamaicans are massive drama queens and take pride in how violent (they think) they are. To prove this. they use (you guessed it) their ultra-accurate statistics!

    Their behavior and the gleeful pleasure they take in these things are......uncomfortable.

    Reply

  • George said

    To put this in perspective and I agree Jamaicans exaggerate the island's violence, Jamaica had around 1,500 murders last year.

    Haiti---with four times the population and a quick examination of several independent security risk sources (Haiti's stats are worse than useless)---had a rough estimate of 30,000 murders last year.

    Jamaica's murder rate is approximately five times lower than Haiti's. Jamaica isn't exceptionally violent. Haiti, on the other hand, is.

    Don't believe some of the media scaremongering about JAM, they do it to get clicks.

    Reply

  • John said

    Jamaica is not what this article makes it seem to be. When staying in Port Antonio I found nothing but friendly people and locals whoa re willing to help. The location I stayed at was <a href="https://www.bayviewecoresortnspa.com/">Bay View Eco Resort and Spa</a> and it was great as well. I felt safe and I'm sure you will as well. Of course, take regular precautions as you normally would anywhere

    Reply

  • Jacob Lewis said

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    Are you still in business?
    I found a few errors on your site.
    Would you like me to send over a screenshot of those errors?

    Reply

    • Ellen Hall said

      Hi Jacob,
      Thanks for the offer. If you can tell us which pages and what the errors are, we'll be happy to look into them.

      Best regards,
      Ellen

      Reply

  • Jed said

    Jamaica was outside the 20 most homicidal countries globally last year according to experts. This doesn't count deaths from war, terrorism and social unrest so you can see how far JA is from being amongst the world's most violent countries. It's miles out.

    A lot of the hype is from Jamaicans themselves, they fantasise about this stuff (I am not joking!).

    Most of the top 10 is African as you'd expect with a smaller spattering (bad pun not intended) of mostly Middle Eastern countries. There's some American countries in the top 20: Venezuela (only one in the top 10), Haiti (just below 10th), Honduras, El Salvador and Colombia.

    This is an expert ranking, not the ones you see in the media or bad sites like Statista.

    Reply

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  • Jed said

    Jamaica could also send some of it's soldiers sitting there twiddling their thumbs to Haiti. They're not needed in Jamaica there's nothing to fight there. Law and order is clearly visible. It's a soft, contained security situation......you can retire to Jamaica.

    Violence and homicide in Haiti is a far larger problem (similar in scale to a high-level conflict) and the country would be an apt deployment for Jamaican troops. Haiti has helped it's brother nation in the past and a favor returned would, I think, be welcome. It's the big, corporate powers I believe that Haitians are wary of.

    Jamaica's fine.

    Reply

  • Jed said

    Again just trying to help people and this website out with putting Jamaica's security profile into context.

    Murders (homicides) in 2021:

    Jamaica- 1,500

    Port-au-Prince- 10,000

    Samey populations. Ignore the YTD numbers for PaP issued earlier today -- they're a massive undercount. Jamaica's numbers are always very reliable. Undercounting or problems with people disappearing and then thought to be murdered are not recognized issues in JA.

    The current A to Z of level 4 homicide [traditional crime] risk by country from the Canadian government with their corruption indice-

    Afghanistan 4 (174)
    Burkina Faso 4 (78)
    Burundi 4 (169)
    Central African Republic 4 (154)
    Haiti 4 (164)
    Libya 4 (172)
    Mali 4 (136)
    Somalia 4 (178)
    South Sudan 4 (180)
    Syria 4 (178)
    Venezuela 4 (177)

    Jamaica 2 (70)

    4 is obviously the top tier if you were wondering. Niger was a 4 for homicide but it's capital Niamey was a 3. So it's a 4 but with a little bit of the third tier in with it. The ones in the list above are 4's across the whole country.

    The DRC just failed to get on the 4's. Countries like Nigeria and PNG slightly further back.

    You can also see how mundane independent experts rank Jamaica >> i.e. much, much lower than Jamaicans >> who come across as living in an alternative universe. I tend not to trust J'cans (sounds horrible I know) unless I know for sure that they don't have a strange interest in being deemed the violence and corrupt capital of the world.

    All in all WN and readers I hope you've found this helpful. The corruption ratings are current from the well-known Corruption Perceptions Index.

    Reply

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