The Turks and Caicos Islands are a beautiful Caribbean hotspot, attracting millions of Americans every year, including celebrities and sports stars.
However, a shocking spike in violent crime in the past two months has shaken the community, which has hosted vacation homes for the likes of Bruce Willis and Oprah Winfrey. The U.S. State Department is warning that crime on the Caribbean island spikes ahead of seasonal increases during the holidays.
The country has a population of less than 60,000 – and the per capita homicide rate skyrocketed this year as nearly two dozen people were killed in September and October. In comparison, according to the State Department, there were 23 homicides in the country in all of 2020, and overall crime is down 30 percent over the previous five years.
Police say they have stepped up enforcement of gang-related drug and violent crime during the criminal battleground, with help from the United States, the Bahamas and the United Kingdom.
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Police Commissioner Trevor Boateng announced nearly a dozen arrests on Wednesday and vowed that island police would be “relentlessly and 100 percent committed to apprehending the criminals who we believe are responsible for this serious crime.” which are destroying the lives of our communities.”
Victims of recent violence include Kent Carter, an NAACP leader and Army veteran from Virginia, who was shot and killed on Oct. 2, when Boating said a group of gang members “indiscriminately “Intent on causing harm and suffering” opened fire on one. Shuttles to and from the hotel for tourists and local workers.
Suspects armed with automatic weapons exchanged fire with responding police, seriously wounding one officer before fleeing. Photos from the crime scene show more than two dozen bullet holes in the windshield of the police cruiser.
“The level of violence will challenge the police force many times more than the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands police force,” Boateng later said. “However, the police officers who serve you in the Turks and Caicos Islands are not afraid of violence or violent criminals, and we are strong and committed to taking the fight to violent criminals and doing everything possible to protect our communities.” Will do.”
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A few weeks later, another shooting killed a man, woman and her 3-year-old son. The woman’s 7-year-old daughter survived, but not without serious injuries and significant trauma after being alone in the car with her dead family for hours, Botting said.
Before anyone could help the survivor, gawkers took photos of the bodies and posted them online, Botting said.
“The Turks and Caicos Islands is a civilized, Christian society, but if we do not challenge such unethical and unchristian behavior, we risk destroying the Christian values and decency that we hold dear,” he said. Dear ones, who appreciate us.” In a statement after the shooting. “I sincerely hope that this kind of behavior will never happen again to a child in need, or to anyone in need of help or human kindness.”
On Wednesday, Boateng announced 11 arrests as part of a joint operation by Bahamian and US law enforcement agencies.
“An arrest is considered particularly significant in light of the recent spike in firings,” he said, without elaborating.
The Bahamian officials were part of a team of experts sent to the TCI in October from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
While Boateng has condemned the violence, praised his officers and accepted outside help to deal with the growing violence, critics have generally called for more proactive policing over the years.
Abe George, a U.S. attorney and Manhattan homicide prosecutor involved in the death of a client at Club Med Turquoise on Providentials, has been critical of Boateng’s work as a top cop and downplay of violence. Call for more proactive policing.
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Mary Kohnla, a 62-year-old lawyer from New York, was found dead under suspicious circumstances outside a remote part of the resort’s property. George has criticized the investigative work of the island’s police force and condemned the inquest after the resort and called for the death to be changed from murder.
“It’s clear not only from his botched investigation into Mary Kohnla’s death, but from this recent violent crime spree that he’s in over his head,” she told Fox News Digital. “The island is too small. There’s really no reason not to know where the bad guys are.”
George is representing Kohnla’s family in a separate lawsuit against the resort and a person of interest in Kohnla’s death. He said that the TCI Police will benefit from the external assistance and experience provided by the United States and the United Kingdom.
Providenciales is the main island of the TCI and according to US authorities it is the most dangerous.
Should tourists change their travel plans?
Drake was dropped by a private jet in February. Mario Lopez went with his family last Christmas. The “Real Housewives” cast filmed an episode nearby. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has been spotted lounging with his dog at a 1,000-acre private resort.
Kevin Coffey, A retired LAPD detective and travel security consultant and trainer says there are several precautions travelers can take to improve their safety before and during travel.
He added that the US State Department issues travel advisories for foreign countries – but so do counterparts in the UK, Canada and Australia. These are all English-speaking countries that may or may not include various information that travelers may find useful.
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He said he could break down crime by neighborhood — and even travel to U.S. cities where there would be places to avoid.
The State Department’s latest Turks and Caicos currently urges Americans to exercise extra caution – a Level 2 advisory. The most severe, a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory, is used in extreme cases. China was at level 4 during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Russia is at Level 4 amid the ongoing war with Ukraine. Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is also included in this list.
The State Department said in early October near the start of the crime wave that “crime in the Turks and Caicos Islands has increased vigilance.” It also warned that crime has traditionally increased in the country during the holidays and added a “C” crime indicator that warns of the presence of violence and organized crime in the country. is a “moderate risk” due to
The State Department also warned against residency restrictions and said Americans should avoid carrying large amounts of cash into the country.
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Once a traveler decides they’re comfortable with a location, Coffey has a few more tips.
“Especially for solo travelers and female travelers… you can be anywhere, even at your office during the day, but come 5 … 6 o’clock when the sun goes down, the whole security of the neighborhood changes. is – or it’s great. The hotel, but there’s skid row a block away,” he told Fox News Digital.
So be aware of your surroundings and know that while you may feel comfortable, locals can easily identify you as an outsider.
They say hotel-recommended Uber rides and taxi companies are often safer than carpools on the road. When hotel staff are asked where to go, he recommends getting feedback from more than one person – some front-end workers could have reached the area themselves.
He also recommends filling out the emergency contact page on your passport and taping a small printout with additional contact information.
More importantly, though, he said, travelers should have a backup plan in case they lose their phone.
He said that mobile phone is more important than your passport when you are abroad. “If you lose your passport in Turks and Caicos, you can go to the embassy. Losing your phone during international travel, especially if you’re away from it, can be devastating. “
He advises travelers to prepare in advance with a backup plan to restore their apps, passwords and contacts — and keep an itinerary in one place rather than scattered across different emails and apps. To that end, he recommends the TripIt apps, which automatically scrape your itinerary from your emails and store it in one document.
Another useful travel app is GeoSure, which tracks real-time crime statistics, health status, political information and travel alerts, he said.
According to Michael Baker, CEO of GeoSure, his team recently downgraded the physical safety score for parts of the TCI to 54 out of 100 – which “represents an average level of safety, under unsafe conditions. represents a somewhat stable area with little elevation.”
While Turks and Caicos was ranked among the safest tourist destinations — a full 10 points lower than St. John’s in the US Virgin Islands.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.