TWO attacks last week point to the possibility of a disturbing trend which finds thieves tackling soft targets in the tourism, and local travel industries. In one incident, a man was awakened at a Chaguaramas camp site by a blow to the head and robbed of the vehicle he was sleeping in. In another, two bandits robbed the receptionists of a Malabar guest house of $8,350, a gold chain and their cell phone. The sole saving grace in these incidents is that the robbers were satisfied with stealing property and left their victims alive.
While most robberies happen in business places, the rate of opportunistic crime is increasing. Sally Wilson and her husband Michael, both cruise ship visitors in their 70’s were walking around the Queen’s Park Savannah on Boxing Day in 2018 when a man slashed her handbag and her finger and ran off with it. Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell noted in a press release that “Our visitors would have been looking forward to their trip only to have it ruined by an act of violence.”
Similar snatch and grab crimes have been plaguing Tobago, particularly in the Grafton Beach area. In February Ian MacMullin was beaten brutally by two men who made off with TT$17 and an umbrella at Grafton Beach. A week later an elderly British couple in their 60’s were robbed of TT$101, US$60 and a camera at Arnos Vale Beach. A PH taxi driver from Trinidad was accused in March of sexually assaulting two British tourists near Grafton.
Personal attacks in taxis are also on the rise in Trinidad. Three women boarded a PH taxi to Maraval only to be taken by the woman driver to Lady Chancellor Hill where they were threatened at knife point by a male collaborator. Phillip Taylor, a visiting music producer, was beaten, robbed and threatened with murder after boarding a taxi hailed by a police officer. He rolled out of the moving car after the men threatened to take him into the Diego Martin hills and murder him.
These are crimes with low risk with commensurate low returns, depending heavily on circumstances, and environments that enable success. If PH taxi-drivers decided to network to improve their personal and passenger safety, if surveillance, warnings and spot patrols were increased in identified soft target areas and companies hiring private security teams collaborated with police officers to improve security coverage, opportunity crime might be discouraged.
If it isn't possible to camp at our tourism destinations, take a taxi or feel safe in a guesthouse, it won't be just visiting tourism that will be stifled, we can expect a chilling effect on staycation tourism as well.