Thursday, May 31, 2012

Egypt: Two Americans Kidnapped by Bedouins in Sinai, Tourism Increasingly Unpredictable

Two American tourists, both men, were kidnapped last evening (May 30) in Egypt's increasingly dangerous Sinai Peninsula. They were reportedly driving north from the Red Sea resort town of Dahab when they were abducted by armed Bedouin tribesmen who are now demanding the release of another tribesman arrested Tuesday (May 29) with a large quantity of drugs. 

COMMENT: Both kidnap victims are reportedly in their thirties and their identities have been reported in local media. Out of respect for the wishes of one of the fathers of two young men, ABC News was asked not to identify the names of the young men kidnapped. Hence, we will honor this request.

The two men are being held in a mountainous area called Ras al-Shaytan. They were apparently driving from Dahab to Nuweiba when their minibus was stopped. They were later reportedly then transferred to two cars, according to the driver who said the tribesmen told them not to worry, that they had demands of the Egyptian government. The kidnappers are demanding the release of a man named Eid Suleiman Atiwai, arrested with a large quantity of drugs earlier in the week.

As most of our readers know, under former President Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed last year as a result of widespread student protests, Egypt previously had been a relatively safe country for tourists, apart from an infrequent terrorist incident over a period of three+ decades. 

My assessment is that traveling in Egypt has become much more unpredictable since Mubarak was overthrown. Additionally, I believe that in time, Islam and sharia law will become a dominant influence in Egypt. This could well include restrictions on the sale and availability of alcoholic beverages, segregated beaches and even proof of marriage required for men and women who share the same accommodations.

Unfortunately, kidnappings by Bedouins have been increasing; Egyptian security forces have not stepped up aggressive patrols of tourist sites in the Sinai to discourage continuing abductions, although rarely have kidnap victims been harmed.

My advice to tourists traveling in the Sinai is to not resist a kidnapping, as usually such abductions are designed to simply put pressure on Egyptian authorities for a multitude of reasons. That being said, these days it very hard to determine who is in charge in the New Egypt, which seems to be heavily influenced by the Islamic Brotherhood.

Russia: Siberian Suspects Arrested in Murder of Japanese Tourist

As a follow-up to my May 23 posting, Siberian have arrested two suspects, ages 20 and 21, in the brutal stabbing death of a Japanese motorcycle tourist in the Zabaikalsk region.

The body of Koiti Onita, 31, was found May 22 outside the city of Chita on a remote stretch of road leading to Irkutsk near Lake Baikal. At the time, police had difficulty understanding how a victim could be stabbed as many as 30 times, yet his assailants left his Suzuki motorcycle, apparel, a mobile phone and a large amount of Russian currency untouched.

COMMENT: As a result of interrogating the two men in custody, police have now concluded that the two suspects had originally planned to rob Mr. Onita, but when a car passed by where they had killed the latter, they dropped the tourist's belongings and fled.


As I have said in numerous postings in the past, solo travel abroad is fraught with considerable risks, particularly when traveling in isolated, rural areas in countries where it is commonplace for tourists and travelers to be preyed upon. Recent examples of these risks include the murder of two French tourists in Argentina and the murder of a French tourist in Malaysia, both of which began as probable crimes of sexual assault.


What is puzzling in this case, and which we may never have an explanation for, is the excessive numbers of times that the tourist was stabbed, if in fact the only motive was robbery. Unfortunately, we may never all of the facts.

Spain: British Tourist, Frightened by Spider in Suitcase, Falls From 6th Floor Balcony

British tourist Chantelle Serginson, 24, who fell some 80 feet from a guest room balcony in Majorca last Friday (May 25), after allegedly being frightened by a spider she found in her suitcase, is recovering in a local hospital after fracturing both legs and her skull when she fell from the sixth-floor.

Serginson, and her mother, Kimberly, 44, of Middlesbrough, were staying at the Hotel Marina Barracuda in Magaluf, when the accident occurred.

COMMENT: We will probably never know exactly what circumstances caused Chantelle Serginson to fall from the balcony, although press reports suggest that the mother and daughter were having an argument at the time. It is also unknown whether both women were substance-free. Regardless, it is virtual miracle that the British tourist even survived the fall.


Interestingly, five British tourists have fallen from hotel balconies in Magaluf in the past three months, most recently on May 27, when Daniel Geary, 23, fell from the second floor of the Hotel Martinique. Geary landed on his back and was said to be in serious condition at a hospital. Three other Brits have died, all in their 20s. 

Last year, more than a dozen UK tourists travelers fell from balconies in Spain, three of whom were killed. 

Unfortunately, excessive drinking, coupled with a high-risk stunt referred to as "balconing,"whereby party animals jump from one balcony to another or worse, is the attributed cause of many of these accidents. Yet, with safety concerns and intoxication rarely being synonymous, some tourists who "drink and jump" may never return home.


Although words of caution may fall upon deaf ears, parents everywhere should urge their young adult children not to engage in "balconing."


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Japan: Irish Exchange Student May Have Had Her Drink Spiked with Drug

As a follow-up on my recent postings concerning the tragic death of Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong, 21, Japanese police now believe that Ms. Furlong was sexually assaulted after she was strangled.

Understandably, Tokyo police are also pursuing leads that suggest that the young woman's drink may have been spiked, which led to the terrible tragedy that befell her after she and another Irish friend encountered two young Americans who pursued an interest in them.

COMMENT: Our sympathies go out to Nicola's family and the devastation that they must be experiencing.

As I emphasized in an earlier posting on this tragedy, I continue to express concern with the lack of preparedness for overseas living and particularly the need for diligent security awareness training that many institutions of higher learning fail to impart to young students who have very little life experience to rely on in countries fraught with predators.

Sadly, many universities don't even bring up security threats in their pre-departure orientation for students out of fear that if they do, they won't be able sell students and their parents on the idea of foreign study abroad. Yet, studies have shown that informed travelers who realistically know the threats they will face abroad are less likely to become victims.

Many universities also do not provide detailed guidance to overseas-bound students on the widespread prevalence of various drugs used to sedate and immobilize students who can then be robbed and taken advantage of.

Reportedly, even though Ms. Furlong and her friend traveled from where they were attending school in Takasaki (95 kilometers away) to Tokyo to see a concert, it is clear that the two Americans initiated pursuit of the two women.  Nicola was due to return to Ireland in July.



Egypt: Tire on Tour Bus Blows, Bus Rolls Over, 14 Tourists Injured

A bus transporting tourists from St. Catherine Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula to Sharm-el-Sheikh (220 kilometers away) blew a tire yesterday (May 29) and rolled over several times, injuring some fourteen tourists from Russia, Germany, China and Egypt. 

COMMENT: Fortunately, most of those injured in the "accident" were severely bruised, although given the trajectory of the roll-over it is possible that post-accident neck and back injuries may later be reported. 

Given the poor state of road safety in Egypt, it is very possible that the bus transporting the tourists had tires in need of replacement. In contrast to most accidents in developing countries, though, the driver did not flee the scene after the bus rolled over.

One of the biggest risks abroad for both travelers and tourists in developing countries concerns bus accidents which are often influenced by poorly maintained vehicles, hazardous road conditions and inexperienced and fatigued drivers whose only requirement is that they have normal pulmonary function.

The single blessing in this case is that no one was seriously injured.





Jamaica: 25 Tourists Injured in Bus Crash Between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios

A passing car on a two-way road swerved in front of a tour bus transporting foreign tourists on Monday (May 28), which resulted in the bus flipping over on a northern coastal road, injuring all 25 people on board. The bus was transporting the tourists from the international airport at Montego Bay to Ocho Rios.

COMMENT: The 25 tourists and the bus driver were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, which may not necessarily have developed world healthcare.


Accidents such as this are a reminder to ensure that you subscribe to developed world international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before leaving home. Otherwise, you're left with what local medical facilities can provide. If you don't have a list of such providers, email me and I can send you one.

This bus accident, like so many others that I have filed reports on over the last couple of years, demonstrates the increasing risks that tourists and travelers are exposed to when herded aboard a bus with poor maneuverability and potentially with inexperienced and/or fatigued drivers whose only criteria is having a warm body.


Even if your tour cost includes ground transportation, does that mean that you MUST assume the same risks along with everyone else? No. If you already have a confirmed hotel reservation, why not arrange for safe, reliable transportation that may well exceed the safety levels of transport being provided?


There is not a great deal you can do to remedy poorly maintained and dangerous island roads, but in the case described above, why not arrange for a reputable hotel taxi if there is a greater probability that you'll arrive there without incident?


Last but not least, always carry an UNLOCKED, QUAD-BAND cell phone for emergencies such as the one described above.

New Zealand: Update on Rape, Murder of Czech Tourist, Rapist Takes Own Life

As a follow-up to yesterday's posting, police have revealed that assailant Jason Frandi, who spent 3.5 years in prison for a 2000 abduction of a 19-year-old woman for sex, raped and murdered Dagma Pytlickova, aka Dasha, 31, a Czech hitchhiker who Frandi picked up at Omarama and attacked her just half an hour from where she was to meet her sister.

Instead of meeting her sister and friends, Pytlickova was picked up by Frandi, a convicted sexual predator, who abducted the young woman, raped her and then cut her throat in a remote wooded area near Waimate. Her backpack was also found in Frandi's vehicle.

Both victim and rapist were both found dead by a group of motorcyclists on a charity ride.

COMMENT: Preliminary reports from police indicate that Frandi died from self-inflicted wounds. 


Tragic and devastating as this case is to Ms. Pytlickova's family and those that have closely followed this case, we can only hope that tourists and travelers who regularly hitchhike focus on the potentially perilous risk of hitchhiking. Unfortunately, despite many locals who urge visitors NOT to hitchhike, this advice is rarely heeded.

As much as I have loved traveling in New Zealand and find its people charming and friendly, like anywhere, criminals take advantage of the vulnerable and those who seem unconcerned with personal security awareness. Our readers are urged to search my 1,200+ posting under "New Zealand" to learn just how many tourists and travelers have been victimized.


 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Zealand: Czech Tourist, 31, Very Possibly Murdered by Sexual Predator

The body of a Czech tourist, believed to be Dagmar Pytlickova, 31,  whose body was found on Saturday (May 29) in a remote forest on the South Island, was believed to have fallen victim to a known sexual predator, Jason Frandi, 43.

Strangely, Frandi's remains were found next to Ms. Pytlickova's. Consequently, forensic experts will be conducting autopsies today (May 29) to determine cause of death.  

COMMENT: Police believe that Ms. Pytlickova was abducted by Frandi, who served 3.5 years in prison for a 2000 abduction for sex of a 19-year-old woman, after Frandi picked up the woman somewhere between Omarama and Kurow, while the former was hitchhiking. 

After Frandi drove to a secluded area, it is believed that a struggle ensued between victim and her assailant when Frandi made sexual advances.

The remains of Pytlickova and Frandi were found by motorcyclists late on Sunday morning (May 27) in the Waitaki Valley, south of Christchurch, during a charity ride.

I continue to urge travelers NOT to hitch-hike, as it dramatically increases one's potential for becoming a crime victim. I should also mention that if you do a search of "New Zealand" of my 1,200+ postings, you will see that crime against persons is a frequent occurrence there.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.


Global Impact: Rabies Victim, Bitten in South Asia, Dies in the UK

An unidentified woman in her 50s who was bitten by a rabid dog in South Asia died over the weekend in Dartford, Kent (UK), presumably because her condition was not promptly diagnosed and treated.

According to local media, the bite victim was reportedly turned away twice by the medical staff at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, before she was properly diagnosed and treated at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Darent Valley made a statement last week, pointing out that due to the fact that the UK is rabies-free, if a patient checks into a British hospital and does not highlight the fact that they have been bitten by a dog abroad, which was the case with the woman bitten, it is unlikely that they will be treated for rabies.

Darent Valley responded to the information supplied by the patient at the time. That being said, the misdiagnosis is being investigated. Hospital staff who came into close contact with the rabies victim are being vaccinated as a precautionary measure.

As many of our regular readers will recall, I filed a posting on May 25 entitled, "Malaysia: Pit Bull Mauling, Death Highlights Need to Prepare for Dog Attacks." Hence, you may wish to refer to this report. 

COMMENT: Rabies is usually transferred through saliva from the bite of an infected animal, with dogs being the most common transmitter of rabies to humans. More than 55,000 people are estimated to die from the disease every year, with most cases occurring in developing countries, particularly south and south-east Asia.


The three-shot preventative series of rabies vaccination is urged for travelers who may not be able to reach a medical facility capable of treating rabies within 24 hours. Yet, the series is expensive. Consequently, travelers operating in major cities rarely need to take the pre-exposure series.

If bitten by ANY dog in a developing country,go to an emergency room immediately and advise the medical staff that you have been bitten by a dog and show them the bite area.


If you cannot reach a medical facility capable of treating rabies WITHIN 24 hours, the pre-exposure series is recommended. After that, the virus begins to enter the nervous system with death being a likely result.


Also keep in mind that leash laws are a rarity in many developing countries. Thus, the potential for risk of exposure is much greater.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Cayman Islands: Floridian, 56, Dies While Snorkeling

An unidentified tourist from Tampa, FL, 56, was pronounced dead earlier today (May 28) while snorkeling in waters on Grand Cayman's east end. The decedent was snorkeling with a friend, but at one point the two became separated. As a result, the tourist was later found floating face down in the water.

COMMENT: Police say the Tampa man was brought to shore by his companion, who administered CPR until paramedics arrived, but the man could not be be successfully resuscitated and was later  pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

As most of our regular readers know, there have been a number of deaths in recent months involving seniors who have died from heart ailments while swimming or snorkeling. Consequently, it is suggested that all travelers, particularly those over the age of 40, have a thorough physical examination from their medical provider before engaging in strenuous activity, as so many travelers did from undiagnosed cardiovascular disease.



India: American Arrested with Live Ammunition Reminds Travelers to "Sanitize" Carry-on Luggage

US citizen Jeffrey Jinnin Worn was arrested at Indira Gandhi International Airport on Saturday (May 26) on charges of possessing of live handgun ammunition as he prepared to board an outbound Turkish Airlines flight. The ammunition in his bag was identified during a scan of his carry-on luggage.

Worn reportedly told airport police that he had brought the ammunition, Hornady .45 auto+P, from the US, but was unable to demonstrate that he had declared the cartridges, nor did he have documentation that he was transporting ammo.

COMMENT:  During questioning Worn told police that he is a businessman dealing in dry fruits. He also said he did not know about the laws of the country, but only a naive traveler would know that it is illegal to transport ammunition in carry-on luggage.  He claimed to have a concealed pistol permit in the US, but as most travelers know or should know, such permits are not recognized abroad. He has been remanded into custody pending adjudication.

In my book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, I emphasize that ALL travelers need to completely empty and sanitize their carry-on luggage before initiating travel and ensure that no contraband or banned items are being carried (e.g., nail clippers, knives, pepper spray, ammunition, firearms, etc.). Failure to do so, can result in undesirable, custodial detention compliments of the local government, as Mr. Worn has discovered.

As a side note, it is interesting to point out that Worn entered India on a tourist visa, but during questioning claimed he was a businessman, which could potentially add yet another charge to his predicament. If he, in fact, was doing business in India, he could face an immigration violation.




New York: Two California Women Assaulted, Robbed by Assailants in Niagara Falls

According to the Niagara Falls, NY-based Niagara Gazette, two California women were reportedly physically assaulted and robbed during the early morning hours of Saturday (May 26). The incident occurred in a parking lot in the 100 block of Niagara Street.

The incident occurred when two unidentified suspects approached the women while they were at their car.

One of the victims was apparently shoved from behind and into the backseat of the car, at which point a handgun was brandished in front of her. At that point, She handed over her purse, which the man emptied onto the ground. She told police he took her wallet with $200 inside.
The second victim, who was sitting in the front seat of the vehicle, told police a second individual approached her and demanded her valuables. When she hesitated, the second assailant grabbed her purse from her hands then struck the victim in the cheek with the butt end of his handgun. Her purse contained four credit cards, her driving permit, passport, a Samsung camera and a cell phone.

COMMENT: The suspects, one described as a black male between the ages of 16 and 18, and the other, described as Hispanic, age unknown,  are still at large.

In a third reported incident in less than 24 hours, a tourist’s car was broken into later on Saturday in the Third Street lot of the Sheraton hotel. A tourist from Maryland told police that someone pried open a door to his car sometime between 2000 hours on Friday and 1800 hours on Saturday. Stolen from the vehicle was a GPS navigating unit, a cellular telephone charger and an iPod converter. Earlier on Saturday, a Michigan woman and a Pennsylvania man reported vehicular break-ins in the same lot.

One topic that I spend a great deal of time on in my Safe Travel workshops is teaching travelers how to observe and detect that they are being surveilled or watched by would-be criminals. Acquiring this skill often permits would-be victims to take corrective action before they are victimized.

One suggestion that I can also offer in cases such as these is for motorists traveling in another state or country to carry a photocopy of their driving permit and/or passport in the glove box of the vehicle. Thus, if their wallet is lost or stolen, they can continue to function in dealing with authorities.

Motorists are also urged to ensure that anything of value be concealed in the vehicle's interior. What I normally do is have a small rubber tub wedged into the back seat floor of my vehicle, in which I place all valuables that are inside the vehicle. Then, placing a used towel over the tub, it has less attraction to would-be thieves.

If traveling in potentially high-crime areas or areas you don't know well, consider having shatter-resistant film installed over the interior windows, which holds the glass in place, even if broken or shattered.

A final thought. Consider having a SILENT car alarm installed on your vehicle that notifies you by remote device that your car is being tampered with. That way, you can call the police.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

US: Brazilians Victimized Every Three Days in Miami, Orlando

Data released by the Consulate General of Brazil in Miami has revealed that every three days, at least one Brazilian tourist becomes a crime victim in Miami or Orlando.

Additionally,  half of the Brazilian traveling to the US visit Florida. Brazilians are also currently purchasing almost a tenth of the houses and apartments being sold in the Miami area and applications for non-immigrant US visas from Brazil have increased 234% in the past five years, according to Time.

It is also a fact that Brazilians tourists come to the US mainly for shopping. In 2010, for example, Brazilians placed third in the spending per person ranking in the US (only behind British and Japanese tourists). In 2010, 1.2 million Brazilians tourists injected $5.9 billion in the US economy.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and auto theft in both Miami and Orlando exceed the national average for these crimes. Both cities also have unemployment levels that exceed the national average.


Even though criminal victimization levels are not available for Britons and Japanese, it is assumed that these nationalities have comparable incidence of crime.


In all of my years in protecting people from crime, the one common thread in all types of victimization includes SECURITY VULNERABILITIES, which results in the commission of a crime. Examples include:


Murder: A shopkeeper walking home at night with the day's cash revenues, being robbed and resisting an armed assailant, resulting in death;


Rape: A woman running alone at night in a high-crime neighborhood, only to be suddenly abducted my assailants in a van and gang-raped;


Robbery: A man wearing a Rolex watch valued at $8,000 in warm weather only to be robbed at gunpoint;


Assault: Two pedestrians being stopped by a mentally ill person demanding money and both being mortally wounded with a butcher knife for not surrendering their valuables;


Burglary: Not having renter's or homeowner's insurance when a home has inferior door and window security and being burglarized;


Theft: Walking into a coffee shop, placing a backpack containing a laptop at a table and chair, only to have it later stolen while visiting the restroom; and


Auto Theft: Leaving one's motor vehicle running in front of a convenience store while running in to make purchases,  and then discovering that the vehicle has been stolen. 

As I have urged in so many of my 1,200 plus postings, no property or valuables are worth our life. The only exception to this rule is resisting sexual assault or rape, where studies have shown that resisting or not resisting does not dramatically influence whether the victim will be harmed or not.

Unfortunately, security vulnerabilities result in criminals being successful at their craft. In all cases above, a lapse in security awareness resulted in the crimes occurring, whereas making prudent choices might well have prevented foreseeable events.


For those traveling to both Miami and Orlando, see the below websites which depicts the physical locations of criminal offenses:


http://www.spotcrime.com/fl/orlando


http://www.spotcrime.com/fl/miami



Mauritania: US Department of State Updates Travel Warning Due to Terrorist Threat

The US Department of State warns its citizens of the risks of traveling to Mauritania, and urges extreme caution for those who choose to travel to Mauritania, because of activities by the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM continues to demonstrate its intent and ability to conduct attacks against foreign nationals, including US citizens. This replaces the Travel Warning for Mauritania, issued on October 10, 2011, to update information on security incidents and remind travelers of security concerns.

The US Embassy in Nouakchott recommends against all non-essential travel to the border regions of Guidimagha, the Hodh El Charghi and Hodh El Gharbi regions of southeastern Mauritania, the eastern half of the Assaba region (east of Kiffa), the eastern half of the Tagant region (east of Tidjika), the eastern half of the Adrar region (east of Chinguetti), and the Zemmour region of northern Mauritania because of the security risk and the threat of kidnapping to Westerners by AQIM.

As noted in the Department of State's Worldwide Caution, AQIM has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union.  

As a result of perceived Western involvement in counter-terrorism efforts, AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets. It is possible that AQIM will attempt retaliatory attacks against Western targets of opportunity. While military intervention has moved active terrorist operations to the Malian border regions, AQIM-affiliated support systems for logistics and information are present in Mauritania. Additionally, the rebellion and subsequent coup in Mali have given terrorist groups such as AQIM the opportunity to establish territorial claims in the contested region of northern Mali. This, coupled with the influx of tens of thousands of Malian refugees into Mauritania, presents additional safety and security concerns.  

AQIM and terrorists believed to be affiliated with AQIM have been operating in Mauritania since at least 2005. Actions include kidnapping and murder of Western tourists, aid workers, and Mauritanian soldiers, as well as attacks on foreign diplomatic missions in Mauritania. This culminated in the June 2009 attempted kidnapping and murder of a private US citizen in the capital.

Although there have been no known direct attempts against US citizens since 2009, AQIM continues to threaten Westerners. It has also focused its actions on Mauritanian military installations and personnel. The Mauritanian military continues to actively engage in action against AQIM elements, particularly along the border regions with Mali. 

In August 2010, a suicide bomber attacked a Mauritanian military barracks in Nema. In February 2011, Mauritanian security forces successfully prevented a car bombing in the capital city, Nouakchott, by intercepting and destroying a vehicle containing large quantities of explosives. In July 2011, AQIM attacked a military base in Bassiknou, near Nema, in southeastern Mauritania. In December 2011, AQIM abducted a Mauritanian gendarme from his post near the eastern border with Mali. 

As a result of safety and security concerns, some NGOs, private aid organizations, and Peace Corps withdrew staff and/or temporarily suspended operations in Mauritania. Faith-based organizations operating in Mauritania, regardless of location, may be particularly targeted. 

Travel by US Embassy staff members outside of Nouakchott requires advance approval from the US Embassy's Regional Security Officer (RSO). Travel which has been authorized in such fashion is subject to cancellation at any time. Travel to the eastern half of Mauritania occurs only with Mauritanian government escorts. 

Given AQIM's threats against Western targets in Mauritania and the region, and its desire to kidnap Westerners for ransom, US citizens should remain aware of their surroundings at all times and maintain good personal security practices, including always locking their homes and cars, varying routes and times of travel, and maintaining a low profile by not drawing attention to themselves. When going out, they should avoid being part of large, highly visible groups of Westerners, and refrain from sitting in areas that are easily visible from the street when in restaurants or cafes. US citizens should be particularly alert when frequenting locales associated with Westerners, including hotels, cultural centers, social and recreation clubs, beach areas, and restaurants. Additionally, US citizens should avoid highly publicized events/venues with no visible security presence. 

US citizens driving in Mauritania are reminded to heed warnings to stop at security checkpoints, and should be particularly vigilant when traveling by road outside of populated areas, even when traveling along main routes and highways. US citizens should not venture outside urban areas unless in a convoy and accompanied by an experienced guide, and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions. Driving after dark outside of urban areas is strongly discouraged. There have been reports of banditry and smuggling in the more remote parts of Mauritania. Landmines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara. Travelers should cross borders only at designated border posts.

Japan: Update in Suspicious Death of Irish Exchange Student, Sexual Assault of Another

As a follow-up to my posting of yesterday (May 26), concerning the suspicious death of Irish exchange student, Nicola Furlong, 21, and the alleged rape of her friend, also 21, and an Irish student, local media have now reported that the two Americans, 19 and 23,  invited the two women to their Tokyo hotel rooms.

COMMENT: Furlong was found dead in one of the Americans guest rooms, apparently as a result of suffocation by cervical compression. 

In actuality, the two men have been arrested for sexual assault of Furlong's intoxicated friend, as the four were headed to the hotel rooms of the two men.

As mentioned yesterday, the two women were attending a concert in Tokyo, when they began talking to the two Americans. The hotel staff found Furlong unconscious after customers complained of loud noises coming from one of the guest rooms.

When the staff got to the room, they found Ms. Furlong in the room with the 19-year-old, and called the fire department. Once the facts of the case were established, first responders called police, who arrested the men.

As noted yesterday, I continue to be concerned with the the lack of adequate pre-departure security awareness training for university students enrolled in foreign study programs. Unfortunately, many universities delegate student preparedness who have no professional law enforcement or international security experience. 

As a result, not wanting to discourage parents or students from enrolling in international programs, many universities "sugar-coat" the security risks that students will face abroad, which leaves them ill-prepared for making wise choices when it comes to their personal security.

Although university students may be viewed as any other adult, the reality is that they are inexperienced in the ways of the world, which renders them very vulnerable to making bad choices, unless universities accept their responsible to train them in how to avoid foreseeable events that put their lives in jeopardy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Japan: Two Americans Arrested in Connection with Death of Irish Exchange Student in Tokyo Hotel Room

Tokyo police have arrested two American citizens, 19, and 23, in the suspicious death of Nicola Furlong, 21, an Irish foreign exchange student, who was in Japan studying in Takasaki, located some 95 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

One of the Americans was with Ms. Furlong when she was found dead early Thursday (May 24) in a Tokyo hotel room. Preliminary investigation revealed that she may have been strangled to death.

COMMENT:  According to available various Japanese new sources, the two American suspects have been detained by police on suspicion of giving Furlong's friend, also a 21-year-old Irish woman, and then molesting her inside of a taxi earlier that evening.

The two women were visiting Tokyo Wednesday night (May 23) to see a concert, and were apparently approached in conversation by the two men. The foursome then went to the hotel the Americans were staying at. Subsequently, Furlong went to the room of the 19-year-old American, while Furlong's friend went to room of the 23-year-old.

During the early morning hours of Thursday, a hotel guest called the reception desk, complaining of a disturbance from one of the Americans' rooms. As a result, a hotel employee went to the room and found Furlong on the floor lying near the bed and the American, 19, standing nearby. At that police, police were summoned.

As most of our readers know from many of my previous postings, travelers need to be prudent and cautious when making the decision to overnight with people they have never met. Apart from the issue of safe-sex, such chance encounters can result in circumstances that are irreversible, as in the case of Ms. Furlong, whose life of promise ended suddenly.

I continue to question the extent, detail and credibility of security awareness training that universities with foreign study programs provide their students. As we can see from a number of recent deaths abroad of such students, many universities are very remiss in fulfilling their responsibilities to the parents of sons and daughters who put their trust in university administrators.

Saudi Arabia/Yemen: Kidnapped Diplomat Appeals to King Abdullah to Make Concessions

As a follow-up to my posting of April 18, 2012,  al-Qaeda linked militants have posted an online video in which a man identifying himself as Saudi diplomat Abdullah al-Khaldi, kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Yemen in March, appeals to Saudi Arabia's rulers to respond to his captors' demands to spare his life.
In the four-minute clip bearing the logo of al-Qaida's media arm, al-Malahem, that was released on Friday (May 25), the diplomat  appeals to  Saudi King Abdullah to grant the kidnappers' demands, including the release of detained al-Qaeda women.

COMMENT:  The Saudi Interior Ministry has confirmed the kidnapping and said that a Saudi citizen on the kingdom's most-wanted list of terror suspects, Mashaal Rasheed al-Shawdakhi, relayed the demands by telephone to their embassy in Yemen. 

The Saudis report that al-Qaeda's demands include paying a ransom and releasing top al-Qaeda prisoners, both Saudi and Yemeni, currently in Saudi jails, as well as half a dozen women prisoners held there.

It is unlikely that the Saudis or the Yemenis are going to make concessions to al-Qaeda. Consequently, the next step is to see if al-Shawdakhi will carry out his threat to kill al-Khaldi.

This posting will be updated as new information becomes available.

Florida: Uruguayan Tourist Kidnapped, Robbed, Assaulted in Broward County



Lennard Mauricio Laprebendere Delgado, a Uruguayan tourist, was robbed, kidnapped and assaulted by two assailants after leaving the Pembroke Lakes Mallon Thursday afternoon (Mat 24).

Pembroke Pines police said that Delgado was reportedly walking along the south side of Macy's when a man forced him into a vehicle driven by another man.

Delgado said they drove him to a BP gas station at 10070 Pines Blvd. and made him buy beer for them. The suspects then drove him to the 21500 block of NW 39th Ave. in Miami Gardens where the one of the assailants punched him in the face, stole $200 cash from him and dropped him off.

COMMENT: This incident is a reminder that we never know when a personal crisis will confront us, which is one reason for all travelers to have their personal affairs in order and to always subscribe to international medical and evacuation coverage if traveling outside of your home country.


Incidents such as this is another reason why, no matter what country you're traveling in, always carry a cell phone that can be connected to the country's equivalent of a 911 emergency.

The victim reported that his two assailants were in their early 20s. Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact the Pembroke Pines Police Department at 954-431-2200, email to Tips@ppines.com, or call Crimestoppers at 954-493-TIPS.


Pembroke Pines is a city in South Florida's Broward County, FL. The population is 154,750, making it the second most populous city in Broward County and the eleventh most populous in Florida.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Malaysia: Pit Bull Mauling, Death Highlights Need to Prepare for Dog Attacks

On May 8, an elderly Malaysian man was viciously mauled and killed by a dog whose breed line was not verified, while jogging in Subang Jaya, an affluent suburban city of Klang Valley, across the state line in Selangor to the west of Kuala Lumpur. Consequently, authorities are still awaiting the DNA analysis results to determine the species of the dog in order to ascertain if it is a banned or restricted breed.

Police have classified the case against the dog owner, a 25-year-old accountant, as one of "causing death through negligence" under section 304(a) of the Penal Code, which provides for up to two years jail, a fine or both. The case is actionable under section 15(1) of its Dog Licensing and Kennel Establishment By-Laws 2007 which state that "an owner is guilty of an offense if a licensed dog chases, bites or attacks any person, whether or not any injury has been caused."

In the May 8 attack,  witnesses report said the attack went on for three to four minutes, during which the victim suffered multiple bite wounds on his neck and back, and had part of his left ear ripped off.

It should be noted that last September [2011], Irish tourist Maurice Sullivan, 50, was killed by a pit bull in Penang, while Mr. Sullivan and his girlfriend had wandered onto an organic farm.

COMMENT: One security threat that many foreign travelers do not stop to consider when planning a trip abroad is the potentiality of being bitten or attacked by dogs who run free, which is often commonplace in many countries.


That said, permit me to make a few observations concerning man's best friend. I've had dogs all my life and can honestly say that most breed are not genetically mean, unless they are strays or street dogs, or trained to be aggressive.


Admittedly, pit bulls, because of their physical characteristics and the manner in which they have been socialized by humans who train them for aggressiveness, often are involved in injuries or death to people.


Yet, there are many exceptions. My oldest daughter, Vicki, for example, is on the board of a dog rescue group in Oregon. While visiting both of my daughters last year, Vicki was serving as a foster Mom for an eight-week-old pit bull, Penelope, who has turned out to be one of the most lovable and affection dogs one might find anywhere.


In Australia, following the death of four-year-old child, who was mauled by a neighbor's pit bull mastiff in August 2011, the state of Victoria passed a law prescribing that dog owners that kill people will face up to 10 years in prison.

It has been argued that in many Western nations, singling out and prohibiting specific breeds such as the pit bull does not necessarily reduce dog attacks, largely because any large breed can be dangerous, and people who want an aggressive dog will simply train another large breed that is not banned.

The UK introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, and outlawed four breeds: the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro, as well as their cross breeds, leading to thousands of them being impounded and put down. The law was, however, amended in 1997 to give the courts discretion to allow dogs with good temperament and which pose no danger to the public to be kept, subject to tight restrictions.

Other options that many countries are examining include: (1) public muzzling of dangerous breeds; (2) mandatory leash laws; (3) insuring against third party claims in the event dogs bites and/or injures someone; (4) neutered to prevent undesired breeding; (5) monetary compensation for serious injury and or death; and (6) and mandatory microchip implanting with information on the dog and its owner.

One question that always comes up whether travelers should obtain the three-dose pre-exposure series of vaccinations against rabies. Generally speaking, only travelers who will be operating in isolated areas where emergency medical treatment is not accessible should consider the vaccinations, for if someone is bitten by any dog, they should seek immediate medical treatment within 24 hours, whether or not they have had the pre-exposure series. If the animal is not in custody, most medical providers will assume that the dog was rabid and administer post-exposure vaccinations. If the dog is in custody, the necessary tests will be conducted to corroborate or rule out rabies.


Obviously, dog lovers should not approach dogs while abroad, because they don't whether or such animals have been exposed to rabies.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Afghanistan: Five Aid Workers Kidnapped, Ransom Demand Likely

Five aid workers (two female physicians and three male co-workers) employed by the Swiss-based humanitarian group, Medair, were kidnapped  by gunmen while visiting a remote clinic in a mountainous area of Badakhshan province on Tuesday (May 22) when they were kidnapped. At the time, the aid workers were traveling by donkey, which further raises their vulnerability exposure.

COMMENT: Initial news reports suggest that the motivation for the abductions was money rather than political concessions. Rightly or wrongly, the victims had not informed Afghan security forces about their trip into the area. 

The good news is that afghan security forces have pinpointed the location where the five aid workers are being held and are apparently in negotiation with the kidnappers. 

The kidnapping of foreigners has become relatively common in parts of Afghanistan since U.S-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001, heralding a 10-year anti-insurgent war. In 2010, 10 foreign medical workers, including six Americans, were killed in Badakhshan in an attack blamed on insurgents. 

Medair is an emergency relief agency which has been active in Afghanistan since 1996. There it employs 15 expatriate and 175 local staff. 

This report will be updated as soon as new information becomes available.


Thailand: Fate of Three British Students Highlights Risk of Bus Travel

COMMENT: As most of our readers know, one my biggest concerns for international travelers is the continuing risk of injury or death stemming from the use of poorly maintained tour buses driven increasingly by inexperienced, often over tired drivers.

Unfortunately, the link below, from London's Telegraph, offers the details of the tragic deaths of three British students in Thailand on their gap year, who were killed in a preventable accident.

I strongly urge the parents of young adults to try to educate their sons and daughters on the need to take responsibility for their own actions when it comes to making wise choices pertaining to the risks they will face abroad.

Although I remember my youth as if it was yesterday, my Mom always instilled in me the need to make wise choices when it came to my personal safety and security.  Although God rest her soul, she was never fully aware of the high-risk work that I did during my career, I'm alive today thanks to her nurturing counsel.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/9285905/British-teenagers-died-in-Thai-gap-year-bus-crash-after-driver-errors.html

New Jersey: Assaliant Who Stabbed, Killed Two Canadian Tourists Remanded

As a follow-up to my posting of May 22, concerning a mentally ill woman, Antoinette Pelzer, 44, who stabbed and murdered two Canadian tourists (Po Lin Wan, 80, and Alice Mei See Leung, 47),  on Monday (May 21) in the casino district of Atlantic City, has been remanded into custody with bail being set at US$1.5 million.

COMMENT: This was a random attack that can only be described as a mother and daughter being in the wrong place at the wrong time. According to Pelzer's mother, Gladys, her daughter suffered from schizophrenia and may not have been taking her medication.

Sadly this sequence of events which led to a very tragic ending for all concerned, brings home lessons learned for all of us:


1. All travelers need to subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before leaving home, in the event of a catastrophic medical emergency such as this; and


2. We should NEVER put off ensuring that our last will and testament, medical directive for health care professionals, power of attorney and letter of instruction for executors are in place, because we never know what will happen tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Russia: Japanese Tourist, 31, Brutally Stabbed to Death While Camping, Robbery Ruled Out

Japanese tourist Ohnita Kaiti, 31, was stabbed nearly thirty times and killed in recent days, while camping alone near a highway in the west Trans-Baikal region of Siberia.  His body was found near the

The victim was found near the Chita-Irkutsk Highway, yet strangely his Suzuki motorcycle, tent, clothes, cell phone, money and other personal items were not taken.

COMMENT: Over the years I have performed consulting assignments for both the Japanese government as well as several Japanese multinationals. As a result, I have always been struck by the fact that so many Japanese travelers, being from a country with a relatively low rate of violent crime, are often ill-prepared for the perilous risks they face outside of their homeland.

Unfortunately, Siberia specifically and Russia generally are both destinations that are fraught with a high threat of criminal violence, particularly for solo travelers. Over the last couple of years, I have cautioned travelers concerning the prevailing threat in hikers' hostels and in camping out alone, where the probability of violence is very high.

Tragically, in recent months I have posted a number of reports where solo travelers have been robbed, raped or murdered. Although perhaps the world was a kinder, gentler place to travel in two or three decades ago, but today I strongly discourage solo travel in high-risk areas because a person traveling alone is so vulnerable to being preyed upon, particularly when asleep.

In today's world there are few "safe" countries anywhere. Although it would be nice if there were, but sadly there are not. Consequently, travelers who fail to have a strong sense of personal security awareness will become tomorrow's victims.

For the benefit of our readers, I offer country-specific SAFE FOREIGN TRAVEL workshops for a wide assortment of travelers either on-site anywhere in the world, or via audio or video-based webinars. For further information, please contact me at ed@sbrisksolutions.com.  

 








Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Arizona: Young German Tourist, 35, Succumbs, Dies in 105 Degree Weather

Sibylle Reitmeyer, 35, a German tourist from Fuldatal, tragically died, very possibly from heat exhaustion or a heart ailment on Monday afternoon (May 21), while hiking in Tucson's Saguaro National Park West with a companion.

The young hiker collapsed near the Hugh Norris Trail Head just after1400 hours, when the temperature reached 105 degree. She was pronounced dead at the scene. 

COMMENT: As of this posting, the county medical examiner's office has not released the woman's cause of death. The National Weather Service reported that it was one of the earliest days to reach 105 degrees since the late 1800s. 

It is essential that foreign travelers unaccustomed to excessively high temperatures research the symptoms of heat exhaustion and avoid outside activities during the heat of the day.

This posting will be updated as new information becomes available.

New Jersey: Assailant Who Stabbed Two Canadian Tourists to Death Mentally Ill

As a follow-up to my posting earlier today (May 22), Antoinette Pelzer, 44, a woman with a lengthy history of schizophrenia and being homeless, is being held by Atlantic City police in connection with the multiple stabbing deaths of two Canadian women, ages 80 and 47, who were killed on Monday (May 21). 
 
Witnesses told police that Pelzer, 44, had attempted to steal a purse from one of the women and then stabbed them them repeatedly.

COMMENT: Peltzer was initially charged with aggravated assault and robbery, but authorities are planning to upgrade the charges to homicide, although given the assailant's mental condition, her attorney will no doubt plead her not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Unfortunately, there are far to many individuals such as the assailant who have over the years been released from mental health facilities that pose a clear and present danger to residents and tourists alike in the US.


Cambodia: Thirteen Foreign Tourists Injured in Bus Crash, Sleepy Driver Suspected

According to The Phnom Penh Post, a tour bus transporting some 21 passengers, was involved in a single-vehicle "accident" on Friday (May 17),  in Pursat province’s Krakor district. Those injured included thirteen tourists from Norway, Denmark, France, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.

COMMENT: The bus, owned by Angkor Express, suddenly swerved when, according to passengers, the driver dozed off and attempted to get the bus back on the road, but failed in his effort, at which point the bus rolled onto its side.

Most of the injured were treated at a local hospital and released.

As most of our regular readers know, one of my biggest concerns with the risks faced by foreign travelers is the unacceptable frequency of tour bus accidents, particularly in developing countries, most of which are attributed to either unsafe buses or overtired and/or inexperienced drivers, who are forced to work too many hours.

Tour operators are urged to be very cautious in evaluating the safety of transportation providers, as their reputations and future business may be dependent upon it. Unfortunately, though, too many tour operators cut costs wherever and whenever they can, but transportation is not an area where quality and safety should be sacrificed.


New Jersey: Two Canadian Tourists, 47, 80, Stabbed to Death in Atlantic City

Tragically, two female Canadian tourists, ages 47 and 80, were both stabbed repeatedly at approximately 1000 hours on Monday (May 21) in Atlantic City in the casino district and were pronounced dead in a trauma center. Identification of the victims has been withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.

According to authorities, Antoinette E. Pelzer, 44, a Pennsylvanian, stabbed the two Canadian women at the intersection of Michigan and Pacific avenues, a busy section of the resort city near Bally’s Casino. 

Initial reports said witnesses described the stabbings as an attempted robbery. Authorities said it was unclear how long Pelzer had been in Atlantic City or where she was staying. 

COMMENT:  Monday’s murder victims were the seventh and eighth of the year in the city of 40,000, according to Atlantic City's The Press.

Given the repeated stabbings that both victims sustained, it is very possible that there may have been much more to the attack than economic gain.

Such attacks as this are a reminder that tourists and travelers must always be vigilant, regardless of the time of day. That said, several major cities in New Jersey are known to have high-levels of violent crime.

This case will be updated as new information becomes available. 



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Haiti: Americans Arrested Wearing Military Apparel During Protest in Capital

US citizens Zeke Petrie, 39, of Barberton, Ohio, and Steven Shaw, 57, of Massachusetts, were both arrested in Port-au-Prince on Friday (May 18) for driving vehicles with protesters who were advocating the return of Haiti's disbanded army. Both were wearing apparel associated with the banned military unit.

COMMENT: Ex-soldiers and supporters of the disbanded army have been urging President Michel Martelly to honor his campaign goal of restoring the armed forces, which was abolished in 1995 because of its abusive human rights record. 
 
Unfortunately, foreign nationals who are old enough to know better should understand the potential ramifications of being arrested in a foreign country on grounds of interfering with the local political process, considering Haiti's turbulent history and poor human rights record. Such actions could very well cause them to be minimally deported and denied a visa in the future and potentially face severe fines and/or imprisonment.
 

Guatemala: British Foreign Office Issues Updated Travel Advice

Note: The British Foreign Office has issued a very informative and updated travel report for Guatemala, which I strongly recommend. See below:

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/north-central-america/guatemala

UAE: Former Dubai Cop Loses Appeal in Rape of Japanese Tourist, Life Sentence Stands

As a follow-up to my December 28, 2011 posting, earlier today (May 20) a former Dubai policeman failed to win his appeal of a life sentence for his abduction and rape of a Japanese tourist, 24, in Hatta. Hence he will remain in prison for the rest of his life.

The defendant  pleaded not guilty and refuted the Japanese woman's kidnap and rape claims. Meanwhile, his lawyers asked court to acquit him of kidnap and rape or to modify the charges to consensual sex.

COMMENT: As many of my 1,200+ postings advocate, foreign tourists and travelers are urged to be cautious and suspicious and avoid accepting rides from people they don't know, particularly public officials who are not on duty.

In retrospect it would have been much wiser for the tourist in this case to have arranged for a licensed hotel taxi or guide to show her the sites rather than accepting a ride from a stranger. 
 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bolivia: US Department of State Expresses Concern for US Businessman on Hunger Strike

As a follow-up to my series of postings in recent months concerning the plight of US businessman Jacob Ostreicher, 53, who has been held in a Bolivian jail since January of this year on complicated circumstances,  the US Government publicly expressed concern for Ostreicher's plight on Thursday (May 17), who has been on a hunger strike for several weeks in an effort to bring attention to his legal predicament.

COMMENT: Unfortunately for Mr. Ostreicher, legally he can held for 18 months without being formally charged with a crime.


Considering that I've followed Ostreicher's case closely in recent months, to my knowledge, this is the first time the US has publicly advocated on his behalf for a fair and transparent. 

Regrettably, a speedy trial is guaranteed in the US, but rarely in many developing countries. US consular officials have, however, been in attendance at all of the American's court appearances.

Ostreicher traveled to Bolivia in 2008 to start a rice plantation in the eastern province of Santa Cruz, in partnership with several other people. 


His Bolivian defense attorney, Jimmy Montaño, said prosecutors began investigating Ostreicher for alleged money laundering after Ostreicher’s Bolivian agent purchased land from two Brazilian nationals suspected of ties to drug trafficking. 

It noteworthy to point out that foreign businesspeople everywhere need to be extremely detail-oriented and cautious in engaging in any business agreements in developing nations, in particular, and be vigilant in conducting THOROUGH due diligence to ensure that they are dealing with reputable partners and honesty intermediaries. Otherwise, it is very easy for them to be become embroiled in legal difficulty such as those that befell Mr. Ostreicher.



Jamaica: American Tourist, 48, Killed by Minibus Driver Near Montego Bay

According to the Associated Press, Jamaican police report that a US tourist, Latanya Shivers, 48,  died after being hit by a minibus near the tourist resort of Montego Bay on Friday (May 18). The woman resided in the state of Ohio.

COMMENT: The minibus driver apparently lost control of his vehicle and hit Shivers and another man who were part of a group standing on a sidewalk. They said Shivers died while receiving medical treatment at the hospital. The man who was also hit is expected to survive. Unfortunately, the driver of the minibus has not as yet been charged.

As I have mentioned in previous postings in the past, such accidents are commonplace in developing nations, which is why I always urge foreign tourists and travelers to ensure that they have subscribed to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before departure from home.




Bahamas: Serious Criminal Threats Prevail for Tourists, Travelers

NOTE: Effective May 11, 2012, the Regional Security Officer at the US Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, has issued its annual Crime and Safety Report for the Bahamas and has classified the criminal threat in New Providence Island as CRITICAL and the criminal threat in Grand Bahamas Island (including Freeport) as HIGH.

For all travelers destined for the Bahamas, please read this report carefully:


"Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Bahamas is a renowned tourist destination with cruise-line ports of call and numerous luxury resorts. The Bahamas has over 700 islands that make up the archipelago and are roughly equivalent in size to California. The combined population of the islands is approximately 310,000. Only 25 of the 700 islands have significant populations, and about two-thirds of all Bahamians live on the small island (7 x 21 miles) of New Providence, where the capital Nassau is located and what is the center of commerce.

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State rates the criminal threat level for New Providence Island as CRITICAL. The U.S. Department of State rates the criminal threat level for Grand Bahama Island, which includes Freeport, as HIGH. New Providence Island, in particular, has experienced a spike in crime that has adversely affected the traveling public. Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes against tourists. There has been a dramatic increase in general crimes in 2011.

In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in “over-the-hill” areas, which are not frequented by tourists. However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations. These incidents have specifically occurred in the downtown areas, to include the cruise ship docks (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach commerce areas. Residential security also remains a great concern as the number of incidents involving house burglaries and break-ins has also increased.

Criminal activity in the outlying family islands does occur but to a much lesser degree than on New Providence Island. The Embassy has received reports of burglaries and thefts, especially thefts of boats and/or outboard motors on some of the family islands.

The Bahamas has experienced a spate of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences. Perpetrators of these types of crimes typically conduct pre-attack surveillance by watching the intended victim. There were several reports in 2011 of victims being followed home after closing the business in an attempt to steal the nightly deposit. Several victims were severely injured. This underscores that common activities can directly impact personal security.

Counterfeit and pirated goods are available in The Bahamas. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under Bahamian law. Bringing such products into the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

There were 127 homicides in The Bahamas in 2011, up from 94 in 2010, with nearly all the victims being Bahamian. This is a 35 percent increase from 2010. The police report that many of the homicides were a result of drugs, domestic violence, and retaliation/retribution crimes with firearms being the weapon of choice. While the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) works closely with U.S. law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking, police attribute most murders to drugs and domestic violence, and they assert that many of the high numbers of home invasions and robberies are also related to drugs.

In late 2011, there have been numerous reports by cruise ship tourists and others regarding incidents of armed robberies of cash and jewelry. These incidents were reported during daylight and nighttime hours. In several cases, the victims were robbed at knifepoint, and gold necklaces and jewelry were taken. Cash-for-gold is a new business in The Bahamas that may have resulted in the increase of these types of crimes.

The U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged. The Bahamas has the highest incidence of reported rape in the world according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime, violence, and development trends. The number of reported rapes increased 37 percent from 78 in 2010 to 107 in 2011. Two American citizens were murdered in Nassau in 2009, both in residential areas. Home break-ins, theft, and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island. 

The upsurge in criminal activity has also led to incidents, which, while not directed at tourists, could place innocent bystanders at risk. In 2011, there was an armed robbery at a well-known downtown department store when many tourists were in the area. Automatic assault weapons were used in this robbery and have been reported to be used in other robberies. In previous years, several daytime robberies in Nassau led to exchanges of gunfire on the busy streets.

The Embassy has not received reports of harassment or hate crimes motivated by race, religion, or citizenship. However, the Embassy does receive frequent reports about discrimination against and harassment of Haitians. In previous years, there have been reports of harassment and killings of persons based on sexual orientation. In addition, women have reported incidents of verbal harassment and unwanted attention.

Vehicle thefts (including motorcycles, boats, and personal watercraft) do occur, with vehicles usually being taken immediately to chop-shops and disassembled for parts or shipped to other islands of The Bahamas.

Road Safety

Traffic in The Bahamas moves on the left side of the roadway (i.e. opposite from that in the United States). Pedestrians need to remember that vehicular traffic comes from the opposite to what one would expect in the United States, as many tourists have been struck by cars after failing to check properly for oncoming traffic. Traffic circles are a common feature, and traffic in the circles have the right of way. Traffic congestion in Nassau is endemic, and drivers occasionally display aggressive tendencies and sometimes drive recklessly passing on the right into oncoming traffic.

Many motorists disobey traffic control devices, to include stop signs, speed limits, and traffic signals. Police enforcement of traffic laws is minimal, and visitors driving on the roadways should use caution.

Traffic accidents pose a safety hazard in some parts of The Bahamas, primarily due to impatient drivers speeding and driving recklessly on two-way, two-lane roads not designed for high-speed travel. Some major streets do not have adequate shoulders or even passable sidewalks, compelling pedestrians to walk in the right-of-way. Motorcyclists frequently swerve through slow traffic and drive between lanes of moving vehicles. It is not uncommon to see poorly maintained or excessively loaded vehicles on roadways. Rural roads can be narrow, winding, and in poor condition.

If involved in a traffic accident, the police require that the vehicles not be moved until a police officer arrives to investigate the accident. The police can sometimes be slow to vehicle accidents.

Flooding frequently occurs on roads in many areas, including Nassau and Freeport, during and after storms and hurricanes sometimes making roadways impassable. Drivers should be alert for unmarked or poorly marked construction zones.

Visitors should exercise appropriate caution when renting vehicles, including motorcycles, jet skis, and mopeds, in The Bahamas. Travel by moped or bicycle can be quite hazardous, especially in the heavy traffic conditions prevalent in Nassau. Those who choose to ride a motorcycle, moped, or bicycle in particular should follow Bahamian helmet laws and drive very defensively. The Embassy continues to see a large number of moped accidents each year resulting in injury and sometimes death as a result of driver inexperience, inattention by the moped operator, and other motorists. Wearing a helmet is highly recommended to avoid serious injury.

Rental of personal watercraft (jet skis) is very popular at many resorts and beaches in The Bahamas. Visitors should use extreme caution and not operate such watercraft unless you are experienced. Use of life jackets is highly recommended. The Embassy has seen numerous injuries and fatalities as a result of not following proper safety instructions by the jet ski operators.

Roadside assistance is also widely available through private towing services.

Political Violence
 
Historical Perspective

The Bahamas is a stable democracy that shares democratic principles, personal freedoms, and rule of law with the United States. There is little to no threat facing Americans from domestic (Bahamian) terrorism, war, or civil unrest. The Bahamas has been an independent country since 1973.

Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime

Some organized crime activity is believed to occur, primarily related to the illegal importation and smuggling of illicit drugs or human trafficking. The Bahamas, due to its numerous uninhabited islands and cays, has been favored by smugglers and pirates. Most visitors would not have any interaction with organized crime elements; however, persons who operate their own water craft or air craft should be alert to the possibility of encountering similar vessels operated by smugglers engaged in illicit activities on the open seas or air space in or near The Bahamas.

International Terrorism or Transnational Terrorism

There is a moderate threat of trans-national terrorism due to the porous borders, though there are no known terrorist groups active in The Bahamas, and terrorist groups native to the western hemisphere do not typically operate in the northeastern Caribbean.

Civil Unrest

Generally, public protests and demonstrations are rare and do not tend to be violent in nature. However, limited Bahamian law enforcement resources make rapid response to public disorder difficult, particularly on islands other than New Providence. Visitors should protect themselves by avoiding demonstrations of any kind. Strikes are generally limited to “industrial actions” or work-to-rule actions, which, on at least one occasion, caused major disruption to the public road networks. The airports have also seen instances of “Go Slow” actions resulting in considerable delays by incoming and outgoing flights.

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Hurricanes and tropical storms frequent The Bahamas from June through November. Travelers and U.S. businesses are advised to consider devoting resources and time to emergency planning for the possibility of inclement weather, particularly during hurricane season. Travelers should pay close attention to the weather forecast during the hurricane seasons.  

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

Although The Bahamas prides itself on keeping the country clean, there is minimal enforcement of environmental standards. Used automotive oil is routinely dumped in vacant lots, and there is no program for recycling.

Kidnappings

There have been very few reports of kidnappings in The Bahamas.

Drug and Narco-Terrorism

The Bahamas has a long history of being a route for smugglers of narcotics, illegal immigrants, and weapons into the United States. Drugs are illegal in The Bahamas. As a major transshipment point for traffickers, U.S. businesses should be mindful not to conduct business with questionable persons or enterprises. It is lawful for the Royal Bahamian Police Force to conduct sting operations using entrapment techniques. There have been numerous reports of visitors being arrested for possession and use of drugs in The Bahamas. Individuals who arrested may be expected to serve prison time and/or pay a substantial fine.

Police Response

The police generally respond quickly to hotels and establishments frequented by foreigners who are victims of crime. 911 o 919 are the police/medical emergency numbers. There have been complaints that police are slow to respond to emergency calls in the residential areas and the 911 and 919 numbers often go unanswered. Recent changes in the police structure have promised a more proactive approach to deter crime. Police have few emergency vehicles, and streets and houses are generally unmarked, inhibiting responders from locating affected residences. To ensure quick response to a residence, victims may have to go to the local police station and provide transportation to the site.

Royal Bahamian Police Force officers are uniformed in bright white dress coats and blue trousers. Officers also wear a more subdued navy blue uniform with a black beret. Officers are regularly seen walking foot patrols or on bicycles in areas frequented by tourists. The local police emergency numbers are 911 or 919.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If detained by the police one should cooperate, identify yourself as an American citizen and request to make contact with the U.S. Embassy immediately. Police harassment of Americans is rare. Attempting to bribe an officer of the Royal Bahamas Police Force is a serious offense. Visitors should not attempt to “tip” police officers for their services.

Where to Turn for Assistance if you Become a Victim of a Crime and Local Police Telephone Numbers

Visitors are advised to report crime to the Royal Bahamas Police Force as quickly as possible. Early reports frequently improve the likelihood of identifying and apprehending suspected perpetrators. In general, the Royal Bahamian Police Force is responsive to reports of crime and takes the threat of crime against tourists very seriously. However, the police response is sometimes slowed by a lack of resources or by the physical constraints imposed by geography and infrastructure.

Medical Emergencies

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Serious health problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and air ambulance companies generally require payment or an insurer’s guarantee of payment up front. Bahamian physicians and hospitals do not usually accept U.S. medical insurance policies and typically expect immediate cash or credit card payment/deposits for professional services.

Adequate medical care is available on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands. Medical care is more limited elsewhere. Some private clinics offer basic primary care. HIV/AIDS is a growing health concern in The Bahamas. Medical facilities in The Bahamas are generally limited and not equipped to handle many emergencies, especially those requiring surgery. For serious cases, treatment in even the best hospitals would probably require medical evacuation after stabilization.

There is a chronic shortage of blood at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where most emergency surgery is performed. Travelers with rare blood types should know the names and locations of possible blood donors should the need arise. The Lyford Cay Hospital has a hyperbaric chamber for treatment of decompression illness associate with deep sea diving.

Ambulance service is available but may not be able to respond quickly in the event of a major emergency or disaster.

Contact Information for Local Hospitals and Clinics

General emergency numbers:  911 or 919 for police/fire/ambulance

New Providence Island

Doctor’s Hospital (Private hospital on New Providence Island)
    Ambulance Service:  (242) 302-4747
    Emergency Room: (242) 302-4658
    General: (242) 322-8411 or 322-8418 or 302-4600

Princess Margaret (Public hospital on New Providence Island)
    Ambulance Service: 919 or (242) 323-2586 or 323-2597
    Emergency Room: (242) 326-7014
    General: (242) 322-2861

Medical Walk-In Clinic – Colin’s Avenue – Near Downtown Nassau
    General: (242) 328-0783 or 328-2744

Medical Walk-In Clinic – Sandyport Business Center – Near Cable Beach
    General: (242) 327-5485

Grand Bahama Island

Sunrise Medical Center (Private) (242) 373-3333
Rand Memorial Hospital (Government run hospital): (242) 352-6735
Lucayan Medical Center (Clinic West Freeport): (242) 352-7288
Lucayan Medical Center (Clinic East Freeport): (242) 373-7000

SOS (Emergency Air Flight Services) servicing The Bahamas. Alarm Center, Philadelphia, PA open 24 hours for International SOS Assistance, Inc. 1 (215) 942-8226 or 1 (800) 523-5686 or 1 (215) 245-4707

Air Ambulance Services  

New Providence also has air ambulance services available. Air Ambulance: (242) 323-2186, 380-6666

SOS (Emergency Air Flight Services) servicing The Bahamas. Alarm Center, Philadelphia, open 24 hours for International SOS Assistance, Inc. 1 (215) 942-8226 or 1 (800) 523-5686 or 1 (215) 245-4707

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Visitors should exercise caution and use good judgment at all times. Engaging in high-risk behavior such as excessive consumption of alcohol can be dangerous, as it greatly increases the vulnerability of an individual to accidents or opportunistic crime. Visitors should not accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers. Utilize universal security tips and good common sense. Do not leave valuables on the beach or pool-side while swimming. If you are in an area that makes you feel uncomfortable or you do not see other tourists, you are probably in the wrong area of town. Visitors should protect themselves as they would in any large or major metropolitan city. Visitors are strongly encouraged to travel in groups and use taxi cabs during the night.

Opportunistic crimes such as petty thefts and vehicle theft occur in The Bahamas as does fraudulent use of bank and credit card account numbers. There have been numerous reports in 2011 of credit and debit card numbers being compromised and unauthorized charges being placed on the card holder’s account from other countries to include the U.S. and Europe. Persons using credit or debit cards should regularly check accounts for suspicious activity.

Home invasions, generally not random events, can be deterred by use of residential alarm systems, window grillwork, guards, substantial locks, lighting, and a good emergency plan. Although forced entry of residences is a concern, the combination of a residential alarm, anti-burglar grill-work, neighborhood watches and roving security patrols have proven an effective deterrent. Still, should you be confronted by a group or person demanding money or valuables, you should comply with their demands and make the encounter as brief as possible. Many criminals in The Bahamas carry firearms and knives. Unless provoked, criminals engaged in property crimes in The Bahamas do not generally engage in gratuitous violence. In 2011, there have been several reported armed robberies using a knife where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim fought back and resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch and grabs involving purses, jewelry, and gold necklaces.

Areas to Avoid and Best Security Practices

Much of the violent crime on New Providence Island happens in non-tourist areas referred to locally as “over-the-hill.” These areas are generally south of the downtown Nassau area south of Shirley Street. These areas are not clearly defined but encompass the lower income areas on New Providence, often populated with a higher concentration of immigrants. Visitors should avoid these areas especially at night.

Americans can generally avoid becoming victims of crime by following common sense precautions they might use in any large U.S. city and not engaging in risky personal behavior. If confronted by armed criminals remember your vehicle or valuables are not worth your or anyone else’s life. If confronted by criminals, try to remain calm, clearly display your hands, and do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance. Armed criminals have become brazen and have resorted to violence and assault during reported robberies in 2011. Gratuitous violence is not the norm during home invasions in The Bahamas.

Always be vigilant – look for possible threats or what looks out of the norm in your surroundings.

Pay close attention to any unusual activity that may have occurred since leaving home. Things like an open gate; unfamiliar vehicles parked nearby, house doors forced open, or shattered windows.

Do not leave belongings unsecured at the residence or hotel room. Vehicles, bicycles, generators, and other property will attract criminals. If the items cannot be placed inside, then visibly secure them with a chain and lock as a deterrent. Secure your home. Use alarm systems regularly and be familiar with the emergency panic alarm codes. Close and lock all windows and doors. Consider purchasing timers to turn on outside and inside lights automatically at various times throughout the night. Check outside lighting and replace light bulbs if necessary. Do not forget to lock garage or gate doors. Visitors staying in hotels should secure valuable such as jewelry, passports, cell phones, or other high value items in a hotel safe or deposit box. Keep a TV or radio playing when not in the room and use your “Do Not Disturb” sign to deter would be criminals.

Keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up as you drive. Do not put your windows down for unfamiliar persons. In crawling traffic or in a stopped line of cars, leave at least one car length between you and the car in front of you. This will allow you to move your vehicle in the event of an emergency and also prevent a three car accident if you are hit from behind. At night, park in well-lit areas observable by shops, passersby, or attendants when possible. Avoid unlit areas where persons could hide and ambush. Check your surroundings when getting in and out of your vehicle.

Arrange to have your lawn mowed periodically if you will be gone for an extended period of time. Arrange to have a friend or colleague check your home and pick up newspapers or other deliveries daily.

Most crimes occur at night so think prudently about night-time travel. Inform someone of you travel plans and when to expect you.

If you believe you are being followed, drive immediately to a safe location such as a police station, a gas station, or a hotel.

Embassy Contact Numbers
Regional Security Officer (242) 322-1181 ext 4267
Embassy Operator (242) 322-1181
Consular Affairs (242) 322-1181 ext 4519
Political/Economic Section (242) 322-1181 ext 4206
Marine Post One (242) 322-1181 ext 4311

OSAC Country Council: As of January 2012, there is no formal OSAC Country Council in The Bahamas."