By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
NASSAU, Bahamas — The Canadian government has warned its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to The Bahamas due to high rates of crime, including a reported increase of sexual assaults against tourists.
The warning on the Canadian government’s website was updated on Friday and said that violent crime mainly occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama.
“Sexual assault occurs frequently, particularly near hotels, in hotel rooms, in casinos, on cruise ships and on the beach,” the Canadians said.
“Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, do not consume any drugs and don’t accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers. Due to incidents of sexual assault, it is recommended to be wary when embarking on jet-ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators.”
The Canadians further warned that “sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau, including on Paradise Island”.
The warning noted that “in some incidents, the victim was drugged”.
Police said last week that overall crime in The Bahamas for 2017 was down 14 percent compared to 2016.
The data from police for 2017 shows that every category of crime reported, with the exception of murder, unlawful sexual intercourse and manslaughter, decreased.
According to statistics, there were 52 cases of rape reported in 2017, 11 cases of attempted rape and 146 cases of unlawful sexual intercourse.
In its warning, Canada said that it also received reports of an increase in other crimes.
“There has been an increase in muggings, armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault targeting tourists in the cities of Nassau and Freeport,” the warning said.
“Incidents of robbery take place in cruise ship terminals and in and around popular resort areas, even in daylight hours.
“If you are threatened by robbers stay calm and do not resist. Avoid non-tourist neighborhoods in downtown Nassau, especially at night, where the crime accounts for much of Bahamas’ high murder rate.”
The Canadians also warned that petty theft and purse snatching “frequently occurs in tourist areas”.
“When driving, keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up,” the advisory warned.
“Never get out of your car to remove items blocking the road; this could be a ploy by armed assailants to rob you. Keep valuables out of sight in your parked vehicle.
“Stay alert to your surroundings, even in areas normally considered safe. Avoid deserted beaches and do not walk alone, particularly after dark. Crime increases during the holidays.”
The warning follows a recent US State Department travel advisory that warned US citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting the country due to crime.
The advisory further urged visitors to “avoid the area known as Over-the- Hill, south of Shirley Street, and Fish Fry at Arawak Cay in Nassau at night”.
Deputy director general of tourism Ellison Thompson called that warning unfortunate.
Former minister of state for national security Keith Bell said the United States was being unfair.
But Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the US is within its rights to issue any warning to protect its citizens.