Crimes such as kidnappings, death threats, murders, armed robberies, home break-ins and car-jacking are not uncommon in Haiti. Generally, these crimes are committed by Haitians against other Haitians, but foreigners and U.S. citizens have been victimized. The incidence of kidnapping in Haiti has diminished from its peak in 2006 when 60 U.S. citizens were reported kidnapped. In 2012 there were nine reported kidnappings of U.S. citizens, two homicides, seventeen aggravated assaults, one sexual assault, and 115 reported robberies. In recent years, some U.S. citizens who were kidnapped reported being beaten and/or raped by their hostage takers. Kidnapping remains the most critical security concern, and kidnappers have not been averse to targeting children in the past.
It is important to exercise a high degree of caution throughout the country. Keep valuables well hidden, ensure possessions are not left in parked vehicles, use private transportation, alternate your travel routes, and keep doors and windows in homes and vehicles closed and locked. You should avoid all night-time travel due to poor road conditions and increased criminal activity after dark. Remain alert for suspicious onlookers when entering and exiting banks, as criminals often watch and subsequently attack bank customers. Withdrawals of large amounts of cash should be avoided.
Criminal perpetrators often operate in groups of two to four individuals, and may occasionally be confrontational and gratuitously violent. Criminals sometimes will seriously injure or kill those who resist their attempts to commit crime. In robberies or home invasions, it is not uncommon for the assailants to beat or shoot the victim in order to limit the victim's ability to resist. If an armed individual demands the surrender of a vehicle or other valuables, we recommend that you comply. This recommendation also applies in the event of a kidnapping. Exercise caution at all times and review basic personal security procedures frequently.
Avoid using public transportation, including "tap-taps" (private transportation used for commercial purposes). All public transportation is prohibited for Embassy personnel due to the safety and security risks associated with its use. When arriving to Haiti by air, arrange for someone you know to meet you at the airport.
You should decline all requests to carry items for others to or from Haiti. Traffickers of illegal drugs have duped unsuspecting travelers into helping transport narcotics aboard commercial airlines.
Avoid certain high-crime zones in the Port-au-Prince area, including Croix-des-Bouquets, Carrefour, Martissant, the port road (Boulevard La Saline), urban route Nationale #1, route Nationale #9, the airport road (Boulevard Toussaint L'Ouverture) and its adjoining connectors to the New ("American") Road via Route Nationale #1 (which should also be avoided). This latter area in particular has been the scene of numerous robberies, car-jackings, and murders. Embassy employees are prohibited from entering Cite Soleil and La Saline and their surrounding environs due to significant criminal activity. Neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince once considered relatively safe, such as the Delmas road area, Petionville, and Vivy Mitchel have been the scenes of an increasing number of violent crimes.
Cameras and video cameras should only be used with the permission of the subjects; violent incidents have followed unwelcome photography. Avoid photography/videography in high-crime areas.
Holiday periods, especially Christmas and Carnival, often bring a significant increase in criminal activity. Haiti's Carnival season is marked by street celebrations in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. In recent years, Carnival has been accompanied by civil disturbances, altercations and severe traffic disruptions. People attending Carnival events or simply caught in the resulting celebrations have been injured and killed. Random stabbings during Carnival season have also occurred. Roving musical bands called “rah-rahs” operate during the period from New Year's Day through Carnival. Being caught in a rah-rah event may begin as an enjoyable experience, but the potential for injury and the destruction of property is high. A mob mentality can develop unexpectedly leaving people and cars engulfed and at risk. During Carnival, rah-rahs continuously form without warning; some rah-rahs have identified themselves with political entities, lending further potential for violence.
While the size of the Haitian National Police (HNP) is slowly increasing and its capabilities improving, it is still understaffed and under-equipped. As a result, it is unable to respond to all calls for assistance. There are continued allegations of police complicity in criminal activity. The response and enforcement capabilities of the HNP and the weakness of the judiciary often frustrate victims of crime in Haiti. In the past, U.S. citizens involved in business and property disputes in Haiti have been arrested and detained without charge and have been released only after intervention at high levels of the Haitian government.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are pirated goods illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may be also breaking local law.
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