Crime is widespread in Honduras and requires a high degree of caution by U.S. visitors and residents alike. U.S. citizens have been the victims of a wide range of crimes, including murder, kidnapping, rape, assault, and property crimes. Widespread poverty and unemployment, along with significant street gang and drug trafficking activity, have contributed to the extremely high crime rate. In January 2012, the Peace Corps suspended its program in Honduras in order to review the safety and security of its volunteers.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2011 Global Study on Homicide, Honduras has the highest per capita homicide rate in the world, with 86 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants. Although crime and violent crime occur in all parts of Honduras, the north coast and central portions of the country have historically had the country’s highest crime rates. Copan, Roatan/Bay Islands, and other tourist destinations have lower crime rates than other parts of the country.
Since 1995, 115 U.S. citizens were reported murdered in Honduras; of these, just 32 cases have been resolved. Three U.S. citizens were reported murdered in Honduras between January and September 2013.
Since 2010, nine U.S. citizens have been reported as victims of rape or sexual assault in Honduras, signaling an increasing trend in these types of crimes. Two U.S. citizens reported incidents of rape or sexual assault between January and September 2013. Perpetrators of sexual assaults are often armed.
Kidnappings have occurred in recent years, with large ransoms paid and infrequent capture of the kidnappers. One U.S. citizen was reported kidnapped between January and September 2013..
U.S. citizens are primarily the victims of opportunistic crime. There is no evidence suggesting criminals specifically target U.S. citizens, but foreigners have been targeted for crime due to their perceived wealth. Weapons abound in Honduras, and armed street robberies are especially common, with criminals taking advantage of relatively isolated victims to steal their valuables. Young males working in pairs, often riding motorcycles, are perpetrating many of the armed robberies in Honduras’ urban areas. Criminals and pickpockets target visitors as they enter and depart airports and hotels, so visitors should consider carrying their passports and valuables in a concealed pouch. We have also confirmed reports of armed robbers traveling in private cars targeting pedestrians on isolated streets.
Incidents of crime along roads, including carjacking and kidnapping, are common in Honduras. There have been frequent incidents of carjacking and highway robbery on a number of roads including the main highway (CA-5) between San Pedro Sula and Siguatepeque, with the greatest risk between Potrerillos and Pito Solo in the lake area. Travelers should always drive with their doors locked and windows rolled up to avoid potential robberies at traffic lights and other places, such as congested downtown streets. Avoid driving at night. All bus travel should be during daylight hours and on first-class conveyances, not economy buses. Choose taxis carefully, and note the driver’s name and license number. Instruct the driver not to pick up other passengers, agree on the fare before you depart, and have small bills available for payment, as taxi drivers often do not make change. When possible, travel in groups.
Incidents of piracy off the coast of Honduras can occur. In 2012, a U.S. citizen reported that his boat was boarded and his passengers were the victims of an armed robbery while sailing in Honduran waters near Puerto Cortes, three miles north of Punta Sal. In 2011, a Canadian citizen was killed in a similar incident. U.S. citizens should exercise caution while sailing or mooring in Honduran waters.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to be vigilant of their surroundings at all times, especially when entering or exiting their homes, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces. It is also recommended that drivers vary their routes and schedules so as to not create a predictable routine. Individuals should also limit the sharing of personal information and closely screen personal employees. Should a U.S. citizen be kidnapped, local authorities and the U.S. Embassy should be contacted immediately.
The Honduran government conducts occasional joint police/military patrols in major cities in an effort to reduce crime. However, Honduran law enforcement authorities’ ability to prevent, respond to, and investigate criminal incidents and prosecute criminals is limited. Honduran police generally do not speak English. The government has established a special tourist police in the resort town of Tela and other tourist destinations including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Roatan, but the number of tourist police deployed is small and coverage is limited.
The Basilica of Suyapa in Tegucigalpa, also known as Suyapa Church or Cathedral, is an important religious site and popular tourist destination. However, it is situated in a high crime area and has been the site of numerous armed robberies and thefts. U.S. citizens in Honduras on U.S. government orders are only allowed to visit the Basilica of Suyapa with an organized tour group that provides armed security for the group.
The San Pedro Sula area has seen armed robberies against tourist vans, minibuses, and cars traveling from the airport to area hotels, and there have also been armed robberies along the road to Copan. Armed men have forced vehicles transporting tourists off the road and robbed the victims, occasionally assaulting the driver or passengers. In past years, several U.S. citizens have been murdered in San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba shortly after arriving in the country. Assaults in these areas may be based on tips from sources at airport arrival areas, so visitors are strongly urged to exercise caution in discussing travel plans in public.
Although Copan, Roatan/Bay Islands, and other tourist destinations have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur. Exercise particular caution walking on isolated beaches, especially at night. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark.
The Government of Honduras has a very limited law enforcement presence in some northern coastal areas, including parts of the departments of Olancho, Colon, and Gracias a Dios. These areas are well known for narcotics smuggling and violence. Travelers in those areas should use extra caution. See the description of highways/areas to be avoided in the “Traffic Safety and Road Conditions” section below for details.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law and be subject to local penalties.
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