Crime in Saint Kitts and Nevis
Crime in Saint Kitts and Nevis, as with many other countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, is considerably higher than in other parts of the world. Most violence and criminal activity in the country is believed to be gang and drug related.
In 2012 Saint Kitts and Nevis had a homicide rate of 33.6 per 100,000 citizens, the 8th highest in the world. As of 2011 Basseterre had the highest murder rate of any capital city in the world at 131.6 per 100,000 inhabitants (a total of 17 murders in the city that year).
Context and History
Saint Kitts and Nevis gained its independence in 1983. In 2001 the country's homicide rate was at an all time low with only 6 murders reported that year. Since then however there has been a rapid rise in homicides and other crimes. 2011 was the worst year for homicides in the country with 34 murders reported, giving the country a homicide rate of 67.6 per 100,000 citizens, at that time one of the top three in the world. Since 2011 measures and precautions have been placed by the government that have reduced the number of murders. The Saint Kitts government has also claimed that these measures more than halved crime during that period although this claim has been viewed skeptically by independent organizations.
Generally speaking the courts and police in Saint Kitts and Nevis are considered effective and corruption free, and the legal system is considered effective. However there is a lack of civilian oversight and interaction with the police department, as well as occasional reports of abuse perpetrated by the police. The biggest barrier to fighting crime is seen as the country's outdated prison system, with many, if not all, prisons old and overcrowded. Building new prisons and improving the relationships between the police and community are seen as the biggest improvements the government can make to combat crime.
Effect on Tourism
Tourism plays a significant role in the Saint Kitts and Nevis economy, and despite the levels of crime tourists are not usually victims. A rare instance of tourists being targeted happened in 2010 when an elderly British couple were murdered in a courtyard.
Role of Firearms in crime
Firearms have been increasingly used in crimes on Saint Kitts and Nevis. In 2003 only 63.6 percent of murders were gun-related, while in 2010 it had risen to 85 percent. The global average of firearm-related homicides is 42 percent.
Drugs and gangs
Since the turn of the 21st century there has been an increase in gang and drug-related violence and crime. Cocaine especially is known to be frequently trafficked through the country, although the presence of the drug trade is considered relatively minor compared to other Caribbean and Latin American countries. Transnational gangs are not believed to operate in the country.
Most gang activities relate to drug trafficking as well as petty crime, robberies, and extortion. Many homicides and attempted homicides are believed to be drug and gang-related, many caused by rival factions fighting over turf.
A rivalry starting in 2008 is credited with the escalation of violence in the country. The Saint Kitts and Nevis government eventually arrested several gang leaders, one of which was later executed by hanging.
Criminalization of Homosexuality
Male homosexuality is considered a crime in Saint Kitts in Nevis. By law homosexuality will result in 10 years in prison, and male-on-male assault can be punished with 4 years imprisoned. However actual prosecution of homosexuality is rare, as many members of the LGTB community have hidden their sexual identity due to social stigma.
In 2015 Saint Kitts and Nevis was named by the BBC in a report as "the most violent place on earth". The BBC's report was widely criticized in Saint Kitts and Nevis for exaggerating the level of violence and crime in the country. The police department of Saint Kitts and Nevis released a report shortly afterwards stating that crime in the country had fallen 60% in the time period from 2011 and 2015, as well as the fact that visitors and tourist to Saint Kitts and Nevis are rarely targeted.
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- Global Study on Homicide. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2013.
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- Sylvester, Phil (13 June 2015). "Safety on St. Kitts & Nevis: The inside story". World Nomads. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
- Washington, Monique (23 September 2016). "2016: Homicides 24, murder convictions 0". The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "Saint Kitts and Nevis: The situation of homosexuals; state protection and availability of support groups". refworld. 26 June 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
- "St Kitts angered as country named among 'most dangerous places on the earth'". Jamaica Observer. 20 June 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2017.