Is the island making efforts on security?

Your questions on medical and security issues
Gary F

Is the island making efforts on security?

Post by Gary F » Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:18 pm

Apologies for the length of this one but I’d appreciate if Steve or any other recent visitors can throw further light on what’s being done to improve security for visitors to the island and whether the latest “gang” preying on tourists has yet been caught.

Let me preface this by saying we love Tobago. We’ve already booked (3rd year in a row) again for this August. So this is from the perspective of someone who loves the place – but my family's safety comes first.

During our first visit 2 years ago we suffered a minor bit of petty theft – took it in our stride, relatively “rich” tourists must be a tempting a target. Otherwise people left their doors open, cars unlocked, we never sensed any physical threat. However, last summer however, we noticed a distinct change of atmosphere, as the first part of our My Tobago posting we made at the time hints at-
http://www.mytobago.info/forum/viewtopi ... highlight=

Apparently there was a spate of nasty armed robberies (which included the Kariwak). I regularly read Tobago News online but I’ve not seen any stories suggesting that the perpetrators were ever caught.

Now, ahead of our latest planned trip, we’ve spotted a story about a villa being robbed – a graphic account was posted on Tobago News - http://www.thetobagonews.com/index.pl/a ... d=11356595

I appreciate this may be just one version of events but if half were accurate…..

As has been previously suggested on these pages, you can find yourself in bother anywhere and Tobago is generally very safe and the people very honest. However, it seems that some – maybe on trips from Trinidad - see tourists as easy pickings. Reference has been made to the fact its more likely getting mugged in London but the difference here is it isn’t random; they’re specifically targeting tourists and the places they frequent.

It happens that the villa we fell in love with, to which we’re planning to return this summer, is half a mile from the one where this latest robbery took place. This latest story has caused my wife to express doubts about going but I’ve pointed out that this was hopefully a one-off, they will catch the offenders, etc. However, my concern is that even if in reality we're pretty safe, every innocent bump in the night may make relaxation difficult…..

Steve is right in previous postings that it all has to be taken in perspective but a little reassurance goes along way. Does anyone have any news about these robbers, or those around last summer, being caught? Have the local police bucked up their ideas? What’s this new tourist police and do they have a more vigorous approach?

News & views appreciated.

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Post by Steve Pitts » Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:32 pm

Hi Gary

I read that report on The Tobago News on-line yesterday and was horrified. As you say - even if half true - a nightmare.

We will be over in a fortnight's time and our villa has a security guard + dog provided from 6.00pm to 6.00am.

My intention was to cancel this arrangement, as it is more likely to be a) Intrusive to our enjoyment and b) worry my wife that a security guard was considered a requirement.

Now, I'm thinking that I would be foolish to do so - God forbid anything even mildly criminal did happen - how would I feel?

Like you - I'm having second thoughts, but am also a Tobago regular, so know that the chances of this type of robbery are slim. Maybe I'll slip a baseball bat in with my fishing gear :twisted:

Hope your holiday plans aren't upset by this.

Cheers
teve
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Gary F

Post by Gary F » Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:11 pm

I'd be very interested in hearing the latest from the island when you get back (although its not always easy to get the news as some Tobagians don't want to put you off with bad news stories!). And not all of us have Mr Wooler's way iof getting the real story!

I think you're right to keep with the dog although the villa we're staying in only has a cat! (although a pretty mean one :twisted: ).

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Post by Steve Wooler » Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:12 pm

Hello Gary

The very moving and well-written letter you refer to ties in with all the facts as I knew them. I accept it at face value. I take my hat of to Tobago News for publishing the letter. Its obviously not the sort of thing anybody wants to read, but I’m glad that it has appeared. I guarantee you that it will have sent shock-waves through government and tourism circles.

I have heard a rumour that the police know who the three perpetrators are and where they are staying (they are allegedly Trinis). It has also been claimed that the same three robbed and humiliated a German tourist a month before the Ding-O-Lay attack.

I can’t tell you anything about the series of attacks that took place when you were last on Tobago. They were a different matter altogether –a series of armed robberies against local businesses. They happened over a very short period of time and then stopped. It was almost like a hit and run spree. I would put money on it that they were Trinis who shot back home as soon as the police started sniffing around.

I am assured that the figures still prove that the incidence of crime against tourists is still extremely low compared to islands like Barbados and Antigua and not even on the same scale as crime against tourists in Jamaica and Florida, etc. However, that’s no consolation if you are affected. Like all these situations, it is all about confidence.

What I can tell you is that a lot IS happening behind the scenes. Sadly, you can’t just whistle new police manpower up overnight and it takes time to equip and train them. Action started about a year ago and the evidence can be see – there are clearly more police out and about than I’ve ever seen before.
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Post by Sharon Keeler » Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:17 pm

This report is really disheartening. Yes, crime happens. But the level of escalating violence against tourists is truly scary. Taking money is one thing. Beating and raping people for no reason is another thing. Tobago has a serious problem on its hands. The police had better take notice. If it becomes the type of place where people need security guards and one can't go out at night, most tourists will turn to another "piece of paradise." That would be truly sad for the wonderful people of Tobago.

Gary F

Post by Gary F » Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:49 pm

Thank you all for your posts so far - especially Mr W who as ever has the inside story.

As I tried to express, maybe the biggest problem with this sort of news is not the likelihood of it happening to you but the worry of it happening! Hence news of any action by the authorities is reassuring.

That the police are ramping up their efforts has to be good not only for tourists but locals too. Otherwise one possible outcome of all this could be that most tourist end up locked away in all-inclusives where the benefit of their spending goes to large corporations and not to the locals.

If anyone picks up any further news of these particular offenders being caught please post it up as it wouldn't half easy some of my other half's worries!

In the meantime I'll ask the villa's owner if they're taking any additional security measures (supplement the cat with a dog!).

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Post by Steve Pitts » Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:05 pm

Gary F wrote:I'd be very interested in hearing the latest from the island when you get back
Hi Gary
I sincerely hope that I have nothing to report when we return.

I note your comment on the possibility of tourists switching to AI accomodation and the effect that will have on local spending.

Something I noticed recently when we were looking around for a villa - I have no idea if the crime reports are to blame, or it's just a massive over-supply of villa accomodations, or on-line availablility/booking pages not being updated regularily, but there seems to be a huge drop in bookings for most villas - even some of the most popular properties have just one or two weeks booked for 2007 (could be the prices some are charging too!).

One thing is for sure - If they catch the SOBs they will throw the key away.

Cheers
Steve
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Gary F

Post by Gary F » Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:24 pm

Hi Steve,

I was rather hoping you'd be able to report on what the locals and local newspapers are saying rather than reporting your very own crime watch!

Have a great time - I'm sure you won't have anything untoward to report other than the usual sunburn (and if anything like us mild rum & coke poisoning!) 8)

Yours,

Gary F

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Post by Lisa Keith » Thu Apr 26, 2007 9:20 pm

There's been a 'blimp' flying around the island (particularly the south) for the last few days, constantly monitoring the island, and Tobago Channel Five News reported last night that the police had arrested approx 30 people for a variety of reasons. Whilst out today, I've seen several police on bikes and at least half a dozen police cars zooming around. They're definitely making their presence felt. Apparently it's all part of new measures to combat crime and although it's being put in place for the Jazz Festival this weekend, according to the report, the measures are to be an ongoing thing.

Lets hope so!

Lisa.

Gill M

Post by Gill M » Thu Apr 26, 2007 9:28 pm

Hi Gary

What an absolutely horrific crime to happen it just beggars belief! Those poor holiday makers. Hope the perpetrators are found and the keys thrown away.

I did read a short online newspaper report very recently (as opposed to the readers letter) that mentioned a robbery at a Mt Irvine villa which seems to tie in with the readers letter. It was reported that the guests included five Germans and a Venezuelan which included one lady who
was sexually assaulted. Apparently the robbers escaped in the guests hire vehicle which was found in a very nearby road.

It was indeed a very brief mention!

As for Dingolay itself, my husband had recently "short listed" it for our next years holiday until I noticed there were no apparent exterior security bars in evidence on the photographs shown (perhaps out of date?) and also that the Villa was for sale.

We stayed in the Mt Irvine area for two months this year but our Villa was fully protected with window/door bars, high walls and a locked gate. Even the pool area was secure. Prior to the owners having this security work carried out, they had suffered three robberies. I must say that having all these bars around initially made us feel that we were the prisoners but, in hindsight, thank goodness they were there.

It was our first visit to Tobago and what a stunningly beautiful island, however we saw no more than three policemen in vehicles (one being in Parlatuvier, another in Scarborough and a third attending an RTA outside the Mot Mot restaurant during our entire two month stay) and we did travel around quite extensively. I'm not down crying Tobago - just love the place - but, during our stays in Barbados the "armed" police were extremely evident to say the least and we felt very safe indeed, especially with the added presence of Beach Wardens on the main beaches.

During our stay some of the following happened:

On Charlotteville beach we saw a local with a pump action 12 bore shot gun slung over his shoulder - it kind of made us feel re-assured?

Some UK friends who own property and live in Lambeau where shocked to find that their near neighbours were not just robbed but also hospitalised through their injuries.

A local schoolteacher expelled a pupil for whatever reason. The 14 year old pupil sought revenge and decapitated the schoolteacher - as read by us in the Tobago News this year.

For several weekends, we could hear the sounds of gunfire in the bush area and no, it was not hunting or bamboo being fired up and neither was it the police on exercise. It was the sound of 9 mm submachine guns plus .45mm, .22mm, 3.8mm and 7.62mm weapons being fired. It was
also disturbing that the weapons did not discharge all the ammo thus meaning that live rounds could possibly still be in these weapons. My husband has legal/working knowledge of these weapons and calibres.

Various really petty robberies and a mugging such as on the beach, Buccoo Sunday School, Black Rock, Grand Courland Bay which went unreported. Yep, it happened to us too but luckily only cost us $20 as we heeded advice from the forum and didn't carry too much cash - NO, we
also didn't report the incident.

We much prefer the rental style holiday as, to us, we like to see the local life, join in and be free to wander within limitations. Staying at an hotel for such a lenghty time would not be the holiday we seek.

It has been argued so many times that there is crime in every country (including the UK) which I so agree with BUT living in very rural Surrey (where we also have non violent burglaries), last week I had the misfortune for my car's radiator to somewhat explode in Pall Mall on the way to Trafalgar Square, London. I was towed to East London where a replacement radiator was available. Whilst the repair was being carried out, I strolled around and felt absolutely no threat whatsoever but having said that I felt no threat in Scarborough or Speyside either!! Both opposite ends of the island, Castara and Parlatuvier also seem a safe bet.

Steve, sorry for rambling on but there does appear to be a problem in certain areas of Tobago - I so hope they can be resolved and tourists free to roam within reason (including the beaches!). If anyone can get this sorted I know that you can. I am so sure that each village is so proud of having tourists and also taking care of them and to add to their economy BUT, after reading Gary's report on Dingolay, I'm not so sure that I want to go back - like it's scarey! Robbery Mmmmm! Solved by not carrying too much cash. Robery with violence/rape/credit card theft - Yikes!!! OK call we a wimp!!

Gill M

Post by Gill M » Thu Apr 26, 2007 9:30 pm

Hi Gary

What an absolutely horrific crime to happen it just beggars belief! Those poor holiday makers. Hope the perpetrators are found and the keys thrown away.

I did read a short online newspaper report very recently (as opposed to the readers letter) that mentioned a robbery at a Mt Irvine villa which seems to tie in with the readers letter. It was reported that the guests included five Germans and a Venezuelan which included one lady who
was sexually assaulted. Apparently the robbers escaped in the guests hire vehicle which was found in a very nearby road.

It was indeed a very brief mention!

As for Dingolay itself, my husband had recently "short listed" it for our next years holiday until I noticed there were no apparent exterior security bars in evidence on the photographs shown (perhaps out of date?) and also that the Villa was for sale.

We stayed in the Mt Irvine area for two months this year but our Villa was fully protected with window/door bars, high walls and a locked gate. Even the pool area was secure. Prior to the owners having this security work carried out, they had suffered three robberies. I must say that having all these bars around initially made us feel that we were the prisoners but, in hindsight, thank goodness they were there.

It was our first visit to Tobago and what a stunningly beautiful island, however we saw no more than three policemen in vehicles (one being in Parlatuvier, another in Scarborough and a third attending an RTA outside the Mot Mot restaurant during our entire two month stay) and we did travel around quite extensively. I'm not down crying Tobago - just love the place - but, during our stays in Barbados the "armed" police were extremely evident to say the least and we felt very safe indeed, especially with the added presence of Beach Wardens on the main beaches.

During our stay the following, to our knowledge, happened:

On Charlotteville beach we saw a local with a pump action 12 bore shot gun slung over his shoulder - it kind of made us feel re-assured?

Some UK friends who own property and live in Lambeau where shocked to find that their near neighbours were not just robbed but also hospitalised through their injuries.

A local schoolteacher expelled a pupil for whatever reason. The 14 year old pupil sought revenge and decapitated the schoolteacher - as read by us in the Tobago News this year.

For several weekends, we could hear the sounds of gunfire in the bush area and no, it was not hunting or bamboo being fired up and neither was it the police on exercise. It was the sound of 9 mm submachine guns plus .45mm, .22mm, 3.8mm and 7.62mm weapons being fired. It was
also disturbing that the weapons did not discharge all the ammo thus meaning that live rounds could possibly still be in these weapons. My husband has legal/working knowledge of these weapons and calibres.

Various really petty robberies and a mugging such as on the beach, Buccoo Sunday School, Black Rock, Grand Courland Bay which went unreported. Yep, it happened to us too but luckily only cost us $20 as we heeded advice from the forum and didn't carry too much cash - NO, we
also didn't report the incident.

We much prefer the rental style holiday as, to us, we like to see the local life, join in and be free to wander within limitations. Staying at an hotel for such a lenghty time would not be the holiday we seek.

It has been argued so many times that there is crime in every country (including the UK) which I so agree with BUT living in very rural Surrey (where we also have non violent burglaries), last week I had the misfortune for my car's radiator to somewhat explode in Pall Mall on the way to Trafalgar Square, London. I was towed to East London where a replacement radiator was available. Whilst the repair was being carried out, I strolled around and felt absolutely no threat whatsoever but having said that I felt no threat in Scarborough or Speyside either!! Both opposite ends of the island, Castara and Parlatuvier also seem a safe bet.

Steve, sorry for rambling on but there does appear to be a problem in certain areas of Tobago - I so hope they can be resolved and tourists free to roam within reason (including the beaches!). If anyone can get this sorted I know that you can. I am so sure that each village is so proud of having tourists and also taking care of them and to add to their economy BUT, after reading Gary's report on Dingolay, I'm not so sure that I want to go back - like it's scarey! Robbery Mmmmm! Solved by not carrying too much cash. Robery with violence/rape/credit card theft - Yikes!!! OK call we a wimp!!

Theresal

security...what's really going on in Tobago

Post by Theresal » Tue May 08, 2007 12:58 pm

I thought the true security situation on Tobago should be urgently highlighted on your site....no longer sporadic attacks on tourists. Please visit the Tobago News website and key in " endangered species", this reflects how things really are..
Tourists renting villas are most at risk, sitting ducks, even if the villa has security - the wages of the guards are not worth going up against machine guns and machetes. Noone loves this island more than me,eight holidays there in total, I even chose to get a job and work there! Please visit the Tobago News website and the British Home Office website.
Keep safe, go somewhere else until the Tobago House of Assembly do something - do not become the next victim

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Post by Steve Wooler » Tue May 08, 2007 1:09 pm

Theresa

You are clearly hearing/reading something very different from me - and I am receiving mail/talking to people on the island EVERY DAY. It is scaremongering to suggest that violent attacks are anything but sporadic and few and far between. The incidence of crime on Tobago is still FAR lower than on Barbadose or Antigua and not even on the same planet as crime against tourists in many other Caribbean/world destinations.

Your letter in the Tobago News is already referred to above. I appreciate how you clearly feel after this incident but it is not fair to people to post new threads and make people think that there has been another incident. We welcome open and frank discussion but NOT scaremongering, so you are welcome to add your comments to the thread discussing this issue - and I have moved your post there/here as a result.
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Theresal

reply to Gary..I wrote the article

Post by Theresal » Tue May 08, 2007 7:36 pm

Hi Gary
I have just drawn MyTobago viewers attention to the real situation existing now on Tobago. It cost me(an Aberdonian!) £2000 for a work permit - solicitors, bond etc so I did not leave Tobago lightly, myself and two other teachers have resigned and left the island, the owner of the school has brought in armed ex-military guys from the States to protect the teachers accommodation, that's how serious the sitation is... I warned every family renting villas in our area of Mount Irvine after the attack on our people...the reason villas are available for rent is not that they are an investment for the owners but that the owners won't stay there themselves and because they don't stay there, they dont want to pay for security. Dingolay was the property in my article in the Tobago News but Seagrape Villa in Lambeau was robbed in the same manner in the same week. A hotelier (local Person) told me that the gang which attacked our people had been active for at least six months, even she, as a private citizen, recognised the modus operandi...she was just puzzled why the police hadn't caught them yet. Your wife's instincts sre absolutely spot on, stay away and be safe, unless YOUR villa has armed militia on 24hour duty..Kind regards
Theresa

Gary F

Post by Gary F » Wed May 09, 2007 7:51 am

Wow! To say we're getting mixed messages! Are these tourist robberies one-offs or is there a gang based on the island doing nothing but?

I know where Steve is comming from; he actively promotes Tobago and always paints a positive picture. But I'm not sure where Theresa is coming from on this - I've just noticed she wrote the original Tobago News article/letter that kicked off my question.

I always feel its hard getting facts about Tobago - I asked the villa manger (where we're staying) about all this a couple of weeks ago but he's not responded; I'm probably wrong but its easy to imagine he's avoiding answering!

Even when I've been there, the locals seem to know what's going on but its not in the newspaper. Is Theresa getting (and giving) the true picture? She certainly sounds frightened....

Or is it the same old Tobago with just the odd incident marring its reputation? And do we know why haven't the police picked these guys up?

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Post by Steve Wooler » Wed May 09, 2007 9:15 am

Hi Gary

There's no simple answer to that, I'm afraid.

Yes, I am promoting Tobago - but I'm also trying to do so in an honest and open way. The problem with these issues is that it is VERY easy for them to be blown out of all proportion. I do not in any way mean that triviliase the attack that Theresa mentioned, but we are talking about a very limited number of incidents - and exceptionally few with real violence.

I am certainly not trying to hide the issue. You will recall that in my first reply to Theresa's letter in Tobago News, above, I raised the fact that the villains involved were believed to have attacked and humiliated a German tourist around the same time. Given that that incident has never been mentioned anywhere else, it would be daft of me to mention it if I was trying to hide things. Theresa mentions another attack in her message above. I have heard nothing about that so emails were immediately fired off both to the owner of the villa and others and I hope to have answers today. The bottom line is that I'm not going to shout about these incidents, but neither will I hide them or try to suppress discussion. My biggest concern, however, is to make sure that we try to keep discussion of such incidents in proportion and don't scare people needlessly.

Yes, it is difficult to get to the truth. The honest truth is that nobody knows the truth. You certainly can't rely on the authorities - they will try and hide the details. However, the Tobago News has been particularly good at exposing the truth. I take my hat of to the editor of that paper, even if he is a rude sode who has never replied to a single email message I've sent him.

The bottom line, as I understand it, is that a particular gang have been responsible for a number of increasingly vicious attacks over the last four to six months. It is claimed that they are Trinis and that the police know who they are. So, why haven't they picked them up? Maybe they have. There was a major sweep just before the Plymouth Jazz Festival a couple of weeks back (strange that it came so soon after Theresa's letter was published) and dozens of suspected villains were arrested. It was suggested that this was a clean up so that there wouldn't be trouble during the Festival. My guess is that 99% of those arrested were released without charge after the weekend. Other have suggested that the police know who the villains are, but are afraid of them. Others that they are being paid off. Who knows what the truth is? I could believe either - or a third option; simply that the police are simply too lazy and incompetent to be bothered.

The thing to remember is that every one of these "major" attacks gets big news. Yet, these sort of incidents are happening every day in our British holiday resorts and towns and often don't even get mentioned in the local press, much less the national.
Steve Wooler
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Gary F

Post by Gary F » Wed May 09, 2007 9:43 am

Steve,

Thanks again for the further background. I'm of the view that the more info you have the better you can make an informed choice (and I hope you took my reference to you promoting the island in the positive way it was meant! We wouldn't have seen half the beaches or eaten in half the restaurants if it wasn't for your efforts - many thanks).

No doubt my other half will want to chew over Theresa's posting - and her advice to keep away - but subject to the villa manager reassuring us they've taken sensible security measures (when he gets around to responding!) hopefully we'll be going as planned.

But keeping up to speed with what's going on will be not only reassuring but enable us to act accordingly when we're there - e.g. locking shutters at night (never done it before).

I hope Theresa eventually feels safe enough to stay - seems a shame that what could be just one band of (albeit very nasty) people are spoiling such a beautiful place and giving the good people there a bad name by association.

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Post by Sharon Keeler » Thu May 10, 2007 5:58 pm

Steve,

While you make a good point about the relative level of violent crime in Tobago, I think the thing that is most scary to travelers is that crimes are purposely directed at them -- and very personal, very violent crimes, not just robbery. Given the small population of Tobago to begin with, that makes one more likely to be the victim of one of these crimes. Given that they seem to be focused at white visitors, that makes it even more likely. if one is white. In comparison, it is difficult to compare this to the chances of being the victim of violent crime in, say, England or the US.

I live in Phoeniz, AZ in the US, population 5 million+. If the crime mentioned above happened to a group of people visiting the city, it would be huge news -- even though Phoenix is a pretty violent city. Because it is not related to drugs or acquaintance violence, or gangs would make it unusual. When a spate of murders of tourists in Florida took place years back, it made huge national news.

I'm not saying that one should not visit Tobago. I absolutely love the place. But this purposeful targeting of tourists renting villas would absolutely make me choose a more secure place to stay.

Sharon

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Worries about crime in Tobago

Post by Jo Ringer » Thu May 10, 2007 9:02 pm

I am off to Tobago in 9 days time it will be my first visit and I am very excited. I have just read all the emails about crime in Tobago. Cant say it really worries me, I have certainly been in many places I felt unsafe and my last holiday was in Cambodia which is SERIOUSLY more dangerous than Tobago. My point is would everyone that is worried about Tobago still take their children to Portugal where clearly a tourist family was targetted and their 3 year old daughter taken and quite possibly killed? I think they would. Its just that its a small place and not expected to have people that do bad things.

I work in a hospital in Kent and we have had 3 patients in after being stabbed in the last 6 weeks to my personal knowledge and I dont work in A & E

Gary F

Post by Gary F » Sun May 13, 2007 7:42 pm

Steve,

Our villa manager has said he thinks the guys responsible for the Dingolay incident have been caught. We're not sure he's just being "optimistic" but we did see the following news - any chance its the same guys or are they just petty crooks?

http://www.thetobagonews.com/index.pl/a ... d=11654535

Any further news from your own "crime watch"?

(and a quick message to Jo - you'll have a great time! - best beaches in the world!)

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