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Crime in the Caribbean – statistics & facts

The Caribbean stands out as one of the most violent regions in the Americas, registering some of the worst murder rates in the continent. The Caribbean Basin is also infamously known for harboring billions of dollars worth of tax evasion that would otherwise fund the coffers of some of the largest economies and emerging countries worldwide. Besides violent deaths and financial crime, Caribbean states also suffer from concerning levels of property crimes, such as robberies, burglaries, and car theft.

A ranking with no winners

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines intentional homicide as the unlawful killing of a person by another whose intent is to kill or seriously injure the victim. While laws on murder and its different degrees may vary, intentional homicide rates allow cross-national comparisons and can reflect how likely it is to die a violent death in a given country.

In the Caribbean, the worst murder rate is found in Jamaica, with 46.5 homicide victims per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020. Jamaica’s homicide rate is over five times higher than, for instance, the Dominican Republic's, where nine people were killed per 100,000 population that same year. When it comes to the homicide count, the number of murders in Jamaica represented just 1.4 times the Dominican Republic’s.

The most common property crimes in the Caribbean

Although statutory crimes and offenses also vary across countries, some general trends can be drawn. Since the isolation measures imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, property crimes seem to have plummeted in some Caribbean nations, most notably Puerto Rico. However, underreporting may partially explain this decrease, even more so in the case of lesser crimes as petty theft or breaking and entering.

Illegal appropriations, or thefts, are the most frequent crimes against private property in Puerto Rico. Cases involving stealing also top the list of property crimes in the Bahamas. Citizens reported more robberies than any other type of property crime in Trinidad and Tobago in 2020, while the Dominican Republic stands out for the number of vehicle thefts, adding up to 8,500 reports in 2019 and 2020.

How do small islands become tax havens?

The Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands have been labeled some of the main tax havens in the world, based on the corporate tax haven index. Both these territories are also considered major enablers of tax evasion globally. When a country’s legal framework and financial system facilitates corporate tax abuse and financial secrecy, it attracts undeclared – and very likely, illicit – financial flows from abroad, generating the phenomenon of offshore wealth accumulation. It is estimated that tax havens located in the Caribbean Basin cause up to 60 billion-dollar losses in tax evasion worldwide.

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