Crime in Haiti
Crime in Haiti is investigated by the Haitian police.
Crime by type
Reliable crime statistics for Haiti is difficult to come by. A comparative analysis of figures from various police/security entities operating throughout Haiti indicates that incidents of crimes tend to be inaccurately or under-reported. Thus, for example, the Haitian criminal justice system documented 1,033 murders, for a murder rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people, in 2012, and as few as 486 (5.1 per 100,000 people) in 2007. In contrast, an independent study tracking a large number of households in urban areas of Haiti recorded 11 murders among 15690 tracked residents during a 7-month period from August 2011 to February 2012, for an effective annualized murder rate of 120 per 100,000 residents. All but one of the murders occurred in Port-au-Prince. In February 2012, the study observed 4 murders among its Port-au-Prince respondents, for a monthly murder rate of 60.9 per 100,000 residents.
In the 22 months after the end of the President Aristide era in 2004, the murder rate for Port-au-Prince reached a high of 219 murders per 100,000 residents per year.
Sexual violence in Haiti is a common phenomenon. Being raped is considered shameful in Haitian society, and victims may find themselves abandoned by loved ones or with reduced marriageability. Until 2005, rape was not legally considered a serious crime and a rapist could avoid jail by marrying his victim. Reporting a rape to police in Haiti is a difficult and convoluted process, a factor that contributes to underreporting and difficulty in obtaining accurate statistics about sexual violence. Few rapists face any punishment.
A UN Security Council study in 2006 reported 35,000 sexual assaults against women and girls between 2004 and 2006. The UN reported in 2006 that half of the women living in the capital city Port au Prince's slums had been raped. United Nations peacekeepers stationed in Haiti since 2004 have drawn widespread resentment after reports emerged of the soldiers raping Haitian civilians.
The 2010 Haitian earthquake caused over a million Haitians to move to refugee camps where conditions are dangerous and poor. A study by a human rights group found that 14% of Haitian households reported having at least one member suffered sexual violence between the January 2010 earthquake and January 2012. In 2012, sexual assaults in Port au Prince were reported at a rate 20 times higher in the camps than elsewhere in Haiti.
A 2009 study reported that up to 225,000 Haitian children are forced to work as domestic servants, and are at grave risk of rape at the hands of their captors. The children, known as restaveks, are traded into other households by their families, exchanging the children's labor for upbringing. Two thirds of restaveks are female, and most of them come from very poor families and are given to better-off ones. Restaveks who are young and female are particularly likely to be victimized sexually. Female restaveks are sometimes referred to as "la pou sa" which translates to "there for that"—'that' being the sexual pleasure of the males of the family with whom they are staying.
Illegal drug trade
The illegal drug trade in Haiti involves trans-shipment of cocaine and marijuana to the United States. It is a major shipment route. The island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic places Haiti in an ideal location for drug smuggling between Colombia and Puerto Rico. Because Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States, shipments are generally not subject to further U.S. Customs inspection after reaching the territory. Cocaine is also often smuggled directly to Miami in freighters.
U.S. government agencies estimate that 83 metric tons or about eight percent of the cocaine entering the United States in 2006 transited either Haiti or the Dominican Republic. Throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s, leading members of the Haitian military, intelligence and police were involved in the illegal drug trade in Haiti, assisting Colombian drug traffickers smuggling drugs into the United States.
Crimes such as kidnappings, death threats, murders, armed robberies, home break-ins and car-jacking are not uncommon in Haiti. In recent years, the security situation has changed with a considerable decrease in the incidence of kidnapping of U.S. citizens, but a rise in armed robberies. The incidence of kidnapping in Haiti has diminished from its peak in 2006 when 60 U.S. citizens were reported kidnapped to one kidnapping in 2014.
Since May 2014, there have been incidents involving travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince who are attacked and robbed after driving away from the airport. The US Embassy is aware of cases involving 64 U.S. citizens, resulting in three fatalities and several injuries. All cases have involved armed robbers by thieves on motorcycles pulling alongside vehicles in congested traffic. U.S. citizens of Haitian descent have accounted for almost all of the victims. Police authorities believe criminals may target travelers arriving on flights from the United States based on advance information gained from local contacts.
A 2012 independent study found that the murder rate in the capital Port-au-Prince was 60.9 murders per 100,000 residents in February 2012. In the 22 months after the end of the President Aristide era in 2004, the murder rate for Port-au-Prince reached a high of 219 murders per 100,000 residents per year.
High-crime zones in the Port-au-Prince area include Croix-des-Bouquets, Cite-Soleil, Carrefour, Bel Air, Martissant, the port road (Boulevard La Saline), urban route Nationale#1, the airport road (Boulevard Toussaint L'Ouverture) and its adjoining connectors to the New ("American") Road via Route Nationale#1. This latter area in particular has been the scene of numerous robberies, carjackings, and murders.
While the Haitian National Police (HNP) and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) personnel patrol many areas, travel within Port-au-Prince can be particularly challenging and certain areas of the city have more crime.
Criminal perpetrators often operate in groups of three 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.
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.
Roving musical bands called "rah-rahs" operate during the period from New Year's Day through Carnival. The potential for injury and the destruction of property during rah-rahs 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 increasing and its capabilities are improving, it is still understaffed and, under-equipped. As a result, it is unable to respond to all calls for assistance. There are 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.
- "Haiti 2014 Crime and Safety Report", Overseas Security Advisory Council, US State Department, 28 May 2014.
- Global Study on Homicide. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2013.
- "Haiti’s Urban Crime Wave? Results from Monthly Household Surveys August 2011 - February 2012", Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Igarape. Kolbe, Athena R & Muggah, Robert (2012), p.3.
- "Kolbe: Political and Social Marginalization Behind Increases in Crime", Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Center for Economic and Policy Research, 22 March 2012.
- "Haiti's Rape Survivors". Irinnews.org. 2011-11-02. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Tracy McVeigh (2009-03-08). "Haiti: Government inertia towards poverty-stricken young girls & women raped by criminal gangs". global-sisterhood-network.org. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Allie Torgan (April 26, 2012). "Seeking justice for Haiti's rape victims". CNN.com. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Allie Torgan (October 18, 2012). "Haitians living in fear 'under the tent'". CNN.com. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Kolbe, Athena; Muggah, Robert (December 8, 2012). "Opinion: Haiti's Silenced Victims". New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Study: Thousands of Haitian children work as slaves". CNN.com. December 24, 2009. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Nicolette Grams (January 2010). "Island of Lost Children". The Atlantic. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- Gupta, J.; Agrawal, A. (2010). "Chronic aftershocks of an earthquake on the well-being of children in Haiti: Violence, psychosocial health and slavery". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 182 (18): 1997–1999. doi:10.1503/cmaj.100526. PMC . PMID 20682730.
- Sommerfelt and Pederson 2011, p. 87.
- Haiti: Drug Trafficking Crossroads
- United States Institute of Peace, June 2007, Haiti's Drug Problem
- Whitney, Kathleen Marie (1996), "Sin, Fraph, and the CIA: U.S. Covert Action in Haiti", Southwestern Journal of Law and Trade in the Americas, Vol. 3, Issue 2 (1996), pp. 303-332
- "Haiti: Country-Specific Information". U.S. Department of State (December 4, 2014). Accessed April 12, 2015. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain..
- "Haiti’s Urban Crime Wave? Results from Monthly Household Surveys August 2011 - February 2012", Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Igarape. Kolbe, Athena R & Muggah, Robert (2012), p.4.