PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti is one of the safest destinations; not just in the Caribbean, but throughout all the Americas. This is the general finding of recent studies on crime in the region which show that Haiti has the lowest rate of violent deaths in comparison to previous years.
In 2012 according to the UNODC, Haiti's violent death rate of 6.9 out of every hundred thousand Haitians is among the lowest rates in the Americas, and the same as Long Beach, California. This is mainly attributable to a strong focus on the strengthening and modernization of its security forces.
Among other high impact measures, the government of Haiti kept its pledge to increase the size of its National Police by 50 percent, allowing them to fight crime more effectively. Besides increasing the size of its force, the Haitian National Police (HNP) is counting on innovative technologies to track down criminals. For example, they were able to dismantle the largest kidnapping ring in the country with the help of advanced software designed by a Haitian official trained at Westpoint -- a program so effective, it has sparked the interest of the HNP's foreign advisers.
A report by Vanderbilt University's Latin American public opinion project noted the Haitian National Police's positive image compared to security institutions throughout Latin America, which are seen as weak, corrupt or inefficient. A recent poll conducted locally for an international agency notes that Haitian citizens are generally more concerned with economic issues such as the cost of living, than with crime.
And, according to the most recent report for the American Consular Services, which keeps statistics of crimes involving American citizens, in 2012 murders dropped by two thirds – from 6 to 2 - the lowest rate since 2006. The same report notes that kidnappings of US citizens also dropped in 2012 from 9 to 11.
A notice recently issued by the US State Department warning US citizens about the persistent danger of violent crime does not take into account these significant improvements in Haiti.
"The kidnapping and murder of US citizens is extremely rare in our country; we work diligently and closely with the United States, Canada and the international community to fight the proliferation of criminal activities," said Laurent Lamothe, the prime minister of Haiti.
The State Department warning comes as Haiti is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of foreign visitors. Pointing to statistics compiled by her office, Minister of Tourism Stephanie Villedrouin noted that "in 2011, we welcomed 46 percent more US tourists than in 2010."
While the rest of the region experiences difficulty in containing violent crime rates, Haiti shows positive trends largely as a result of the strengthening of the Haitian National Police, the incorporation of human resources and new technologies into its anti-crime strategies, and, the establishment of a welcoming political and economic climate.