Getting Home Safely

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In each island, there are certain times of the year when nationals who live abroad return in large numbers to visit. These times of the year invariably coincide with the festive periods such as Christmas, Mashramani in Guyana, Jazz Festival in St Lucia, and Carnival time in Trinidad.
Very often, these returning nationals come with multiple large suitcases usually containing gifts for family and friends; and many of the flights into the Caribbean from metropolitan countries arrive in the late evening and night. Because of when most international airports in the Caribbean were built, the airport is often a considerable distance from the capital city and has a roadway that may have many lonely stretches.
This is the case when travelling from Timehri to Georgetown in Guyana, and from Hewanorra to Castries in St Lucia.
Criminals take note of these facts and so we periodically hear of persons being robbed when coming from the airport. T
hese criminals have worked out that apart from the items that may be contained in the suitcases, the returning national is likely to have a large amount of foreign currency, and that currency alone is a big attraction.
Being robbed on the way home from the airport certainly spoils the joy of the homecoming both for the visitor and the family who has been waiting to see their loved one.
In this article, we will provide some advice on how to avoid being robbed and so get home safely.
One of the easiest measures for avoiding being robbed when coming from the airport is to ask the visitor to arrange their travel plans so that their flight arrives in the day time. Many times when booking flights, individuals do not consider the security risk of having to travel from the airport at night or they may find that the flight which lands at night is cheaper and so they book that flight.
When a family member indicates that they plan to visit, you can suggest to them that they choose a flight that arrives during the day and indicate the reason why.
Sport Utility Vehicles and large open tray pickup trucks have become very popular in the Caribbean. When one has to go to the airport to collect a family member from abroad, there is the natural inclination to use the open tray pickup, especially if it is known that the particular family member tends to travel with many pieces of luggage or large items of luggage.
The open tray of the pickup certainly makes it easy to load the luggage. Unfortunately, that open tray makes the luggage visible and identifies to the bandit that the vehicle is a potential target. When collecting persons from the airport, it is much better to use a vehicle that has an enclosed trunk and if a pickup is used, then it should be one that has a covering for the tray area.
It is a good idea to get another car to accompany you, both for help in transporting the luggage and for company in case something happens to your vehicle along the road. The presence of another vehicle immediately behind your vehicle makes it more difficult for robbers to force you to stop and also provides more persons for bandits to have to control, thus making you a less inviting target.
Caribbean people are very expressive, and when at the airport you can easily tell when a family member who lives abroad returns to the native country, the shouts of joy and the hugs and kisses are plentiful. At times, after the luggage has been loaded and everyone boards the vehicle(s), someone will suggest stopping along the way for a welcome home drink. The temptation to stop while en route should, however, be avoided, as that makes it easy for the bandits to get physically close. They no longer have to work out how to force the vehicle to a stop, instead they simply invade the group’s presence when they have stopped at a roadside restaurant or bar.
Once the luggage has been loaded, the entire group should head straight for the hotel or home. Along the way the driver should periodically be looking in the rear to see if there are any vehicles that are following them. When the journey is at night this can be difficult as the darkness prevents easy identification of vehicles that are behind you. One method for being able to identify following vehicles is to look in the rear immediately as you pass a street light, the vehicle that is following will also pass under that street light and for the brief period the illumination from the light will allow you to discern features of the following vehicle.
After some distance, the process should be repeated and the driver can then tell if the same vehicle is still behind them. Another method for discerning if there is a vehicle that is clearly following you, is to pay attention to the shape of the headlights of vehicles that are behind you. As vehicle manufacturers try to differentiate their vehicles, one of the features that they modify are the headlights and so increasingly vehicle headlights have different shapes, allowing you to distinguish different vehicles at night.
When a driver is of the belief that they are being followed and they have checked to make sure that there is a good reason for the belief, then the group should immediately stop at the nearest safe haven, which would usually be the nearest police or fire station, hospital or large open business that has a large amount of people present.
Of course being able to stop at the nearest safe haven requires that drivers pay attention to the location of possible safe havens when driving so that they will know the location in an emergency.
On reaching home, individuals should not lower their guard at the gate as robbers have been known to follow their intended target to their homes. Only when the luggage has been loaded and everyone is inside should one say, yes we got home safely.

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