|travel.usatoday.com - FrontierMEDEX, which issued the report, says gangs have followed vehicles from Las Americas International Airport and Cibao International in recent months to rob travellers.
The security company says there were "multiple incidents" of theft at Las Americas last year. The thefts included perimeter fencing, items sold by airlines to passengers and items in passengers’ checked bags.
"Dominican authorities have not demonstrated a great capacity to curb these incidents, which may leave aircraft and personnel vulnerable to crime," the report says.
Las Americas airport provides flight service for Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and largest city. Cibao airport is in the country’s second-largest city, Santiago de los Caballeros.
More than 1.1 million Americans arrived in the Dominican Republic by air in 2010, and about 681,000 arrived during last year’s first six months, statistics of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic show.
Four big U.S. airlines - American, Delta, JetBlue and Spirit - fly into both airports, and Continental and US Airways have flights at Las Americas, according to January flight schedules of OAG Aviation Solutions.
JetBlue and Air France last year complained about a lack of security and increased thievery in and around Las Americas, according to the online newspaper Dominican Today.
U.S. airlines also fly into three other airports in the Dominican Republic -La Romana, Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperon and Punta Cana.
In travel information on its website, the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs says U.S. citizens "have been victimized" at Las Americas and Punta Cano airports while checking in luggage.
"Smugglers obtained an authentic airline baggage tag in a U.S. citizen’s name and placed it on baggage that contained drugs, presumably to be retrieved by a confederate at the other end of the flight," the website says.
Last month, government officials seized a 2,374-pound shipment of cocaine at La Romana, which accommodates flights of American and JetBlue and is located near a tourist town of the same name and the Casa de Campo resort area. At least 17 people were arrested, including personnel who provide airport security and work for the country’s immigration and anti-drug agencies, Dominican Today reported.
On Jan. 7, two men and a woman were arrested at the airport for smashing a window while trying to break into a vehicle. One of the men had previously been tried three times for vehicle theft, and the other man had previously been tried twice for robbery, Dominican Today said.
At the terminal of Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperon airport in May, the body of a German citizen who was stabbed to death was found, FrontierMEDEX says.
"Of notable alarm was that the body was not immediately discovered," the FrontierMEDEX report says. "Authorities have yet to determine how the murder could have occurred without being detected in the busy facility."
USA TODAY analyzed State Department data and found that seven U.S. citizens were murdered in the Dominican Republic in 2010. Two other Americans were murdered there during the first six months last year, according to the department’s most recent statistics.
The State Department warns Americans that "crime continues to be a problem throughout the Dominican Republic," and "foreign tourists are often considered attractive targets for criminal activity."
Pickpocketing and mugging are the most common crimes against tourists, though "reports of violence against foreigners and locals are growing," the State Department says.
The department says there are "continuing reports" of thefts targeting tourists in taxis and other vehicles en route from the airport to their hotel.
"In a typical case, a taxi with rolled-down windows stops at a traffic light, and a motorcyclist reaches in and steals a purse or other valuables," it says.
Culture Smart!, a travel guidebook series, says "the vast majority of tourists" to the Dominican Republic have "an incident-free, thoroughly enjoyable holiday." The guidebook warns, however, that, if a problem occurs, many police officers are corrupt and underpaid "and can view a foreigner with difficulties as an opportunity to earn."
In a written statement responding to USA TODAY questions, Anibal de Castro, the Dominican Republic’s U.S. ambassador, says the Dominican Republic "takes airport security very seriously" and puts a special army branch in charge of security at every international airport.
In July, a law was passed "to strengthen and improve" the ability of the army branch and the country’s anti-narcotics agency "to enhance airport security measures," de Castro says.
A special unit of the national police is "tasked with protecting the safety of tourists visiting the country," and the "overwhelming majority" of annual visitors to the Dominican Republic "have trouble-free holidays," he says.
Tim Winn of FrontierMEDEX says travellers shouldn’t avoid traveling to the Dominican Republic but should take precautions. He says travellers should hire a reputable driver and "avoid exposure to the public at large."
The State Department advises travellers headed there to consider leaving valuable property at home, make photocopies of credit cards, licenses, passports and birth certificates, and leave with someone at home "emergency funds" that can be "sent on short notice."
Cellphones should be carried in a pocket rather than on a belt or in a purse, the department says. Also avoid wearing headphones, because they "make the bearer more vulnerable and readily advertise the presence of a valuable item."
Dominican Watchdog Note: Nice to see that the outside world is finally waking up to the reality which awaits turists arriving to the Dominican Republic. In the 12 years President Leonel has been in charge crimes and murders has exploded due to his corrupt government. Watch video and read more about how Leonel became a multi milionaire in a few years!