The recent spate of American tourist deaths after visiting the Dominican Republic might paint a grim picture of the Caribbean nation.
But statistics show you’re more likely to be killed in a homicide back home in the States than die of unnatural causes in the Dominican Republic.
Here’s a look at how many American tourists have died unnaturally in the tropical hotspot, and how that compares to other popular Caribbean destinations.
US tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic have declined
More than 2 million American tourists visited the Dominican Republic in each of the past two years, according to the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.
Despite a 7.9% increase in US visitors between 2017 and 2018, the number of unnatural deaths has been dropping since 2015, according to statistics from the US State Department.
In 2015, 30 Americans died of unnatural causes in the Dominican Republic. That number dropped to 18 in 2016; to 17 in 2017; and down to 13 in 2018.
In other words: The odds of a US visitor dying unnaturally in the Dominican Republic in 2017 was about 0.82 per 100,000. Those odds dropped even further last year to 0.58 unnatural deaths per 100,000 American visitors.
Unnatural deaths include drownings, homicides and vehicle accidents
The leading cause of unnatural death among Americans in the Dominican Republic is motor vehicle accidents, according to State Department statistics from 2014 to 2018.
In those five years, 33 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents; 25 Americans drowned; 20 were killed in homicides; and nine died by suicide.
The State Department’s data set does not include deaths of Americans from natural causes, such as heart attacks.
The US has a much higher homicide rate
The odds of an American dying by homicide in the Dominican Republic – 0.19 per 100,000 in 2017 – are far less than the odds of getting killed in a homicide back home.
As of 2017, the rate of murders, homicides and non-negligent manslaughter in the US was 5.3 per 100,000, according to the Pew Research Center, citing data from the FBI.
In some US cities, the homicide rate is significantly higher – about 66 per 100,000 people in St. Louis, 56 per 100,000 in Baltimore, 40 per 100,000 in Detroit, and 40 per 100,000 in New Orleans.
Other Caribbean hot spots have higher unnatural death rates
Recent circumstances surrounding some deaths in the Dominican Republic catapulted the country into the spotlight.
But Jamaica and the Bahamas actually have higher rates of unnatural American deaths, State Department statistics show.
In 2018, the rate of unnatural deaths of Americans in Jamaica was 1.04 per 100,000. That’s higher than in the Bahamas (0.71 per 100,000) and the Dominican Republic (0.58 per 100,000).
But just like in the Dominican Republic, homicides were not the leading cause of unnatural deaths in Jamaica and the Bahamas.
Over the past five years, the leading cause of unnatural deaths among Americans in two of the countries was drowning (46 in the Bahamas, 30 in Jamaica). It was auto vehicle accidents in the Dominican Republic, with 33.
The second-leading cause for two of the nations was homicide (28 in Jamaica, 10 in the Bahamas) and drowning for one (the Dominican Republic with 25).
Third was auto vehicle accidents for two (26 in Jamaica and one in the Bahamas) and homicides (20 for the Dominican Republic).
And just like with the Dominican Republic, the rate of unnatural death among Americans in both Jamaica and the Bahamas is lower than the odds of getting killed in a homicide in the US.