Today we’re learning about the death of a 14-year old cruise ship passenger on St. Thomas, an Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was allegedly caught between two gangs in the midst of a shootout while on a tourist bus en route to Coki Point Beach – one of the island’s most popular destinations. Many cruisers are worried about upcoming trips to the island, but should they be? Should this incident cause concern?
The teenager was traveling with her family on board the Carnival Victory which has seven day cruises out of San Juan. The tour bus they were traveling on was not a Carnival-sponsored excursion, though Carnival said it was canceling trips to that beach area. Princess cruises has followed suit, but according to CruiseCritic.com, Norwegian Cruise Line (Epic is set to dock tomorrow), and Royal Caribbean have yet to determine any cancelations at this time
The cancelations of trips to certain beaches is a good start for the cruise lines, but in order to make real change, we suggest suspending travel to the island for a period of time until they can get their act together and reduce their crime rate.
For the last few years running, St. Thomas has recorded a violent crime rate between 5 and 7 times that similar-sized cities in the United States. Although St. Thomas is a territory of the United States, it is self-governing and has an independent police force – a group that many locals feel a sense of distrust for.
Tensions between local police and U.S. Federal officials have been strained in the last few years, after an ATF agent shot and killed a resident in 2008 while intervening in a domestic dispute. The local police cried foul, and the United States pulled out all ATF agents about 6 months later. The FBI and DEA still have offices on the island, though some believe they’re hands are tied for political reasons.
If local police are the problem, then it is up to the people to stand up for a change – and while the crime rates may seem like enough motivation to us, nothing has changed on the island for the better.
Cruise lines should suspend all travel to the island for one month – and only return pending an independent assessment of the changes made to help protect citizens and travelers.
St. Thomas is an economy based on tourism – it wouldn’t take long for every business owner (undoubtedly the ones with the most political power, too) on the island to be calling for a change. Until they need a reason to change, they will continue to sit on the sidelines as long as their business isn’t affected – and it hasn’t been.
The tragedy this week is terribly unfortunate, but maybe it will be the wakeup call to the cruise lines that supply the island with its cash crop – tourists – that it is time for more action if any real change is desired.
2 thoughts on “How Cruise Lines Can Help St. Thomas Reduce Crime”
The Solstice was in port yesterday in St. Thomas and one of my Cruise Radio listeners twittered me and said that “the cruise line paid for the Coral World excursion.” The passenger said once she got there it was very empty and there was a lot of police cars in the area. The truth is, is that a shooting could have happened if it was a cruise line sponsored or non sponsored excursion.
I agree with the above article, “How Cruise Lines Can Help St. Thomas Reduce Crime”. I lived in St. Thomas for 5 years,…I was there when the Dorothea Bay murders happened. The victums were not cruise passengers, so the biggest worry for the local authorities was, “How do we minamize this in the press so as not to hurt tourism (cash flow)? The murderers were never brought to justice.
There were lot of other murders, as there are in other places but with a lot higher per capita rate. Most of the time you are safe in the usvi, during the day is not much a problem. At night it is a whole new issue,…and the safe bounderies CHANGE with matters of only a few 100 yards, by degrees of darkness, and by the hours on the clock. In other words safe places and streets move like shadows across the island. If you are local , you learn to navigate these nuances. For a new comer,..how could you possibly know.
This would have happened a lot sooner if cruise ships docked there over night, with thousands of passengers blundering through midnight city streets. (When I was there, they had the only ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ I have seen in the world that closes early evening because, for a tourist, it is a no mans land late at night).
Most of the St. Thomians are very, very good people. A I respect the majority of them. But the authorities who feel a natural alligence to ALL locals, along with the few who make really big money and ignore the festering violent crime undercurrent of a very few ‘gangsta’ mentality types, have allowed the opening of an abyss that will take a lot more to close then just more band-aids in the press. The ‘Bad Boys’ feel almost no fear of the law. It will only get worse until the abyss colapses in on itself.
Nothing will make this change like the threat of the $$ tape being turned OFF. But remember, this problem was partly created by the hugh growth of tourism. An elderly West Indian lady once told me, “When I was young, we had nothing but we had everything. Now we have everything, but we have nothing.”
PS I work in the cruise ship industry.