A cruising couple mobilizes ‘neighborhood’ crime watch - Soundings Online

A cruising couple mobilizes ‘neighborhood’ crime watch

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Cruisers John and Melodye Pompa are on a mission: to make the Caribbean safer for both cruisers and islanders.

Cruisers John and Melodye Pompa are on a mission: to make the Caribbean safer for both cruisers and islanders.

“I think the increase in crime against yachts is spillover from crimes against residents and citizens on land,” says Melodye Pompa, who with her husband, John, runs the Caribbean Safety and Security Net (SSB 8104.0 kHz, 8:15 a.m. ET). Each morning, Melodye Pompa spends 5 to 15 minutes taking reports of crime against yachtsmen over high-frequency radio and discussing personal safety in the

islands. The Pompas also issue lost-and-found bulletins to help family and friends back home locate yachts that haven’t been heard from for a while.

“It started out as a way to let cruisers know what was going on — where they should lock up their dinghies because dinghies were going missing there,” says Pompa. “But it’s turned into this huge thing now.”

The Pompas are told that anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 cruisers listen in to these morning reports. They keep probably the most complete statistics available of crime against Caribbean cruisers, by island, anchorage and type of crime. They publish those statistics monthly at www.caribcruisers.com and keep six years of archived data, plus a list of common-sense security precautions, on the site. In October, Melodye Pampa was asked to prepare a statistical profile of crime against cruisers for a December meeting of tourism ministers hosted by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

The couple became volunteer crime-stoppers almost by accident. The net was started in 1996 by Frank Zachar aboard the yacht Vagabond Tiger. Bob Jones on Elixer and then Don Kline on Daisy D. followed as net control. Pompa says in August 1999 Kline asked her to fill in for him while Daisy D. holed up in Puerto Rican mangroves to escape a hurricane. She has been doing it since, every day except Christmas and the odd day off.

The Pompas, both retired — John from information management and Melodye from computer software sales and technical support — have been cruising on their Pearson 422, Second Millennium, since 1994. Melodye says they now limit their cruising to between Dominica in the north and Carriacou in the Grenadines, where they spend most of their time. “Home” to the Pompas is the boat in Carriacou, and the couple have become a part of that community. They organized a fund-raiser in August that raised $14,000 (XCD) — about $5,000 (U.S.) — that will buy school uniforms and books for 100 children, daily school lunches for 10 kids, and two community college scholarships.

She says if her statistics spur governments to crack down on crime, it benefits not only cruisers but people like themselves who live in the islands. For the Pompas, their crime watch is a neighborhood watch.

— Jim Flannery