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Making the Caribbean safer for cruisers

and other nations are taking proactive approaches to preventing crime against yachtsmen

and other nations are taking proactive approaches to preventing crime against yachtsmen

The Grenada Board of Tourism is bringing together people from yachting, law enforcement, business and government in a Yachting Safety Committee to prevent crime against cruisers.

“The minister [of tourism] felt that we should be proactive about this rather than just responding to [crime] reports,” says Asquith Duncan, head of product development for the Grenada tourism board.

Grenada Minister of Tourism Brenda Hood met last October with other eastern Caribbean tourism ministers to discuss crime in the region, how to stem it, and how to reassure cruisers that it is a priority matter.

Meeting late last year, Grenada’s safety committee decided to:

• Improve communication among its own law enforcement agencies — the Royal Grenada Police Force, Coast Guard and Customs and Immigration — between police on Grenada and police on its popular island destination, Carriacou; and between Grenadian police and those on neighboring St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Duncan says they will exchange information as crimes are reported and in monthly reports.

• Establish a 24-hour VHF radio monitoring service that cruisers can call for help. Duncan says one yacht charter company already offers a 24-hour VHF radio watch. Business and government will share the cost of staffing that radio watch and open it to the yachting public.

• Keep the yachting community updated on police efforts to solve crimes and let them know when arrests are made.

• Develop a standardized crime incident form specifically for crimes against yachts and publish a crime-prevention leaflet for cruisers.

The Yachting Safety Committee includes representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, the Royal Grenada Police Force, Coast Guard, Marine & Yachting Association of Grenada, Board of Tourism, Port Louis, Immigration, Customs, and members of the yachting community, including members of the Caribbean Safety and Security Net. The CSSN is a cruisers’ ham radio net that takes crime reports over the air and advocates for more aggressive police work. It plans to meet every two months. (Soundings covered the issue of crime against Caribbean cruisers in the In Depth section of the February 2007 issue.)

Duncan says that in another meeting, tourism ministers from Antigua, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines recommended nations take actions similar to Grenada’s to stem crime against visiting yachtsmen. They called for better communication among police, a 24-hour VHF radio watch for cruisers, better reporting to the community about what police are doing to solve specific crimes, and a system for compiling statistics on numbers of visiting yachts and crimes against cruisers.

A still-small but growing number of assaults and armed robberies and a surge in petty theft in the eastern Caribbean have sparked an outcry among cruisers. In Grenada the number of crimes against cruisers actually has gone down since September 2004, when Hurricane Ivan tore up the island and its marine facilities and the number of visiting yachts plummeted. Yacht arrivals in 2006 were up 25 percent over the previous year, Duncan says. With just a few reports of petty theft in 2006 and no reports of violent crime against cruisers, Duncan says the anti-crime measures are intended “to give the yachting community a greater sense of comfort that we are dealing with these problems and capable of solving them.”