Crime remains critical in the Bahamas, says US State Department

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WASHINGTON, United States, Thursday March 10, 2016 – Last year was “the most deadly year in Bahamian history,” according to an annual report published by the US Department of State.

According to the report, the Bahamas has not released public comprehensive updated national crime statistics since July 2013. However, the murder rate increased by 22 percent in Nassau, Bahamas in 2015.

Writing in Cruise Law News, Miami-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker said that police recorded 149 murders in 2015, up from 122 in 2014. Walker noted that The Nassau Guardian reported a lower number: 146 murders last year.

The American attorney said that with a population of a little over 400,000, the Bahamas has an “extraordinary high murder rate” of around 37 per 100,000.

The murder rate in the United States is only around 4.5 per 100,000.

Considering that most of the murders are in Nassau (New Providence) the murder rate is even higher if the family islands are excluded, Walker added.

According to the report: “The preponderance of violent crimes reported were perpetrated against local Bahamians, and these occurred in areas of saturated criminality and not typically frequented by tourists.”

The report nevertheless added that “despite strenuous anti-crime incentives sanctioned by the government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas during the past year, New Providence witnessed a substantial increase of violent armed crimes in locations that are also heavily frequented by US citizen tourists.

“In many instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities. Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, general theft of personal property, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.

“In 2015, several incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported near popular tourist areas close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas.

“While there is no indication that US citizens have been targeted directly, criminals have become more brazen and creative in their methods.

“For example, several armed robberies of US citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas. Armed assailants have placed random items in the street as impromptu roadblocks so unassuming drivers would stop and could be robbed. In separate instances, four Embassy employees were victims of a robbery,” the report continued.

“The US Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged.

“The Embassy issued five separate Security Messages for US Citizens in 2015 (Spike in Crime, Recent Armed Robberies, Credit Card/ATM Fraud, Jet ski Sexual Assaults, and Crime during the Holiday Season).

“Police recently warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated; and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of US citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators. The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively ‘safe’ beaches within the confines of Paradise Island and heavily frequented by tourists and Embassy personnel.

“As a result of this trend, on January 6, 2016, Embassy Nassau put the use of jet-skis operated by local nationals in New Providence off-limits to all Chief of Mission personnel/agencies domiciled in The Bahamas.”

Walker noted that, as the report indicates, “things have gotten worse” since Cruise Law News named Nassau the most dangerous cruise destination in the world in 2004.

The attorney pointed out that most cruise lines do not warn passengers before they buy a cruise which includes Nassau, but they warn the passengers with shipboard publications before reaching Nassau.

Many frequent cruisers decide to stay on the cruise ship, he said.

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