Washington Post Talks Crime & Tourism in the Caribbean


The Washington Post did a nice little write up about crime in the Caribbean and the effect on the tourism. You might ask how can it be “nice” when crime is a negative subject matter plaguing Caribbean countries?, well it’s a fair and accurate look at the issue in my opinion.

We can all attest to significant attention given to stories about “murder in paradise” especially where sex/romance is involved, not only that but the negative attention can truly hurt a brand that we all know our tourist officials here try so hard to build every year, the constant monitoring of arrival figures, room occupancies, or the mass hysteria in newspapers and talk radio when figures decline or remain flat.

Without a question tourism is a bread and butter industry for Jamaica employing thousands directly and indirectly but with crime being the Caribbean’s most pressing issue this has the potential to literally destroying this industry. Who wants to vacation somewhere they are not going to feel safe?.

The Washington Post story pointed to a very important fact that despite the crime problem the Caribbean faces, tourists are rarely the victims of crime- however if a distant observer was to get all information from reports in the media you would get the impression that there was great civil unrest, sort of like when a relative overseas call Jamaica concerned about “the recent upsurge” or even some rural Jamaicans saying they are afraid to visit Kingston because of crime as if the entire city was raveling in crime. The truth is that most crime is gang related and mostly confined, and note I said mostly confined to depressed areas. The point made by the Post which speaks such truth:

Experts are quick to point out that most crime in the Caribbean, especially violent crime, does not target or involve tourists. As State Department spokeswoman Laura Tischler says, despite some areas of concern, “Millions of people travel to [Caribbean destinations] safely and have a good time every year.”

Anthony Harriott, a political sociology professor and director of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, goes a step further. “In general, tourists [including Americans] are safer in the Caribbean than in their home countries,” he says.

In 2003, Harriott observes, “Only 0.0004 percent of all visitors to Jamaica reported that they were victimized” by crime. In Barbados, the only other Caribbean nation to publish statistics on crimes against tourists, the rate of violent crimes against tourists was even lower.”

I don’t want to pretend that all is honky dory and there are no real threats to anyone local or tourists if you are in the wrong place, and yes there are wrong places. The Washington Post mentions Montego Bay, Jamaica’s major tourist capital and pointed to the fact that crime has been on the rise there. In recent times it would appear that the second city is in direct competition with Kingston for double, tipple murders and shootings and stabbings. I have witness for myself in the second city whole squadron of police and soldiers in jeeps and cars in a mad rush to corner off some inner-city community to flush out criminals. Later if you read about what transpired most likely you will hear that several arrests were made and 90% of those arrested where release, for all that effort.

Of course all this is this happening away from the perfectly manicured lawns, well kept whites sandy beaches of all inclusive resorts of Rose Hall. It is like Jamaica having to hide the dark side of crime and show off our tropical beauty. Makes you wonder if the police plans a major operation around whether or not a cruise ship will be docking at the port that day, after all they do not want to frighten our guests-they booked Jamaica not Iraq. The story mentions Montego Bay’s crime problem stating:

“here are no major problems inside resorts in Jamaica, but Montego Bay has seen a rise in crime in recent years,” Friedl says. “Why? Because there are 17 slum areas around Montego Bay that you didn’t have before. Many of those people [in the slums] are honest, but some are not. It’s a growing city, and that means more issues.”

In one spark of hope that means even more to us living here everyday than to any tourist here for a few days, crime over all for 2009 is down significantly when compared to 2008. Although this is good news we can not take too much comfort in this as we all know. It is a trend in the right direction that we hope will continue.In the article the Post mention several high profile crimes that involved tourists, although Jamaica has one of the highest crime rate in the world none of the ones mentioned occurred here.

To read the entire article the WP website click here.


~ by RB on March 3, 2009.

9 Responses to “Washington Post Talks Crime & Tourism in the Caribbean”

  1. DB – The article does do a good job of parsing out what “crime” means, and to whom it is meaningful.

    But your comments also reveal the propagandizing potential of this article.

    So, in other words, we can now encourage tourists to come to Jamaica (or any place else in the Cbn), since is not dem a get kill an what not?

    The safety of the tourists is better as noted by Harriott BECAUSE their safety is treated as paramount. Our tax dollars are used to shore up the “security” of the hotel zones where tourists go, and which makes those police unavailable, as well as unwilling to do the real work of policing. They would rather tour up and down the negril strip, where little or nothing happens, and where they can extort money from some prostitute, than find demself a savlamar or mobay where much is happening that actually requires their attention. Why don’t the private hotels pay for their own dyam security? Tourist security happens at our expense.

    In practice, Jamaicans pay – literally and figuratively – dearly for the tourists’ safety, and don’t get much in return. Maybe when crime becomes an equal opportunity enterprise – when gunman make tourist season fi dem hgh season, an a rob an tief an kill di tourist dem, maybe our PM will wake up and start paying attention to the REAL crime problem that is robbing us Jamaicans of our lives and loved ones. And that’s more likely to happen now than ever, despite the optimist tone of this article.

  2. Longbench-no propagandizing here just pointing out what I thought was worth mention here. the article mention violent crime which of course is the most concerning to most people.I think that any well thinking person, not even tourists but person should be sensible enough to be cautious while vacationing anywhere. Today Mexico has very bad crime problem with kidnapping, multiple murders, even the police chief are targets their for doing their jobs, yet many collage students are gearing up for Cancun for spring break. Although Cancun is in Mexico they haven’t had a violent crime in months.-Point is its not all black and white and crime complex in terms of causes, solution, who are victims etc.

    From what you said I get the impression that the government does not want to solve the problem of crime. I was talking to a friend recently who said the same thing. I am wondering if this means they can turn it off or turn it on. What is all this Ministry of Security for and equipping police with what they need. Is this all just a charade? If that is so well this is depressing

  3. this story comes out of Barbados which is getting a lot of attention in Canada


  4. DB – I didn’t mean to suggest that YOU were doing the propaganda. Apologies for that. Your summary of the article shows that there are two related sides of the problem, and that the information can (and will be) spun as a “see it ain’t so bad”, while missing the other side, that you hint at:

    “Makes you wonder if the police plans a major operation around whether or not a cruise ship will be docking at the port that day, after all they do not want to frighten our guests-they booked Jamaica not Iraq.”

    Without question, the Ministry of Security in unable to deal with the criminality, because it can’t get a handle on the corruption that facilitates the illegal importation and sale of guns, the leaking of confidential information, the reluctance and refusal of police to actually follow thru on arrests, etc. The anarchy and incompetence is just amazing. That Gravel Heights situation was very, very, very telling of how things are actually operating. So, yes, what is going on now is all just a charade. So, in the face of all that, banning daggering provides a wonderful feeling of having accomplished something, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing that piece about the assault of the tourist in Barbados. Again, another rather instructive piece. Our attitudes and approach to tourism is much, much different. First, the majority of our beaches are tourist-only zones; in B’dos, tourists and locals share practically every beach. We think of tourists as treasures to be hidden away and protected from our dangerous selves. B’dos works on an entirely different assumption ie. that they share the country with visitors, and that neither tourists nor locals should be subjected to any kind of criminality, and thus see this as a genuine assault on BOTH tourists and locals. Let that happen here? All you would get is more banning of locals from wherever tourists go. Different mindset, different outcomes.

  5. LB-The idea is that our people are too full of gimmickry and violence to mingle with the tourists.-Not my idea just what the higher uppers think, they watch the ordinary hotel employees like hawks.

  6. Sounds like they wrote a balanced article, I’ll go check it out.

  7. Hmm, you and Longbench did bring out a few good points in your discussion. Crime is indeed a very serious problem here in Jamaica, and even though it’s most unlikely that tourists are targets in these crimes the high crime rate does cast a dark shadow on our country as a destination. As the crime level escalates it is only a matter of time before the incidents of crime against tourist increase. Merely attempting to shield tourists from the criminal elements in our society is just like painting over a rotting wooden house, at some time it will collapse. The government and the security forces need to focus on making the country safe for all (citizens and tourists). By lowering our monstrous crime rate our country can look better to the international eyes and our visitors can truly experience our country and not just the manicured lawns and white sand beaches protected by high walls and security guards.

  8. Great analogy Stunner-“is just like painting over a rotting wooden house, at some time it will collapse”

    Most governments like to put band aide on things because really fixing the problem will either cost too much “building a new house instead of paining it over. Or demolishing the old house which will upset some people (their constituent)

  9. DB, thanks for bringing this article to light.

    The reality is the government thinks of tourism in too narrow a way. Sure the tourists we attract are safe. Like Stunner said, as soon as they land at Sangster Airport (try to keep dem out a Kgn as much as possible), they are immediately sequestered in a air conditioned JUTA bus and locked away in a resort. How many more tourists could we attract if our streets were safe? Many more people who would love to visit a place like Jamaica but can’t afford the arm and leg it costs to stay a week at Sandals, or RIU. Americans who travel to Europe go to experience the life there. Back pack, stay at hostels, bed and breakfasts, etc. Holidaying on the cheap. If we make the streets safe for the regular joe, we can make tourism better as well. I don’t have a problem with the visitors who want to lay on a beach and be served hand and foot. Their money, their business. But why limit the industry?

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