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U.S. Embassy in Bahamas Issues Crime Warning

  • Written by New York Times -Frances Robles
  • Published in Caribbean
MIAMI — Water scooter operators on Paradise Island in the Bahamas are reported to have sexually assaulted at least three American tourists since July, the United States Embassy announced in a security advisory this week that warned of increasingly brazen crimes sweeping the country.

The embassy in Nassau, the capital, has issued four security alerts this year, warning tourists and American expatriates of an increase in crime in neighborhoods where American citizens live and visit.

News of the sexual assault reports, posted on the embassy’s website on Monday, came as a surprise in Nassau; local news media reported that the reports had not been disclosed on the daily blotter of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. More than six million travelers visited the Bahamas last year, making tourism the country’s top industry and crime against visitors a delicate topic.

The embassy said Americans were not being singled out but were being caught up in increasingly violent robberies and home invasions. An American living in Freeport was murdered in January. The next day, two American citizens were the victims of a carjacking at Jaws Beach on New Providence Island, the embassy said.

Last month, an American woman who lives in the Bahamas was kidnapped and raped, the embassy said.

“We also have noticed criminals increasingly becoming more brazen and creative in their methods,” the embassy said in its latest alert.

The embassy declined to elaborate on the reported sexual assaults but noted that at least one of the victims was a minor. Some victims have taken to posting information about assaults on consumer websites. Because the issue has become “an international incident,” Stephen G. Dean, assistant commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, declined to say whether any arrests had been made.

A spokesman for the Bahamian government, Elcott Coleby, said the prime minister had convened a special national security meeting on Monday. Several new crime-fighting strategies were devised but not announced, Mr. Coleby said.

The minister of national security, Bernard J. Nottage, said in a statement: “It would, of course, be foolhardy in the extreme to disclose details of these new measures as to do so would be tipping the hand of law enforcement to the very persons we are determined to catch and put behind bars. We are confident, however, that these new measures will achieve satisfying results within a very short period of time and that the perpetrators of violent crime will be brought to justice and made to feel the full weight of the law.”

Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer in Miami who writes a blog about crime in the Caribbean, said water scooter vendors often posed a risk because they were unaffiliated with the hotels where they recruit customers.

“In a lot of places, you don’t know who they are,” Mr. Walker said.

Such crimes present a liability for cruise operators if they fail to warn passengers about known dangers at the port of call. Last year, the United States Embassy reported on assaults in hotel rooms and in casinos, outside hotels and on cruise ships, including several in which the victim had been drugged.

“I have never seen as many security advisories from the embassy as I have this year in Nassau,” Mr. Walker said. “The prior ones were even more gruesome than the more recent ones.”

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