A Cruise Passenger's Perspective: Local Newspapers in Nassau, Bahamas Paint Grim Image of Armed Robberies & Murders

On Friday, I published an article regarding whether travel agents and cruise lines are warning passengers about the high rate of violent crime in Nassau. My article followed an article in the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reporting on the cruise industry's concern with crime against its passengers and crew members, as well as the U.S. State Department warning of the risk to tourists of armed robbery. 

My impression is that whereas Carnival is warning its passengers of high crime ashore in Nassau, the other cruise lines are not. And while some travel agents are transparent with their clients and tell them the sad news about Nassau, many have a cavalier attitude of "crime happens everywhere" or "nothing Nassau Bahamas Crimehas happened to me there" type of approach.

The article - Is Your Travel Agent or Cruise Line Warning You of Crime in the Bahamas? - also hit a nerve with the residents of the Bahamas. In comments to my article, I received two reactions from the Bahamas community. One sentiment was "yes, its dangerous here." The other reaction was a mixture of denial and strange patriotism "no, don't malign my country, Miami is more dangerous."

But the truth is that Nassau is more dangerous than Miami, New York, or Los Angeles, and does not compare well to even Detroit which is the murder capital of the U.S. In terms of armed robberies and murders, a U.S. citizen cannot travel to a more dangerous city in the U.S. compared to Nassau. And unlike these U.S. cities, Nassau is dependent on tourists arriving by cruise ship. The Miami-based cruise lines are finally talking about pulling out of Nassau if such high crime affecting their guests doesn't improve.   

The Bahamas used to advertise that "it's better in the Bahamas." I don't know if it does anymore. A more accurate description would be "it's more dangerous in the Bahamas."

Perhaps some of the remote islands of the Bahamas are safer, but that's not where the cruise lines unload thousands of people a day.

Last month, the Acting Prime Minister of the Bahamas was the victim of armed robbery (see photos on our Facebook page here).  Earlier this year, a 74 year-old female U.S. diplomat was the victim of an armed robbery on a Sunday morning downtown Nassau while walking to church. A few months ago, we wrote about the open letter to the Tribune newspaper about crime penned by Bahamian Senator Bostwick who talked about "regular random robbery of tourists."   

Many in the Bahamas dependent on the U.S. dollars of the cruise passengers say that violence finds only those tourists who "go over the hill" looking for drugs or sex. Similarly, many U.S. travel agents tell their clients that everything will be fine if you stick with the other passengers in the cruise approved excursions ashore.

But I will always think of the Bahamas as the only place where armed robbers have targeted cruise passengers to rob in bulk on multiple occassions. I'm talking about the armed robbery of 11 passengers visiting the Queen's Staircase on a quiet Sunday afternoon and, a month later, the armed robbery and terrorizing of 18 cruise passengers during a cruise excursion to a nature's preserve.

I have been accused of exaggerating things. My response is don't read my blog. Read the local newspapers in Nassau - the Tribune and the Guardian.  They are filled daily with stories of violent crime. I selected ten front page headlines from the Tribune in the last month or so to post on our Facebook page. Here are a few recent headlines:

"Man shot down in street," "7 shot, 1 killed at peace party," Murder count over 2012 total," and "Four dead in 36 hours of violence." The headlines go on and on.

You can see the articles from the Tribune here.

I doubt any cruise lines or travel agents want any of their customers to read these articles when deciding their cruise itinerary.  

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Comments (21) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
josh - January 5, 2014 3:53 PM

No place is dangerous like Detroit so you exaggerated a lot there. There own mayor is in prison they have every company moving out and relocating.

Jim Walker - January 5, 2014 4:03 PM

Josh: Nassau has higher murder and armed robbery rates than Detroit. But let's not quibble over statistics. Is Nassau's new marketing slogan "Come to Nassau - we're safer than Detroit?"

JackTheBear - January 5, 2014 7:29 PM

The government of ALL destinations better get their act together and start using some of the tourist dollars to police these locations. Many of these places prosper solely on tourist dollars and if the cruise lines quit coming, those places will dry up as well. NCL has skipped Acapulco Mexico as well as Egypt thru 2015. You want tourist dollars - better get your act together. http://www.usatoday.com/story/cruiselog/2013/01/30/norwegian-cruise-line-egypt/1877059/

Bahamian Citizen - January 6, 2014 3:01 AM

As a citizen of the Bahamas I would not doubt for one minute that in recent years our crime has gotten out of control, and yes our government needs to make better efforts in getting a handle on the crime situation. However I find it most interesting that many Americans especially, seem to have painted pictures in their heads about the Bahamas or other similar tropical destinations, of nothing more than pina coladas, white sandy beaches and palm trees. Many seem to forget that actual people live in these countries. People that deal with the same issues as many Americans and have societies with the same social ills as many American cities. I am sure we would all love to live in a perfect world free of criminals and their heinous crimes, but sadly that is not the world we live in. Don't think for a minute that I am defending the criminals in my country, but the newspaper clippings and your articles about Nassau make it seem as if the tourist should avoid Nassau at all costs and that they are being highly targeted which is definitely not the case. Yes there are some incidents regarding our visitors but very rarely does it involve murder. Read the newspaper clippings properly and you will see the murders in the country happen mainly in the inner city areas, tourists are not the target of these types of crimes. I see tourist venturing into "over the hill" communities as we call them and I stop my car and urge them to turn around, so I am all for helping in keeping our visitors safe. It is good for tourists to know facts about the destinations they travel to but you sir seem to have a vendetta against the Bahamas and the people of the Bahamas, you post nothing but negativity and seem to warn against traveling to the Bahamas or even getting on a cruise that goes there. There is also good things about this country and I think your judgement on the Bahamas is unfair and adds to the negativity in the news. There are over 350,000 people in the Bahamas and NOT everyone of us are out to rob, rape, kill or harm the tourists or the people of this country in anyway. The vast majority of us are peaceful, friendly people that want nothing more for our visitors to enjoy their time with us, there is no need for you to instill fear in the people choose to visit our country.There is no need for you to try and completely destroy our name, and like someone mentioned in another post Nassau is but one island amongst the many hundreds the Bahamas has to offer, there is no need for you to try and condemn them with negativity and malice.

Jim Walker - January 6, 2014 9:43 AM

My goal is to warn the cruise passengers of the crime in Nassau. The stories are all there, but in your local newspapers which the passengers don't read. Your reputation is your responsibility and will change only when you get your crime problem under control.

Jillian Bartlett - January 6, 2014 12:19 PM

The PLPs have the government but not the answers or solutions and the FNMs they had a good leader in you Mr McCartney but they didn't know too late...now the people, FNMs/PLPs and others need a u and not regular politics...its about Crime, we don't want VAT, better productive education and need forgiveness.

Am listening to the next leader for the new Bahamas and the new Bahamians who are tired of both government over 40years.

We want to formed a people referendum against the governments and let bring in a whole new breed of politics.

The Bahamians are tired and isn't interest in the talks anymore

kairosmatt - January 6, 2014 1:02 PM

I live in Abaco, but my mom and brother are still in Nassau. I have to say, every time we go to visit them I have to stop and think about it. I don't think about my safety, necessarily, but that of my wife and son. That's a terrible thing for your hometown.
Growing up and living in Nassau there was not one year, not ONE year-that we weren't robbed. Usually multiple robberies every year. And its getting worse and no one has the political will to do anything about it.
Unfortunately you see this same lax attitude about law enforcement trickling into the out-islands. If the criminials can get away with it in Nassau why not head to the other islands where people and tourists aren't expecting it? They are ripe for the picking. Win win for the criminals.
So many Bahamian citizens and especially the politicians say that we should not be reporting this, its bad for tourism! So wrong, the crime is bad for tourism. Fix it, don't hide it.

Alex - January 6, 2014 6:43 PM

You fail to mention that most violent crime in the Bahamas is carried out on Bahamians in non-tourist areas. If we look at violent yearly crime as it relates to visitors to the Bahamas there is very little.

Monique - January 7, 2014 1:53 AM

As a citizen of the Bahamas I am also inclined to state that when I visit New York as much as I love the city I am also aware of the dangers that leek in certain areas like the Bronx and queens Jamaica etc. Even orlando florida, where i now reside, i know where the bad areas are and i wont go near them in the nighttime. That doesn't mean that New Yorkers should discourage people from visiting. This holds true for the Bahamas as well. There are good places and other places to not venture into.

Justin - January 9, 2014 12:25 AM

I cant say that I disagree with the Bahamian people here tying to defend their counrty, In fact I admire it. But the fact of the matter is that 90% of travelers going to your country PROBABLY do not know what is going on there. they want white beaches and fruity drinks... not looking at other aspects of a city. I read a comment that someone wont go into the bronx at night, neither would I... but going there you prob know that ahead of time. Jim is just trying to make people aware if the situation. It may seen he is portraying it negatively, but in all honesty... how else can you portray rape, murder, and rampant drug pushing. I was in your country in 2011 and enjoyed my self for the few hours we had on land. stayed aware of my surroundings and watched my back and DIDNT travel alone. and def. didnt go "over the hill"

Travis T. Sweeting - January 9, 2014 12:01 PM

JIM WALKER - According to this statement: "Miami, New York, or Los Angeles, and does not compare well to even Detroit" you're trying to say that Nassau has more crime than these places, however, you should really realize that Nassau is NOT The Bahamas. The COUNTRY has a collective population of around 350,000 and Nassau only a third of that so if you're referring to statistics to aid your EXAGGERATION (as that's what it is) then anyone with common sense will discredit this article.

Yes, crime has been on the rise and like others have mentioned it's more or less against natives and not visitors. I've had friends who were robbed in NYC, LA and Miami times over. It actually comes with the territory and anyone going ANYWHERE in the world should be cautious as crime is a reality of EVERY country sir.

Besides, that thing you're trying to do, rub MY country's name in the dirt will actually affect Miami too (you know, the "peaceful" city you find yourself living in?) should these ships stop coming. Bahamians contribute heavily to the local Miami Market for many years over so you, too, should be careful how you deal your words.

You're just bitter. Get over it already.

Leona - January 11, 2014 2:57 PM

I see you've been interviewed by a Bahamian newspaper. I'm a Bahamian and know that Bahamians are very good at making a person their friend and getting them to 'feel sorry' for them.
Murder and crime against tourist are definitely higher than Detroit because police officers sometimes will not write a report or take a statement and often files disappear. You have to remember that almost every one is related by family lines or has grown up together, or attend the same church or are in the same lodge (masons) group.
Bahamians have an unspoken law that they do not turn against each other but everyone is supposed to 'cover' the other black Bahamians back, since they were kept down by the 'white man' for so long, now it's their time to get what they think is owed to them.
You hear this talk all the time and it is believed strongly. So, when I was in the Bahamas and spoke out against anything, I was attacked. Eventually, I was ostracized and had to leave the Bahamas because I would not compromise.
In truth, you have no idea how corrupt the Bahamas is and how many murders, even acts of crimes against tourist go unreported. I think Bahamians will try to be very careful in how they respond to you. There are some Americans who spoke out about things, like me, can never go back. A British journalist who used to run the Tribune newspaper was threatened constantly with death. Also a philanthropist who spoke about the living conditions of some on Eleuthera island not having running water. They said she threatened tourism to the island and she would die (and it was not a few people). My hero the American Ambassador Blankenship was so hated for his war against drugs and police corruption. The few talk shows on the radio had people calling in talking about him being run over as he crossed the street one day all the time!
All I was saying was I'm a christian, I'm not going to compromise because you can not be 'saved' and sleep around, sell drugs, steal off the job ect. I was yelled at almost every day on the streets, beat up once and harassed by the police constantly. It is a horrible place to be if you want to live with high moral standards.

Ny - January 17, 2014 12:32 PM

This is my problem with your argument you seem to be and advocate for the cruise lines to leave. Is crime a problem yes, but having the cruise lines leave will not help the crime situation it would probably make it worse. It would create massive job instability in a country that is very close to your borders. In truth this is primarily the governments responsibility, but for many years the cruise industry has benefited financially from the islands. Maybe instead of pulling out wouldn't it be a nice change to offer financial assistance in training more officers and helping to secure the tourist areas. Also if they can make some small contributions to create a better education system so some of these guys can have choices other than a life of crime. Again this is not their responsibility, but am sure they would hate to have leave the islands of the Bahamas altogether. It would cost them a lot financially and severely hurt this small country. There are better ways to do this. The other Caribbean islands are having crime issue too not as bad, but with potential to increase over time. The gun trade in the Bahamas is unfortunately fueled by our neighbors to the North and South so we need help securing our very expansive border. It would be far worse to have a failed state so close to the borders of the US so offering some help to your neighbors to the south may be a better first option. Of course there is no obligation to this country and they will ultimately make a decision that is their best interest but I am only offering an alternative that may better help both the country and cruise lines.

Leona - January 17, 2014 4:06 PM

Here is a few stories that support my first post. The point is the Bahamas does not want change, they fight against it. From the leaders in politics to the leaders in church, to the general populace - they fight against any negative consequences instead of looking at themselves to begin to discipline themselves.
http://www.bahamasb2b.com/news/2014/01/another-u-s-citizen-dead-in-the-bahamas-46618.html

Val L. - January 21, 2014 7:38 PM

I am a Bahamian, female in my 30's, residing East Nassau. In December 2013, just a few days before Christmas, my house was broken into. It was just after 3am and I was the first person to discover this stranger in my house. It was dark and I couldn't make out a face, but I screamed at the top of my lungs until every person in my family woke up and came out of their rooms. The robber jumped the fence and fled.

A month before that, a family friend was robbed at gun-point when she walked out of her front door at 8:30am heading for work. He took her purse and fled. She lives on the main road of West Bay Street just near Nassau Beach.

The above are not stories read on the news or gossip passed on. They are true life experiences that happened to me and someone I personally know. Luckily for both of us, we were not physically harmed. But emotionally, we are scarred for life. I am now constantly paranoid that there might be a stranger in the house. I re-check all the doors to make sure they are locked and look out into the yard every night before I sleep. I'm even scared to open the windows or even the curtains in my room.

If I, as a citizen of Nassau, do not feel safe in my own home, why should foreigners come here and subject themselves to such risks? I think its great that the US Embassy and Cruise Lines and any other bodies are warning tourists. Their obligation is not to the Bahamian people, its only to their citizens and patrons. The more people are warned, the more alert they will be and even if they do decide to come here in the end, the chances of something bad happening to them will be reduced. Until the Bahamas can clean up its act, its best that less tourists are visiting, because these crime stories will only spread more rampantly and at some point, our reputation might not be repairable.

To the police officer above: The Bahamas is a tourist destination. People come here to have a good time. And if their idea of a good time is partying until 4am and taking advantage of our duty-free rum, then that is their perogative. A young lady wandering drunk in the middle of the night, is still not excuse for a man to rape her!!! A man walking alone in the streets is also not a reason for him to be mugged. As proven by my friend and myself, "crime happens in the ghetto at the wrong place or the wrong time" is clearly not the case. Until you, the entire police squad and the local government can adopt ZERO tolerance for crime, improvements won't take place.

To the residents of other islands: I do feel sorry that you have to be subjected to the warnings against the entire Bahamas, but your attitude that "its Nassau's business", will only be detrimental to yourselves. We are One Bahamas. Thats the way foreigners see us and if you are truly a Bahamian, that is the way you should also see us! Instead of side-bar comments of "just visit a family island", you should be lobbying with the good citizens of Nassau to improve its conditions. Until Nassau improves, you will always be affected by the ripple effects.

To NY: You're completely right. Its a vicious cycle. If less tourists are coming, income for the locals are reduced and more people will be unemployed and crimes will escalate. Sure it would be beneficial if cruise lines invest and assist us, but why would they if they can simply dock elsewhere and make the same profits they always have??? And we all know there are many countries that are far worse than us, so even if assistance from the U.S. is due, we would have to join a queue.

We simply cannot expect outsiders to clean up our country. We need corruption within the government to be broken down layer by layer. We need strong young men to volunteer their services for crime watch. We need churches to get involved (I'm sick of seeing them renovate when donations can be used for better causes than shiny walls and strong air condition). We need to educate those that are still in the school system. Those of us in the tourist industry need to continually improve our services - because beyond crime, there are problems with the core! (I've had relatives visiting who talked about how run down the taxi's are and how they got ripped off paying $40 from downtown to PI. I've had visitors who complained about how rude the dealers at the Atlantis Casino are and getting sick eating from under the bridge. And the list goes on, but that will have to be a different thread!!!)

Bottom line: Its up to us!


Mike - January 23, 2014 3:10 PM

It is sad that such a wonderful country has fallen. I am a US citizen who loves the Bahamas. Nassau is the first trip my wife of many years took together, our destination of choice for any celebration in our lives and our regular get away from it all location. We have been unofficial tourist ambassadors for the Bahamas for the last 25 years, singing the praises of the island beauty to many who soon became believer. In the past we have likely traveled to the Bahamas close to 100 times, however we have not returned in the few year because of the crime problem. In my opinion, for what it is worth, this is not a policing problem but a values problem. The reason people are committing crime is not because there are to few officers watching them but because their belief in right and wrong has been corrupted. A campaign based upon hard work and country pride needs to dominate the media and discussion in society. Heroes need to be found that highlight these values. Handouts are not the answer and only lead to an increased sense of entitlement. The role models need to be the hard working members of society that struggle to better themselves. Real jobs that produce a visible change in the community is a great way to create pride in the citizens who participate.
PLEASE DO SOMETHING. Many people are waiting on you to act. I promise you as soon as you get your act together We will return.

Stir Fry - February 20, 2014 5:04 PM

Fellow posters piqued my curiosity in comparing Nassau crime to New York City's.

Carefully comparing the populations and murder rates, the statistics are as follows according to a newspaper article in Tribune242 on January 14, 2014 titled "Nassau is bloodier than New York" found at URL:
http://www.tribune242.com/news/2014/jan/05/briefly/

To quote the article, "Nassau is bloodier than New York City. Per The Huffington Post, 333 people were murdered in New York City in 2013. This is a 20 per cent drop from 2012’s murder tally of 417, which was a record low.

Granted, the 333 murders in that city are 213 more than The Bahamas’ official tally of 120. What we must bear in mind, however, is that New York City’s population currently stands at 8,336,697. Nassau’s population is 250,000, as previously mentioned."

This means that New York City’s population is 33 times the size of Nassau’s. And as unbelievable as this might sound, had Nassau’s population been the size of that as New York City’s, the murder rate would be hovering around 3,300. For what it’s worth, New York City is much, much safer than small New Providence, despite that US city’s massive size. Of every 25,035 New York City resident, only one was murdered in 2013. Conversely, of every 2,100 Nassauvian, one was murdered in 2013."

Erin D - March 4, 2014 6:40 PM

Must admit had no idea about crime but just got back today and had no problems traveled over the hill alone (I'm 100lb,white girl, American) and everyone was great. I'm scared now after reading this,and feel lucky but honestly think it's not bad for tourist. Of course there will be occasions, as there is everywhere, as we are there economy. Already have had email contact with many locals I met, and can't wait to go back!

BunnyLovers - March 13, 2014 12:01 PM

We were victims of an attempted armed robbery, while on a public bus, in Nassau
We were on bus 7a, just sight seeing, at 2pm on March 8 2014
Two young men wanted my wifes purse as they were exiting the bus.
The man with the gun said that he was going to shoot me if my wife didn't give up her purse.
She screamed, & the men ran away, only because the man with the gun, saw a women on the bus, that could identify him, & she did, when we were at the police station.
Don't wear any jewely, & don't carry a purse, of any size.
Bus 10, which serves the 'safe' side of Nassau, seems to be a-ok.
Please google "crimes against tourists in nassau bahamas", it's all very scary.
You can have a really bad day, if your not careful.
If you go to Nassau, staying in your resort, would be the best plan.
Downtown, within a few block area, during the day, seems very safe.
When traveling in Nassau, use an 'approved' taxi.
Some of the bad guys are now pretending to be a taxi service, watch out.
My wife has bruised Ribs, from the assualt on us.

Bahamian - March 23, 2014 9:53 PM

This article could not be any more false. I am a citizen of The Bahamas and frequent the United States rather a lot. The number of Bahamians or any other tourist nationality in the US that are robbed a month in mostly Florida will have you flabbergasted.However, it is turned a blind eye to because it does not affect The "Great Americans" well being. Therefore, do not slander the name of my country due to a crime rate that barely affects our tourists. Do not pick on a little country like us when Jamacia and Trinidad's crime rates are in the thousands. Thank you for reading.

Bluejeans in Chicago - May 27, 2014 2:25 PM

We were in the Bahamas for 10 days last September. It was my first trip to the islands since 1995, and what an unpleasant surprise. The world economic downturn has virtually destroyed beautiful downtown Nassau; now marred by barred windows and concertina wire. We may visit a resort in the future, but there is no reason to leave the grounds anymore. It's as dangerous as Kingston, Jamaica is.

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