Murder Aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas?

Enchantmemt of the Seas Cruise Ship MurderLast night I received an email from a person who follows cruising who received information that there may have been what is being described as a "murder / suicide" on an unidentified Royal Caribbean cruise ship. There was a vague posting of the alleged incident on the Disney boards

This morning I received another email from a passenger who just disembarked the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship.  The person's email is as follows:

"Just got off Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas. They were detaining everyone on the 7Th floor and the police were there collecting statements. The crew wouldn't say what was going on but other passengers said there was a murder/death on the 7th fl. Post if you hear anything about it."

My understanding is that the Enchantment OTS is moored in Baltimore at the moment.  

Enchantment of the Seas Cabin 7110If you have any information about this alleged incident, please leave a message or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Update March 25 2013:  I received the following information this morning from a person who wishes to remain anonymous:

The deceased person is reportedly a woman in her 60's who allegedly was found on the floor by her husband.    

She reportedly had fallen inside the cabin earlier the same evening and hit her head and went to bathroom where she fell again this is when husband called for help. Nurses arrived to the cabin to attend the situation however she was pronounced dead at 5 AM.

(Please note that I cannot verify any of this information or any comments below). 

The cabin was thereafter sealed at some point until arrival into port where investigations will begin.

We were also provided with a copy of a photo of the door of the cabin in question which shows a plexi-glass cover over the key hole and key card slot with a lock around the handle.  

The FBI has told news stations in Baltimore that there are "suspicious undertones" surrounding the death.

A local CBS news station in Baltimore aired a short video on the investigation.

March 28, 2013 Update: The AP is reporting that an "autopsy shows that a Virginia woman found dead aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship died of natural causes.

FBI spokesman Rich Wolf has identified the woman as 64-year-old Katherine Kennedy, of Midlothian, Va. He says Kennedy died of heart disease.

Her husband found her dead Sunday in her cabin on the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. FBI agents met the ship when it arrived in Baltimore on Monday to begin investigating the unexplained death.

Wolf says Kennedy also had a laceration on her forehead, but authorities determined that she got the cut when she fell down. They said it had nothing to do with her death."

Photo Credit:

Top: Rageousgtx at en.wikipedia

Bottom: Anonymous

FBI Cruise Ship Crime Cover-Up Continues

Journalist Robert Anglen has an article today in the Arizona Republic entitled "Stats Don't Fully Account For All Cruise-Ship Crime."  The article was also published in USA TODAY and discusses the false and misleading cruise ship crimes statistics in the FBI database which mentions only 2 cruise ship crimes for the second quarter of this year. 

You will recall that the cruise lines were suppose to be required to report the hundreds of crimes which occur each year, pursuant to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Law.  But the language of the new law was altered at the last minute to permit the cruise lines to cover the crimes up.  Lawmakers said the FBI demanded the alterations to benefit the cruise lines.  There is no doubt that the cruise lines and Bogus FBI Cruise Ship Crime Statisticstheir trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), were behind the last minute shenanigans.

Mr. Anglen wrote an article earlier this year (in June) entitled "Law Shields Industry On Cruise-Ship Crime Information" which exposed the manipulation of the law which was originally designed to require greater transparency from the cruise industry.  The public was suppose to be able to access an accurate public database with all of the crime allegations available. But the behind-the-scenes alteration of the law has resulted in an unprecedented concealment of crimes by the cruise lines with the full cooperation and assistance by the FBI.

Is it just a coincidence that many of the top security personnel at the cruise lines today used to be senior FBI officials?  The FBI has an open dialogue with the cruise lines but routinely keeps the victims in the dark.

This cozy relationship between the FBI and the cruise lines is a great disservice to the cruising public.

The article mentions Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization. 

Mr. Anglen's article also quotes me referring to the FBI database as "bogus" and only 2 crimes in the last quarter as "lies." These comments were from from a blog I wrote in August - "Lies, Lies & Lies - FBI & Cruise Industry Continue to Publish Bogus Cruise Crimes Statistics."

The cruise lines must be chuckling after thumbing their collective nose at the legislative process. They have proven that foreign off-shore industries can easily circumvent the U.S. democratic process, as long as they have friends in high places.  

 

Photo credit: FBI

Secrets on the High Seas - Rape of Houston Passenger Reveals Flaws in Cruise Crime Reporting

A local news station in Houston, Texas reports that there are problems with the manner that crimes on cruise ships are reported and investigated by the FBI.

KRPC Channel 2 in Houston aired a program yesterday that reported on the rape of a 56 year old Texas woman on at the last night of a cruise out of the port of Houston (Galveston).  Like most rape cases on cruises, the FBI did not make an arrest.

The investigation by the news station revealed that the FBI disclosed that it investigated only 16 crimes all of last year.  But the crime numbers "just don't add up," according to the news station. (We know that this is a bogus number of crimes because in years past, there has been testimony before Congress tCarnival Cruise Ship - Rape - Sexual Assaulthat hundreds of crimes occur each year during cruises).  

The interesting thing revealed in this report was that the Port of Houston alone had 15 crimes reported just out of its port, so clearly the FBI's data of 16 cruise crimes for all cruises nationally is grossly understated.

This particular case involved an allegation that a cruise line employee (waiter) committed the rape.  In our experience most shipboard rapes are committed by cruise employees with waiters, as well as cabin attendants and bartenders, the most likely ones to rape a passenger.

Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization was interviewed during the program and stated: "True and accurate crime data needs to be available and released to the public . . .  it is the cornerstone of accountability and safety for millions of Americans who chose to cruise each year."

But the cruise industry's organization that promotes cruising, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), says that everything's just fine. CLIA responded to the program by claiming that cruise lines have been reporting crimes pursuant to a law passed in 1996.  This is a false statement as the first law requiring the reporting of crimes during cruises was not passed until 2010.  But due to intense lobbying, the law was altered and permits the cruise lines to hide crimes unless the crimes were first reported to the FBI and then closed by the FBI.  

The wording of the law permits over 95% of cruise ship crimes to remain secret - just like the cruise lines want.  

Cruise lines have been hiding true crime statistics for decades. You will see more and more of these types of stories in the future.

To watch the video, click on the link here.

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia

L.A. Times Weighs In On Cruise Crime Cover-Up

The L.A. Times is the latest major newspaper to discuss the behind-the-scenes alteration of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.  

In Drop in Cruise Ships' Reported Crimes Raises Questions written by Dan Weikel and an accompanying editorial Cruise ship crimes: Why so hush-hush? by Paul Morrison, the L.A. Times takes a look at the reporting of cruise ship crimes after the new cruise safety law came into effect. 

Designed to require greater transparency from the cruise lines in reporting shipboard crimes, the new cruise safety law was watered down to require the disclosure of only those alleged crimes which the cruise lines reported to the FBI and the FBI then closed.

This altered language was designed to cover up the majority of crimes on cruise ships.  Before the new Cruise Ship Crime Lawcruise safety law came into effect, the FBI was known for its disinterest in investigating crimes on cruise Cruise Ship Crime - Cruise Crime Lawships. For those few crimes it investigated, the FBI solved few of them.  It also seemed to never close their files even when in truth it was not doing anything to investigate the crimes.  By altering the language of the law, the cruise lines knew that it would keep the actual number of crimes under wraps.

The cruise lines deny that they were involved in the cover-up.  And so far Congressman Kerry's office (who was instrumental in passing the new law) is pointing to the FBI and Coast Guard as requesting the change.  Here's what the L.A. Times is saying:

"The FBI and the Coast Guard had asked Congress for wording that means, under the law, that the public only is allowed to be told about the number of closed cases that are no longer being investigated.

That’s just about 180 degrees opposite what law enforcement agencies do on land: All reported crimes are public record, not just those under investigation or resolved.

See how insidious such a policy can be?

If we heard only about the LAPD’s closed cases, nobody would have heard of the Black Dahlia, and the recent murders of two USC graduate students from China might not be public knowledge. Women in South L.A. wouldn’t have been told to be on alert for the "Teardrop Rapist," who has raped nearly three dozen women in the course of about 15 years, one as recently as last month.

This kind of result is hardly what a law called the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" sounds like it was meant to achieve. Turns out, the security and safety being protected here are the economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines."

The question at this point is not whether there was a behind-the-scenes cover-up, but who in addition to the FBI and Coast Guard were engaged in the cover-up.  Were the cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), involved?  Of course, but they would never admit it. But why would the FBI alone take such steps, which as the L.A. Times concludes, were designed to protect the "economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines" and not the passengers victimized on cruise ships?

With an industry known for its secrecy, it will take some time before the ugly truth comes out.  But it eventually will. The public will then see that the cruise lines and their CLIA representatives worked overtime with federal agencies against transparency. For the time being, they were successful in thwarting the democratic process and turning the cruise safety law into a joke. 

FBI Cruise Crime Cover Up Story Goes Viral

FBI Cruise Crime Cover Up - Royal Caribbean - FBI AgentsEvery once in a while a story comes along which blows the lid off of the status quo.

Such a story broke yesterday when Salon Magazine published a blockbuster article "Erasing Cruise Ship Crime." Written by Matthew Harwood, the Salon article tackles the ugly spectacle of our nation's FBI sabotaging the efforts of a grass roots cruise victims organization.  

The story goes like this. The International Cruise Victims Organization (ICV) labored for the past six years to enact a cruise safety law to require the cruise lines to report the many cruise ship crimes which occur each year.  All of the cruise victims' stories are compelling - a son or daughter who vanished at sea under mysterious circumstances, a child lost due to gross medical negligence by shipboard doctors, a woman raped at sea - all real tragedies that happened to real people. 

The cruise lines fought tooth and nail against the passage of the ICV supported law, but dropped its opposition at the last minute.  Why?  The fix was in. The FBI altered the language in the cruise crime bill at the last minute. Instead of reporting all crimes (averaging over 400 a year), the cruise ship crimes which are now disclosed on the FBI database average barely one tenth of that figure. As a final indignity, the cruise lines and some travel agents point to the bogus database as proof that cruising is absolutely safe.  

The Salon article points out the fact that cruise lines hire FBI officials to maintain the status quo. The result is that the FBI and its fraternity alumni brothers on the cruise ships all scratch each other's backs. No one will give their friend a hard time.  No need for anyone to be embarrassed. The cruise lines even invite the FBI to private wine and dinner parties, but exclude the victim's group.

The truth here is ugly. It involves behind-the-scenes shenanigans by large offshore corporations and a large federal agency.  The secret deals stifle democracy. The editing of Congressional bills by a self-dealing FBI perpetuates a system which rewards the indifference of federal law enforcement officials who are suppose to respond to victim's horror stories on the high seas but, in truth, are deep in the FBI - Cruise Line Cruise Crime Cover Upcruise lines' pockets.  It condones and encourages cruise lines to cover up ship crimes whenever and wherever they can, while the FBI looks the other way.

The Salon story hit a nerve. 

The conservative South Florida Business Journal asked whether the Salon article was the "smoking gun" which revealed a cozy relationship between the FBI and the Miami-based cruise lines, particularly Royal Caribbean which hired many FBI agents as well as senior FBI officials.  Is it a coincidence that the cruise lines' friends at the FBI were the ones who watered the cruise crime bill down?

Many other reporters and bloggers picked up the story and added a sense of outrage to the FBI cover up.        

Jezebel wrote "FBI Works With Cruise Lines to Bury Reports of Rapes at Sea," and added a photo of a huge Royal Caribbean cruise ship (photo top).

Inquisitir published "FBI Involved In Cruise Line Sexual Assault Crime Coverups."

Newser added "FBI Muzzles Cruise Line Rape Cases - Salon Says Bureau Too Cozy with Cruise Line Industry."

Leisure Guy said "Concealing Crime: How the FBI Improves Its Crime Fighting Statistics."

Raw Story reported "Loophole Lets Cruise Ship Rapes Go Unreported."

Grey haired old-school PR experts will tell the cruise lines and FBI not to worry about the bad press because the bloggers are not writing for the major newspapers.  But with the explosion of social media today, no one cares what the AP or Reuters are saying.  Now it's the Huffington Post types who are spreading the word and influencing public opinion.  

Other stories will follow.  You will see major newspapers and networks come with the next round of stories exposing the FBI cruise crime cover up.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) will FBI - Cruise Lines Cruise Crime Cover Upeventually respond with their own spin.  CLIA will open the prepared, canned statements: "Crime is rare. Our number 1 priority is the safety of our guests. We reports all allegations of crime to the appropriate law enforcement." But the tide has turned.  The public knows these types of official statements are gobbledygook.  

Truth be told, the FBI, which is suppose to watch over the foreign cruise line corporations and protect the public, has acted like a secret lobbyist for the cruise lines.

Should you trust the cruise lines and a corrupt FBI organization with the most precious cargo carried on cruise ships - your family?

 

Photo credits from the original media sources, top to bottom:

Jezebel, Inquisitir, Salon.

"Erasing Cruise Ship Crime" - Why Did the FBI Gut a Bill Requiring the Cruise Industry to Report Rapes?

Salon Magazine published a blockbuster article today about how the FBI gutted a cruise safety law designed to protect the cruising public.

The article states that the grassroots International Cruise Victims (ICV) association worked for years with Congress to pass, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.  The new cruise law required the FBI to post incidents of cruise ship crimes on an internet database maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

But shortly before the act passed into law, the FBI inserted language which watered the reporting requirements down to the point that the database is worthless.  Before the law passed, each year hundreds of rapes and violent crimes on cruise ships were reported by the cruise lines.  Now, only a handful are reported.  For some quarters, nothing is reported.  

You can see the bogus database here

Was the cruise industry behind the changes to the cruise safety bill?

The article points to the incestuous relationship between the FBI and the cruise lines which hire former FBI officials to maintain a cozy relationship with the FBI.  Although the new cruise safety law was designed to force greater transparency from the cruise lines, the FBI's manipulation of the bill results International Cruise Victims - ICV - Cruise Crime Lawin just the the opposite result - greater secrecy and opportunity for the cruise lines to cover the crimes up.

The bottom line? The cruising public is kept from reviewing the true crime statistics.  And the cruise lines and some travel agents use the bogus database to advertise that cruising is safe! 

The article quotes ICV CEO Ken Carver, President Jamie Barnett, (photo, in Washington D.C.) and board member (and our client) Laurie Dishman.

Cruise expert Ross Klein, who has testified before Congress several times, is also mentioned.

The article refers to a couple of articles from Cruise Law News as well.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the FBI and its friends frustrated the democratic process and the hard work of the ICV organization.  But one thing is certain, the ICV under the leadership of CEO Carver and President Barnett will keeping working until the original language is back in the cruise safety law.

 

Photo credit:  Ken Carver and Jamie Barnett - by Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Rapist Pleads Guilty and Sentenced to Jail, But the FBI Refuses to Post Crime Data for Public Viewing

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship RapeOne of the purposes of the new Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law is to educate the public regarding the sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships.

But as we reported in our article Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law, the FBI and Coast Guard - acting to promote the cruise lines' interests - undercut the Congressional purpose of the new cruise crime law. The cruise lines and these two federal agencies changed the language of the law to eliminate most cruise ship crimes from being reported.  

Originally all cruise ship crimes were required to be disclosed to the public.  But with the altered language, cruise crimes not reported to the FBI, or those crimes reported to the FBI and still under investigation, do not need to be disclosed to the public. 

You can read about about this issue in the Washington Post, USA TodayArizona Central and NBC Bay Area.

A good example of how the cruise lines are trying to hide crime statistics is a recent case this year involving a young girl raped on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. We reported on the crime in January.  A fifteen year old girl was lured from a teen club and raped by another teenager and a 20 year old man, Luis Scavone (photo left), on the last night of the cruise. The minor promptly reported the crime after she escaped from the rapists' cabin.

Royal Caribbean allegedly "sealed" off the crime scene and reported the crime to the FBI and the Broward County's Sheriff's Office in the cruise ship's home port. In Florida, local law enforcement also have jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas on cruise ships which return to a port in Florida.    

But rather than preserving evidence of the crime scene, Royal Caribbean unlocked the "sealed" cabin and cleaned the cabin.  It destroyed evidence in the crime scene.  Once the FBI learned of the cruise line's misconduct, it left the cruise ship and declined to prosecute.

The FBI was willing to let the two rapists (from Brazil) walk free after raping a girl. Even more disturbing is that the evidence destruction occurred on a cruise ship supervised by a former top FBI officer, Gary Bald (photo below left), who now heads Royal Caribbean's security department.

The FBI agents should have arrested cruise line employees for the destruction of evidence, but the FBI looked the other way and simply closed its investigation. The cozy relationship between the FBI and its former FBI agents, who are now working for the cruise lines, sometimes leads to the former and present FBI agents scratching each other's backs rather than protecting the public.

The Broward County Sheriff's Department, on the other hand, was not deterred by the cruise line's misconduct and arrested the two Brazilians. The State Attorney's Office for Broward County then prosecuted the two suspects and obtained guilty pleas from both.  The 20 year old Brazilian man pled guilty last week to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the rape of the girl.  He is now behind bars.   

Royal Caribbean Cruise - Director of Security Gary BaldYou would think that the rape of a child on the world's largest cruise ship would be documented on the online database maintained by the FBI and Coast Guard.  That was the intent of the cruise crime law. But the FBI decided not to report it. Take a look here at the FBI statistics.  There is not a single report of a sexual assault for Royal Caribbean in 2012. In fact, there is not one report of a violent sexual crime against a cruise passenger for the entire cruise industry this year.

In prior years, the FBI reported over 400 crimes on cruises a year.  But now with the altered language in the cruise crime law, the FBI and cruise lines are concealing crimes. The FBI online database lists only 13 sexual crimes for all of last year.   

The bottom line is that even thought the cruise rapist is in jail after pleading guilty to state prosecutors, the FBI refuses to reveal the crime to the U.S. public on the online database required by the cruise crime law.

There is monkey business going on here.

The FBI and the cruise lines who routinely hire FBI agents are in cahoots. Congress needs to investigate how they derailed the law.  And the U.S. public needs to know how a law designed to protect women and children on cruises has been sabotaged to protect the image of the billion dollar cruise industry.     

Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law

NBC Bay Area reports that Congress is pointing the finger at the the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard for watering down a cruise crime law on behalf of the cruise lines to make it easier for the cruise industry to withhold statistics about crime at sea from the American public.

The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 was intended to provide greater transparency regarding the number of cruise ship crimes which occur on cruise ships each year. The FBI has previously stated that over 400 serious crimes occur a year on cruise ships leaving U.S. ports.

However, last minute maneuvers by the FBI and Coast Guard on behalf of the cruise lines altered the bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation” by the FBI would be reported in the public database.

Crimes not reported to the FBI, and therefore no longer under investigation, don't have to be disclosed to the public. This encourages the cruise lines to engage in cover-ups, which was the problem which the new law was intended to correct.

The result of the alteration of the law is that only a few crimes are reported to the public rather than the hundreds which actually occur.

Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims Association, spent months trying to figure out how the bill was altered.  He learned that the Senator who introduced the law, John Kerry, agreed to permit the law to be altered.

Mr. Carver said he's disappointed that the agencies he’d worked with to make crime statistics more transparent are to blame for the radical changes to the cruise crime law.

"We do feel betrayed there has been a close relationship built up over the years between the Coast Guard, FBI and cruise lines," Carver said. "Why did they want to change it so that instead of working to protect the U.S. citizens it protected the cruise line industry?"  

 

  

Did the Cruise Industry Sabotage the New Cruise Crime Law?

The Arizona Central newspaper published a blockbuster article this morning, Law Withholds Cruise Safety Information, which reveals how the cruise industry avoids reporting crimes.

In 2010, Congress passed a federal law which requires cruise lines to report missing passengers, murders, sexual assaults, and other crimes on cruise ships. Over the years there has been great debate over the frequency of crimes during cruises.  Some experts have reported that the likelihood of being a victim of rape is twice as high on a cruise ship compared to on land, whereas cruise lines conclude - without reference to actual statistics - that cruise crime is "rare."

Cruise Ship CrimeThe new law, called the "Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act," was designed to force greater transparency from cruise lines regarding just how many women are raped and children molested during cruises. But instead of revealing the true number of crimes which take place, the new law permits cruise lines to cover the crimes up. 

As originally written, the law required the Coast Guard to post on an internet site, "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . ." However, shortly before the bill was enacted into law, the language was changed to "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . . that are no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

As the article explains, this means that the public is not allowed to see reports of:

  • Cases handled only by the cruise lines; 
  • Cases not investigated by the FBI; 
  • Cases under active investigation by the FBI; and
  • Cases left open after the FBI files charges.

The result is that only a tiny fraction of cruise ship crimes are being disclosed to the public. The Arizona Central newspaper states:

"The public is not allowed to see reports of all alleged crimes aboard ships. Where the FBI once publicly reported more than 400 crimes a year, only six crimes on ships in the past nine months have been listed on the public database. And cases not investigated by the FBI -- for example, allegations handled by a ship's security staff -- never will be reported in the database under the new law."

6 crimes on 200 gigantic floating cities?  Give me a break. Earlier this year I reported on 13 sexual crimes committed by a single pedophile crewmember on just a couple of Cunard cruise ships. None of these crimes against little kids ever found their way onto the database. Hundreds of thousands of parents booked cruises and took their kids into the cruise ships' "playzones" without knowing a child predator worked there. That's exactly how the cruise lines want the cruise crime law to work.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization worked hard for six years to see that the new cruise law came into effect.  The cruise industry and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), fought tooth and nail against the ICV.  But at the last minute, CLIA dropped its opposition to the new law.

I attended the five Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. leading up to the new law (including the June 19 2008 hearing before the Senate, photo below).  I remember thinking that it was funny (i.e., odd, Cruise Ship Safety Hearing strange, suspicious) that CLIA rolled over at the last minute.  Well, now it's clear, the cruise lines were just playing possum.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are full of former FBI agents and Coast Guard officials who go into the private sector to make the big bucks working for the cruise lines at the end of their careers.  

While the victims of cruise ship rapes and families of missing cruise passengers were celebrating the passage of the cruise crime bill, the cruise lines were at work with their former colleagues at the FBI and Coast Guard to water the language of the new law down.

The newspaper quotes a FBI spokesperson Denise Ballew saying "We are not at liberty to discuss any information we may have fed into the legislative review process." 

Before the cruise crime bill passed, cruise lines were self-regulating and not required to report crimes that took place in international waters.  Now, there is a law but it was subverted to provide greater secrecy for the cruise industry than ever before.

Cruise lines can now safely hide before the loopholes that were inserted at the last minute without the knowledge of the cruise victims' organization.  The result is that the public cannot learn of the actual number of crimes on cruise ships.

Take a look at the cruise crime statistics here.  They are a joke.   

Let's hope that Congress will not let cruise lines get away with these shenanigans.  Congress needs to change the language of the bill back to as originally drafted.  Otherwise, families thinking of cruising will be tricked and their family members potentially victimized if they rely on this incomplete and deceiving information. 

 

June 10, 2012 Update:  USA Today re-printed the article and there are some brutally honest comments being made in the comment section about the cruise industry, corporate lobbying, Federal government and FBI and pay-offs & sell-outs . . .  

Are the FBI and Coast Guard Underreporting Cruise Ship Crimes?

One of the key provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is that crimes on cruise ships are suppose to be posted on the internet in order to provide a warning to the U.S. public. 

After listening to testimony over the course of the last five Congressional hearings, Congress concluded that cruise ship crime in general, and sexual assaults in particular, were such a problem that the U.S. public needed to be warned. 

Just last month, in the case of Jane Doe v. Princess Cruises, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that " .  .  . if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem."  The Eleventh Circuit cited the testimony from cruise line executives from the March 2006 Congressional hearing that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005.  During that same period, 24 people were reported missing and four others reported being robbed. 

In the March 2007 hearing, a FBI representative testified that from 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas.”   During those five years about 45% of the crimes that occurred on cruise ships involved sexual assaults.

In September 2007, a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI testified before Congress that “sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years, 55 percent and 22 percent respectively . . . . Employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.”  The FBI representative also testified that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted.

Although these numbers are significant, I have always thought that the crime statistics reported to Congress are probably just a fraction of the actual number of crimes which occur during cruises.  For example, in 2006, Royal Caribbean told Congress that 66 rapes and sexual assaults reportedly occurred over the course of the preceding three years.  However, in a subsequent civil case we handled, a trial court here in Miami ordered the cruise line to produce its raw crime data to us.  The reports revealed that the total number of sex-related crimes were actually around 273, including allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters."   

With the new cruise safety law, cruise lines were finally required to report incidents of homicides, suspicious deaths, missing U.S. passengers, assaults, sexual assaults and thefts over $1,000 to the FBI.  The U.S. Coast Guard, in turn, is responsible for posting the FBI cruise ship crime statistics on the internet for the public to view. 

So what do the crime statistics the Coast Guard posted on the internet reveal?

According to the United States Coast Guard Investigative Services' quarterly report from July 1, 2011 through September 30, 2011, not a single reportable crime occurred.    

Let me repeat that.  According to the just released FBI / Coast Guard report - not a single reportable crime occurred during the third quarter of 2011.

According to the FBI / Coast Guard's first quarter and second quarter reports, only a total of ten sexual assaults occurred in the first six months of this year. 

For 2010, the FBI / Coast Guard report disclosed only 28 sexual assaults on cruise ships.  For the first nine months of this year, the number has dropped to only 10 sexual assaults.

These numbers are not only far less than in any of the prior years, but they are even less than the number of crimes the cruise lines will admit occurred.  For example, last month a newspaper in New Zealand reported on a study which concluded that the risk of being sexually assaulted was twice as high on a cruise ship than ashore.  Royal Caribbean responded to the article by stating that it had 24 incidents of rape or sexual assaults last year.  Yet, in their 2010 report, the FBI / Coast Guard disclosed that Royal Caribbean had only 6 such incidents in all of 2010.    

The FBI does not inform the public of alleged crimes which are under investigation (this is permitted by the cruise safety law) and this may partially account for such low numbers.  But the reality is that the FBI investigations rarely lead to a prosecution.  Not disclosing crimes because they are allegedly "under investigation" by an agency whose investigations rarely lead to a prosecution does the public a real disservice.  

Also, the numbers which the FBI and Coat Guard chose to disclose to the public do not include incidents which the FBI determines lacks sufficient evidence of a federal crime or the FBI deems unworthy of conducting a full investigation.  This is the rather amazing part of these statistics.  The cruise safety law was passed in large part because of an incident where a passenger was clearly sexually assaulted, yet the FBI prematurely closed its investigation the same day that the cruise ship returned to Los Angeles after the crime occurred.  I am talking about the case of Laurie Dishman whose Congresswoman in California, Doris Matsui, was instrumental is passing the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in the first place.

Based on the FBI and Coast Guard's current method of responding to the cruise safety law, these agencies would probably not even disclose the cruise ship crime against Ms. Dishman if it occurred today.    

There is something very wrong here.  What should the U.S. public conclude by reading the recent third quarter FBI / Coast Guard statistics suggesting that not a single crime occurred on a cruise ship over the past three months?   Around 3,500,000 passengers sailed on cruise ships over the past ninety days, millions out of U.S. ports, and not a single crime occurred?

What a joke.

The FBI and Coat Guard are making a mockery of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act  - a law victims of crime worked hard to enact in order to protect future cruise passengers.

Its time for Congress to take another look at the way the cruise lines, FBI and Coast Guard are reporting - or in this case - not reporting cruise ship crimes.  

 

For an insight into the actual number of incidents of sexual assaults and crimes on cruise ships, we suggest following sites:

Sun Sentinel Data Base

Professor Ross Klein Cruise Crime Analysis October 30 2007 - September 1, 2008

Professor Ross Klein's Analysis  of Reports of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault on Royal Caribbean International, 1998 - 2005

Cruise Lines Often Don't Report Crimes

A local ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5 recently aired a special investigation into the issue of cruise ship crime: "Crimes On Cruise Ships Often Not Reported - Local Victims Hope Laws At Sea Change."

The ABC affiliate accurately concludes that cruise lines are not required to report crimes on cruise ships in international waters.  The consequences of having no legal obligation to report a crime means that there is no consequence when the cruise line does not report the crime - such as in the case of Merrian Carver.  

Ms. Carver "disappeared" from the Mercury cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises.  But Royal Caribbean did not report her missing and tried to cover the incident up.  ABC PrimeTime aired a special on this disturbing case "Cruise Cover Up - Cruise Line Doesn't Notify Anyone When Woman Disappears On Second Day of Tour."  

We have written many articles about the cover up by Royal Caribbean, and the fight by Ms. Carver's Angela Orlich - Sexual Assault - Cruise Victimfather Ken Carver who continues to advocate for the safety of cruise passengers and demand transparency by the foreign flagged cruise industry.     

The ABC TV5 investigation also focused on the story of our firm client, cruise passenger Angela Orlich, who was sexually assaulted during a diving excursion while on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  The program also touches upon the well known case of George Smith IV who died during his honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.  We represented Mr. Smith's widow, Jennifer Hagel.

After the story aired, the cruise industry's trade group, the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), complained on the station's web page that the story was "inaccurate."  CLIA George Smith IV - Missing - Cruise Victimclaimed that the story misled the public because U.S. law allegedly "requires cruise lines to report allegations of crime involving U.S. citizens no matter where the ship is in the world."  This is not true.  CLIA has no credibility and earned a reputation for bogus statements like this long ago.  Take a moment and read "Cruise Line Pravda" or learn about CLIA's dubious cast of characters here

In truth, there is absolutely no law requiring cruise lines to report crimes outside of 12 miles from shore.  

It also telling that CLIA took the time to complain about the news program, but didn't bother to apologize to Ms. Orlich or express sympathy to the parents of Ms. Carver and Mr. Smith who lost a child during a CLIA cruise. 

Unfortunately, such dishonesty and insensitivity characterizes CLIA and the cruise industry. 

 

 

 

 

Credits:

Video           ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5