US Virgin IslandseTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about  tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people). 

We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."

The leading maritime case involving a cruise line’s duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves a young girl murdered while visiting St. Thomas during a cruise ship stop.

eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion. 

But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.

Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to U.S. Virgin Islands Crimecrime."  It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.

Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.

There’s no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It’s dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.

It’s disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 


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Photo Credit: Top – Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom – Virgin Islands Daily News

  • Trigger man

    Me being born an raised in da VI ill say it as is,the island sould let visitor no about the crime on our island,we do have a higher crime rate in da VI dan the US by far,if we want ppl to visit our island i feel we sud let dem no wats really goin on in da VI an make dem decide if they wanna visit!!!(the truth goes a long way)

  • carol felix

    I have lived in St Thomas for almost 20 years. The people are wonderful. The lifestyle is rather laid back…translate ‘slow’ which is how we like it here. When tourists are rude, make disparaging remarks, talk down to servers and clerks they receive a mirror of their behavior. When they come with respect, curiosity, a spirit of exploration they have a great time. This community has always been majority dark skinned people; the leaders are also and that classless, raceless society comes as a shock to some visitors. As for crime…just like any other destination you need to watch your behavior and your possessions. Thousands come here every year and 99% return home intact.

  • Susan Costa

    I briefly lived in the St. Croix for a period of time, and have always loved my cruises in/out of USVI. {Especially to St. Thomas.} I agree with the poster above that people generally do not know *respect* when they visit the Islands ….. as anywhere else when traveling it’s good to know tradition’s and cultures. I’ve always felt {this is my personal observation and experience} that the general tourist visits an Island and are *scantily* dressed and arrogant. There are very deep rooted cultures and to respect them is to win the heart.

  • Kelly O’Connor

    Ditto what Carol Felix wrote. I lived in St. Thomas for many years and have lived throughout the U. S. and travelled extensively beyond. The USVI’s welcomes numerous tourists every year and nithing is written about the many who come back year in, year out without any issues. I have had rude service and encountered more dangerous situations in a 2 week vacation in Hawaii than I did in 3 years of living in St. Thomas.

  • John Smith

    I lived in St. Thomas for six months. It was the worst place I have ever lived in my life. The locals are the rudest people I have ever met or worked with. They literally have commercials on TV teaching the locals about manners and asking them to stop being rude to the tourist. We had to move off the island because of the crime. My girlfriend was robbed, attacked or followed home six times is six months. The last straw was she was robbed at gun point working in Yacht Haven which is suppose to be the safest place on the island.

  • Pat kosick

    I moved to st thomas Usvi in 1982 I am still here, To judge how dangerous a place is for tourist one has to look at the # of crimes on tourist. St thomas has a high crime rate but the murders are like a self cleaning oven thugs against thugs . Most of us here know that tourist buter our bread and we welcome them

  • Brandon Lloyd

    I don’t want to say John Smith is fabricating his statements cause you never know but I find it extremely hard to believe his statements. Followed home? Robbed six times? Virgin Islanders know tourism is our economy we see tourist and we let them live their lives and we live ours. I love what carol said because she hit it right on the head. If tourist are rude who give them a mirror of their behavior. Tourism is so important in high schools there are hospitality classes for those who wants to support and get a job in our tourism department. Back to John, commercials on how to be nice? Never in history. I’m born and raised in St. Thomas and have never ever seen or heard a commercial. Our islands are beautiful, fun, and laid back. Crime happens everywhere. Everywhere. Our crime rate is way higher than the main land cause it’s per capita of course it’s gonna be higher we have a smaller population. I’m not saying the crime rate is acceptable but im saying look beyond the numbers and look at the facts.

  • Zengunfighter

    We receive a bit over a million visitors a year. Statistically the tourists are safer here than at home. I’m aware of maybe 3 or 4 tourist killed in the twenty five years I’ve lived here. That’s 3-4 out of close to 30 million people! Anywhere there are tourists, you will tourist crime; theft from cars/hotel rooms/beach. We have much LESS of that than most places.
    We have a high crime rate and a high murder rate. True. But it is aimed at locals.

  • Honest Abby

    I have been here for about 3 months, and have had both negative and positive experiences. First, the drivers seem to have a problem with staying in their own lane. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have had to drive off-road to avoid being hit by a car that was on MY side of the road. But hey, they do say you have to drive for you and everyone else on the road.
    As for hospitality, it is 50,50 in my opinion. That is a terrible percentage if we’re being honest. I am always polite when I visit an establishment as I have worked in sales for years. I know how terrible customers can be to workers. However, If someone approaches you in a kind manner, I see no reason why you should roll eyes, suck your teeth, or speak in a harsh manner. It is uncalled for and reflects poorly on the business. They seriously need some help in the customer service department out here. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly appreciate all the people who have been kind to me, but you know what they say about one bad apple.

    Furthermore, crime exists just about everywhere. Comparing USVI rates to the US as a whole is just unfair. Our population is vastly smaller. Of course the ratio would be dramatically different. If we were as large as the entire US, I highly doubt the crime ratio would be as dramatic.

    It is good to inform visitors of the statistics, but to rate it negatively by using the word “dangerous” is a bit much.

  • Evan George

    Lets tell it like it realy is, whos comitting these crimes the locals or the implanted locals who was once tourist themselves. True virgin islanders are laid back people. Lately my islands has become a pitstop for many people in route elsewhere like the United States. With that said visit the small local shops and interact with the real locals and you will see and feel the difference. One more thing john smith quit acting dumn in a strange place and stop with the “hey yous” down here we say excuse me .

  • stanford joines

    Tourists are often impatient, scantily dressed, and either patronizing or downright arrogant. They don’t know it. They are safe, though; the murder rate reflects young, angry, frustrated, testosterone fed males with low self-esteem who have fallen out of the educational loop taking each other out. Tourists who stay reasonably sober and in public places at decent hours are totally safe, as they are most anywhere else.

  • Jason Staford

    Know the Culture for tourist? Respect is Respect no matter where you are. But the issue is Safe or Not? Answer is no its not the young males that you all named as the issue makes up more than 30% of the population. so the odds of being in a cross fire anytime of the day or night is very high. You as a locals know this shootings happen anytime of the day Not just night. I was there for only 4 months on a job and the locals I worked were great but there was 8 recorded shootings. This is not normal for this small of an area. I have done jobs in Philly, Detroit and New Orleans for longer periods of time and never felt the need to open carrier but I did in this area. So heads up for tourist “Your Not In Kansas Anymore” do not let your guard down at anytime this is not summer camp.

  • Barnacle Bill

    St. Thomas is a beautiful hell. I do believe blacks are responsible for 99.95% of robberies and murder. Majority on welfare robbing is easy when the victim lives 5,000 miles away….Avoid. I lived there in the 80’s it was bad then and worse now.

  • Gary Webber

    The Government is the problem in the USVI. We owned
    a lot on the East End of St Croix and almost moved there.The more we looked around the more we realized the Government was a mess. Ironically , we live in the Detroit area so we know all about violent crime and Bad Government. The Government in the USVI survives on “free welfare money” handed to them annually by Congress and therefore has no motive for financial responsibility or change in policy. They blame all of they’re problems on the White outsiders and never on themselves. Nepotism and Corruption is a lifestyle in the USVI. Criminals receive ridiculously weak sentences if convicted and therefore have no respect for the Law. The Black Government is paranoid that White people or White Business will take over they’re free ride in Paradise and that’s the truth !

  • Islandokie

    I love the USVI, it is gorgeous, the warm waters are clear blue and some of the people are warm and friendly. Others are rude and appear to hold all outsiders in contempt. I’ve had more than my share of islanders sucking their teeth at me etc. My God, don’t forget to say your “good mornings, good afternoons, or good nights” to anyone you encounter because they will be rude to you. And no, “hi’s and hello’s” do not cut it. My husband has lived there continuously since 2005 and my daughter and I have lived there on and off throughout that time spending the majority of our time stateside. Only once have we been a victim of crime. The change bowl from our unlocked car was robbed of its change. That being said, we did hear an awful lot of gunshots while laying in bed at night. We also had friends that were victims of crime, one being robbed at gunpoint, one being shot at while in her vehicle, one being robbed at knifepoint, and one turning up dead at the bottom of a cliff. I do not know anyone personally that any of these things has happened to stateside, except for one time I had my backpack stolen out of my locked car stateside.

    I do love a lot of aspects of the Virgin Islands but crime is a real problem and rudeness is another. I wish it wasn’t so but it is the truth.

    My friends on the island, native and transplants are good people. There are many that are not though going around with a chip on their shoulder. I do not know why, I consider myself a friendly, courteous person…I expect to be treated the same.

  • R. A. Johnson

    My cousin, Marilyn Marx was killed at her work in a Virgin Islands real estate office about 1965. Can you refer me to any records about this?

  • Robert Arvid Johnson

    My cousin, Marilyn Marx was killed at her work in a Virgin Islands real estate office about 1965. Can you refer me to any records about this?

  • Lori Schiavone

    In a few weeks I need to make a decision about moving to St. Thomas for a year to work in the school system. I will be moving with my 7 year old. I’m always up for an adventure but, certainly don’t want to be a month into my contract & feel unsafe going for a jog.

  • Andre

    Lori, Did you move to St-Thomas? My fiancé received an offer to work in a school system as well. Reading those posts, I have mixed feeling about going. Thank you. Andre

  • Roger W, Morga

    I lived on St. Croix for 10 wonderful years. Our children moved there and became proud working residents. I owned a radio station there and conducted a daily talk program called “Free Speech”. I was a crime victim only once when I left a camera lying on the front seat of my unlocked vehicle. It was stolen. That theft might have happened almost anywhere in the U.S. And was primarily the result of my own carelessness. I would move back in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself. Is it safe? It’s as safe as you allow it to be or as dangerous as you tempt it to be. I miss it more than anyone could ever know!

  • ol fifes

    As a recent visitor to st Thomas, I can agree with the most recent comment about letting more tourists know about the dangers that are “swept under the rug”.
    The drug violence coupled with the up and coming youth who have grown up impoverished; add to that the Arabs that own the stores are shipping in guns and selling them to the gangs. I was shot in a random attempted robbery there, subsequent ly spent 3 days in the hospital. It is a sad state of affairs down there.

  • Victoria Vining

    I was born and raised and St.Croix and have warned people away from the USVI
    because of the high crime rate. It is even worse now with machine guns shooting from cars to buildings for up to 18 minutes, and you can’t even drive a car down the freeway without fear of being shot or abducted for robbery. If anyone goes down for all the fantasy portrayed by travel agents and others needing income from tourists,
    Beware for your life. As for me, I do feel like a refugee as I can’t go back due to the crime; too many friends murdered… Yes the beaches are beautiful, but too many have been raped and murdered on their sand.

  • Curst Saden

    My family is planning on visiting the US and British Virgin Islands next year. We are planning on staying on St. Thomas. I have read many conflicting reports on several websites about how safe St. Thomas is. Obviously the murder rate is high, but there are those who swear that it’s safe so long as you use common sense and then there are those who say that to go is to risk your very life. I’m a little confused by the mixed messages…is it or is it not safe to visit the Virgin Islands? I have always wanted to go there and I intend to be courteous and respectful while I am there.

  • Sara Goldfarb

    I just returned from a week-long stay on St. John, USVI, and was shocked by how rude the locals there were. When I posted honest reviews of my experiences on TripAdvisor I was attacked by those trying to defend the VI and the forum had to be closed because things go so out of hand. The hard-working traveler needs to know the truth about these destinations that are painted as “America’s Paradise”, but have underlying issues with government corruption and crime that bubble to the surface everywhere you look. And you can’t charge people that much money to visit (lodging, food) when things are so out-of-hand. That really was the bottom line for me – St. John, USVI was a very poor travel value for the experience I had – even with the amazing beaches and still-adequate snorkeling, it was ruined by the poor customer service everywhere – taxis and hotel staff particularly. Even though I was covered and would say the requisite “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening” – it didn’t matter! They were still rude. If the VI can’t retain a visitor like me, who has the funds and ability and desire to go to a great snorkel destination, but won’t put up with rude locals, I predict more trouble ahead until they clean up their act.

  • June

    I was born in St. Thomas and I am ashamed to say that the crime rate is a little high and as someone pointed out it’s Thugs killing off each other. Some times innocent people get caught up in the thugs against batter. I pray one day these thugs kill each other for good so we can go back to being the safe island we once were.

    As far as tourists are concern, they should feel pretty safe because crimes against them are few and far between. I don’t think one, tourist or resident has ever been robbed six time…that’s exaggerating.

  • Bill Norman

    Folks have had their attention drawn to this lately because of an article that identified 110 countries with crime rates higher than the U.S. even thought the U.S. is NO. 1 in private gun ownership. U.S.A. is at 111 and probably would not be even that bad if Detroit and Chicago’s numbers were not included. Liberals argue that guns need to be eliminated to make the country safer, yet the numbers indicate otherwise. ISVI was shown as No. 3, even though this is probably drug dealer v. dealer, or whatever internal affair and has little to do with tourism. From all that I have read, and the places that I have been, no harm should come to tourists in most places unless they travel to parts where they do not belong – I personally thought Jamaica was pretty scary just outside the resort!

  • David

    Living on the mainland all my life I find it ironic that Caucasian tourists find the locals”rude” . Y’all wrote the book on being rude. If I had a penny for all the times I felt disrespected in Chicagoland I would be rich.

  • V

    We have been coming to STT for 6 years now, every year we stay a little longer and now call it our winter home. We are New Yorkers – no more northeast snows for us. I agree with David. We have yet to experience the “rudeness” others speak of in these comments, quite the contrary – you get what you give. We ride the Safari, we shop all over – and we mostly encounter pleasant, friendly folks. But then Ed & I engage people wherever we go and we treat everyone here & back home with the same courtesy and respect. We abhor a class system. Some people believe NY is a dangerous place to visit! It ain’t so! You always need to be aware of your surroundings and use good judgement wherever you go. We love the Islands and the people – Manhattan & St Thomas

  • Just left

    Just got back from a glorious 7 days there. As with any time you are away from home you should be aware!! I have been to STT 5 times with no problem. Took kids to Akamal Mexico for a week and was robbed first night while sleeping. So just be aware of surroundings stay in groups and be polite. I plan to go back very soon. Best places to stay are where locals stay when they come to visit. They give great information and can tell you things to do as tourist and places to stay away from!!

  • Dc

    I’ve been down here about three and a half years lot of crime lot of shootings a lot of drugs this is a crackheads Paradise get it Paradise the most corrupted government I’ve ever seen shoot they had a shooting in the police parking lot this year right in the public bathroom what is that say

  • Kattie M

    8th June 2016. Local USVI newspaper reports
    Gun violence have been rocking St. Thomas this year, with the current death toll of gun-related homicides at 18, including the death of a Hispanic man on Monday, who was found lying face up in the area of Fortuna Beach.


    Stats for St Croix way above this! Getting worse….

  • chelsea

    you pirates all lucky black folks not angry like other nations no names over recent historical genocides
    remember how you got what you all got
    400 years of slavery compared to 1generation slaved to welfare system
    you could never right your wrongs
    now you all discard all the so called free slaves
    in economic slavery mental imprisonment
    check yourself before you destroy yourselfs
    Blessed love to all conscious peoples

  • Mimi

    I kinda like that if the person is rude to a sever, than they’ll be rude back. I don’t exactly get how tourists are scared away by this. I mean, don’t be an asshole. They’re are the ones serving you. Just because it’s their job, does not give you the right to treat them like crap.

    This place sounds a thousand times better than living in Florida, or anywhere else. So I might like to live there someday. I have been looking for a nice atmosphere that’s laid back and has good black population (unlike on the mainland where you can sometimes come across all white towns).

    It seems like a good place to me

  • Dennis

    I moved to St Thomas in Oct 2014.I have lived in Ca., N.M., N.and Tx. I made several trips here before moving. The island has much to offer tourists ftwho expects & respects different cultures. I love the laid back attitude and generally relaxed lifestyle. Crime is present but not evident.

  • Roy

    The Virgin Islands is rich in history & culture & you will probable experience this when talking or socializing with the locals. But what makes this place very unique is the multi diverse population; people from all different part of this global society. Crime however, is an opportunity that present itself when you become careless. Everyone should be mindful that this negative energy exist everywhere. But crime on tourist visiting our shores is one of the lowest ratio compared to any other tourist destination in the world, so please check the records, especially when it comes to visitors being targeted by criminal.

  • mirror mirror

    Crime is all over, including the main land… White people down there should really be lucky that the crime hasn’t turned on them… Yet…. With slavery, and this P.O.S. president, its only a matter of time…. those tourist that come down with expectations that they are entitled, should understand that we, USVI natives, are still healing from slavery. Take a look at St. John… All white now… buy out the Blacks at a lower rate.. now everything is in the millions.. push the locals out and they wanna call it their own… HMMMMM……

  • Teresa

    My husband and I visited ST Thomas in 2015 and are returning in a few weeks. We LOVE it there! Reading here about people feeling that the locals are rude really surprised me! We encountered the exact opposite! We were taken aback by how EVERY ONE we encountered was so friendly helpful and kind!!! We went to the Cost U Less several times and were so impressed by how friendly people were to us and to each other.Both the local customers and employees were polite and friendly! The area of the island where we were staying was primarily made up of locals. We saw few other tourists. We were told of a beach that mostly locals used. The people at the beach treated us so kind and we loved the oppotrinity to experience the culture and visit with the people! On our last day before heading to the airport, we drove looking for someone in need to give our things we couldn’t take on the plane from the grocery store. We had sodas, beer and an ice chest filled with groceries we hadn’t eaten (we bought way more food than we needed) Anyway, we drove down a road we had seen earlier in the week that had extremely small, let’s say humble living environments. It was very easy to see that the people living down the street had harsh and limited resources. As we drove down the street, we spotted a young local man and asked him if he would like the stuff we had & told him it was good unopened food and drinks that we hated for it to go to waste. He was so happy and so extremely thankful for the food and drinks we had given him. He was also very exciTed when we told him to keep the ice chest. It was so heart touching what he did next! He started whistling,REALLY LOUD,to get the attention of several other people living in the area and then he shared the stuff we gave him with 4 other people! All of them expressed such gratitude for the things we had given. It was a highlight of our trip! I am not sharing this to try to tell you how wonderful we are that we gave people food, I am sharing this story to share with you how wonderful the local people of Saint Thomas are! Even tho this young man had very little, he shared what he had been given with others! This is the caliber of people we encountered on Sait Thomas! Every experience we had with the locals was a positive one! My parents in law have literally traveled the world and Saint Thomas is their favorite beach destination. We highly recommend STT and believe that treating others the way you wish to be treated goes a long long way toward having a positive vacation experience regardless of your destination! No matter where you live or travel there are places that are “possibly unsafe” and hold a potiential for crime to occur. Its always a good idea to practice common sense. But to paint any place or people with a broad brush is not only unfair, it just isn’t accurate! Regardless of age, nationality/race or financial status, there are wonderful people and there are awful people in every category of people. Saint Thomas is an AMAZING place and overall its population is made up of people who are friendly, kind and completely wonderful!!!!

  • Don

    I am thinking of going to St. Croix to find a home or condo to retire. I’m just now hearing about all of the crime. It looks like it has been a high crime rate area for many years. My ?’s are, is the crime rate going down or up. Are the police doing their job ? Are there enough police ? Where is it a safe place to live for a white couple and a dog ? In a town, or out along the coast somewhere? I have seen some beaches fenced off. Is this because the crime rate is so high ?

  • Walter Rorschach

    I have never been to the VI, but I considered to go – before I landed on this page. I am not only frightened by the terrible reports which match the statistics, but I am utterly disgusted by the defensive and offensive postings of quite a few locals here. The baseline is that tourists are rude say hi instead of good whatsoever, and basically serve them right that they are treated in a rude manner and fall victims of crimes. As to the different perceptions of politeness, in the civilized world it is considered polite to address foreigners in a forum like this one in a language they can possibly understand. I speak a very strong dialect of my own language on almost all occasions but not with foreigners, and I don’t right here.

    The reading was elucidating I’ll definitely travel and spend my money somewhere else. I’ll not offend the locals by saying hi, but I say bye before hello