Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State via the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) issued its annual report regarding the Bahamas.  The report (which you can read here) concludes, in part, that:

“There is serious risk from crime in Nassau, and considerable risk in Freeport. Crime represents the country’s primary security threat. Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) statistics for 2018 highlight an overall drop in crime from 2017. According to RBPF statistics, the number of murders decreased by 25% compared to 2017. The number of robberies and attempted robberies decreased; however, the number of rapes increased slightly. The majority of murders occurred in the southern portion of New Providence (the island home to Nassau and Paradise Island). June was the deadliest month, followed by January and December. In Grand Bahama, the number of murders decreased by 45%, but overall crime remained constant, with drug trafficking as the major concern.

Despite the publicized numbers, incidents involving U.S. citizens (mostly rape, sexual assault, and robbery/theft) increased by 32%. Armed robbery, property crime, purse snatching, theft, fraud, and sexual assault remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists . . . (emphasis added).

The Bahamian government loosely regulates the water sports rental industry. U.S. citizens have reported sexual assaults by jet-ski operators for a number of years. According to the criminal complaints, the majority of these sexual assaults occurred on relatively “safe” beaches on Paradise Island and along Cable Beach, which tourists frequent heavily . . .”

The U.S. State Department issued a warning about crime in the Bahamas (involving Nassau and Freeport primarily) last January (as well as well over a dozen similar warnings in the last several years), when it stated:

“Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault, is common, even during the day and in tourist areas. Although the family islands are not crime-free, the vast majority of crime occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands . . . .  Jet-ski operators have been known to commit sexual assaults against tourists.”

The Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism, however, has pushed back against the crime warnings coming from the U.S. (and Canada).  In the last two months, the Tribune newspaper reported the tourism minister’s arguments that Nassau is no more dangerous than any major city and, moreover, that it is more dangerous to cruise on ships operated by a Miami-based cruise line than it is to vacation in Nassau. The Tribune also reported on the crime statistics maintained by the U.S. Transportation Department in an article titled Sexual Assaults The Most Reported Criminal Activity On Cruise Ships Making Calls To The United States.

Yesterday, at the same time that the U.S. State Department issued its OSAC report on the Bahamas, the Tribune newspaper reported on the last quarterly report by the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding the number of sexual assaults which occured on U.S. based cruise ships, including ships calling on Nassau and Freeport. The DOT data indicates that there were twenty-two sexual assaults reported in the last three months of 2018: Carnival – 8, Disney – 3, NCL – 4, Oceania – 1, and Royal Caribbean – 6.  There was a total of eighty-two sexual assaults on cruise ships for all of 2018. (There is little chance of a victim of a robbery during a cruise although there are thefts reported during cruises. The DOT does not track theft of items under $10,000 because the cruise industry would not agree to language in a proposed bill including such a reporting requirement).

We have characterized Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world for the last many years. But the fact remains that in a comparison between Nassau and a cruise ship, a cruise tourist sailing to Nassau has a higher chance of being sexualy assaulted on a cruise ship than ashore in Nassau.

In our view, this does not mean that it is safe to visit Nassau (as the U.S. State Department warnings indicate) but is more of an indication of the danger of being sexually assaulted on a cruise.

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Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.