Ths week NBC News published an article titled Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18. Over three months, NBC News spoke with ten victims of sexual assaults and/or members of their families. The news organization found that a significant number of victims of rape and molestation on cruise ships are under 18 years of age.

NBC reported:

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never prosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults."

NBC interviewed me during its investigation.  We have represented 100 women and children, including families of  boys, who were sexually assaulted on cruise ships; around 35 vcitims were teenages and children with many victims under the age of ten with some as young as three years old. 

You can read more about sexual assault of children on cruise ships here

Interested in this issue? Read the recent article Sexual assault victims on cruise ships are often minors.

NBC will be airing its special on TV this weekend on the NBC Nightly News. Below is a portion of the special. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

 

 A jet ski operator in Nassau, Bahamas sexually assaulted a Canadian woman near Paradise Island yesterday afternoon, according to the Nassau Tribune.

The crime reportedly occurred after 1.30 P.M. on a cay near Cabbage Beach. The newspaper indicates that a jet ski operator took the young woman (in her twenties) on a ride from Cabbage Beach to a cay off Paradise Island where he sexually assaulted her.

An employee of the Atlantis resort told the newspaper that he observed the woman, shortly after the incident, crying and shaking on the beach. She indicated that the jet ski operator took her to a nearby cay Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaswhere he raped her. The news account says that the other jet ski operators"… don’t like him because he has a bad reputation. He has been accused before of groping a woman on the beach."

Over a half-dozen women have reported being assaulted by jet ski operators on Cabbage Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. The U.S. Embassy has warned of this specific danger several times. A year ago we wrote that, according to the U.S. Embassy, jet ski operators sexually assaulted five tourists in just 18 months

Bahamian officials previously discussed using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to patrol the beaches on Paradise Island to address the crime problem, but such plans never materialized.

Many passengers cruise to Nassau under the illusion that it is a tropical paradise. But the truth is that Nassau has been the subject of more critical crime warning that any other cruise destination in the world. The Bahamas has a far higher rate of rape and murder than any U.S. port where passengers embarked for a cruise. The cruise lines don’t issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warn their guests of the high crime rate there only during the cruise.

The Nassau Tribune has written about the rape of tourists by jet ski operators before.

The National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita rate.

Have a comment? Please leave on below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

June 15, 2017 Update: It seems that history is repeating itself

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

Bay Street Nassau Bahamas Crime WarningYesterday, the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) issued a security message for U.S. Citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas), titled Staying Safe during Spring Break in the Bahamas.

It starts with: "avoid being alone with strangers, jet ski, taxi, or scooter operators. Be particularly cautious on secluded beaches; criminals target such isolated areas. When traveling, use only clearly marked buses or taxis, as unlicensed taxi drivers have been linked to a variety of violent crimes."

The warning ""strongly" recommends that travelers "avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations" who "continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists."

It warns not to "allow yourself to be driven off alone with a scooter operator. Unlicensed scooter operators and rental services have been linked to assaults, including sexual assaults."

OSAC cautions against excessive drinking ashore – "Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated young women may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault."

OSAC refers to the U.S. State Department’s warning that "the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (includes Nassau and Paradise Island) is rated as critical." The critical crime warning reads:

"Armed robbery and sexual assault are major criminal threats facing U.S. citizens in New Providence. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or Nassau Bahamas Cruise Travel Warningknifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults in tourist areas as well. The Bahamas has one of the highest incidences of sexual assault in the Caribbean . . "

If you are a parent of a teenager or a college student cruising to Nassau this month on Spring Break, I suggest discussing these issues. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

March 6, 2107 Update: The U.S Embassy in Nassau issues another crime warning, based on the OSAC report.

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage – GFDL, commons / wikimedia (top photo of Bay Street in Nassau); TampAGS, for AGS Media – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (bottom photo of cruise wharf in Nassau).

Italian newspapers are reporting that a 34 year-old waiter was sentenced to 10 months in jail for assaulting and attempting to rape a 17 year-old girl on the Costa Fascinosa.  The Il Gazzettino first reported the incident which occurred three years ago on October 19th during a cruise in the Adriatic Sea, between Istanbul and Dubrovnik.

La Nuova di Venezia says that the waiter, identified as Floriano Fernandes, assaulted the girl in a bathroom of the cruise ship but she successfully resisted the attempted rape. The following day, the ship called on Venice but the captain failed to report and/or delayed in accurately reporting the assault and attempted rape. In a report to the Coast Guard, the captain, identified as Ignatius Giardina, from Sicily, reportedly wrote that there Costa Fascinosawas no "extraordinary event" during the cruise. The Italian prosecutor alleged that the captain fraudulently misrepresented the fact that a crime had occurred on the ship and prosecuted him for not properly reporting it.     

Captain Giardina has worked for Costa for 36 years, first as a cadet back in1980, later as a staff captain and safety officer, and as a master for the last 16 years.   

The captain’s defense lawyer argued that "extraordinary event" referred to a navigation point of view, such as a collision, and was not referring to the attempted rape. The captain was acquitted of trying to cover the crime up. 

I first read about the assault on the Crew Center web site. 

Sexual assaults on girls and women are not uncommon on cruise ships and Costa ships in particular. In October of last year, the Italian press reported on an incident where a Costa crew member allegedly sexually molested a 15 year-old girl aboard the Costa Diadema.  Two months earlier, on the same Costa cruise ship, a bartender allegedly followed an 18 year-old French woman into her cabin and raped her.

In 2013, a female Costa security guard alleged that she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor who was permitted to fly back to his home country after the crime. She subsequently won a civil case against her employer.

This is the first case, however, where I have heard that an officer (master) of a cruise ship was prosecuted for allegedly not properly reporting an allegation of sexual assault. I have seen many scenarios where the cruise line tried to cover a rape up but I have never seen any prosecutor willing to levy such allegations in a criminal court against the master of a ship.   

Photo Credit:  By René Grob CC BY-SA 4.0.   

Crime in the Bahamas remains critical, according to an annual report published by the U.S. Department of State.  

The U.S. report comes at a time when the Bahamas continues with a high murder rate.  The report says that "2015 was the most deadly year in Bahamian history."  Today the Nassau Guardian reports in an article titled "Two Die in Shootings" that two Bahamians were shot and killed in New Providence.

According to the U.S. report, the Bahamas has not released public comprehensive updated national crime statistics since July 2013. However, the murder rate in the Bahamas increased by 22 percent in Nassau Bahamas 2015. Police recorded 149 murders in 2015, up from 122 in 2014. (The Nassau Guardian reports there was a fewer number, 146, murders last year). 

With a population of a little over 400,000, the Bahamas has an extraordinary high murder rate of around 37 per 100,000. Considering that most of the murders are in Nassau (New Providence) the murder rate is even higher if the family islands are excluded. The murder rate in the U.S. is only around 4.5 per 100,000.    

The report concludes that "the preponderance of violent crimes reported were perpetrated against local Bahamians, and these occurred in areas of saturated criminality and not typically frequented by tourists." However, the report quickly adds that "despite strenuous anti-crime incentives sanctioned by the government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas during the past year, New Providence witnessed a substantial increase of violent armed crimes in locations that are also heavily frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In many instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities. Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, general theft of personal property, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists."

The report continues: "In 2015, several incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported near popular tourist areas close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas. While there is no indication that U.S. citizens have been targeted directly, criminals have become more brazen and creative in their methods. For example, several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas. Armed assailants have placed random items in the street as impromptu roadblocks so unassuming drivers would stop and could be robbed. In separate instances, four Embassy employees were victims of a robbery."    

"The U.S. Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged. The Embassy issued five separate Security Messages for U.S. Citizens in 2015 (Spike in Crime, Recent Armed Robberies, Credit Card/ATM Fraud, Jet ski Sexual Assaults, and Crime during the Holiday Season). Police recently warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated; and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators. The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively “safe” beaches within the confines of Paradise Island and heavily frequented by tourists and Embassy personnel. As a result of this trend, on January 6, 2016, Embassy Nassau put the use of jet-skis operated by local nationals in New Providence off-limits to all Chief of Mission personnel/agencies domiciled in The Bahamas."

The U.S. State Department report touches upon the fact that there have been sexual assaults on American tourists by jet ski operators in Nassau. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

Last month we pointed out that in 2005, according to the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita.

We previously named Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world in 2004. As the report indicates, things have gotten worse in Nassau since then. Most of the cruise line do not warn passengers before they buy a cruise which includes Nassau, but they warn the passengers with shipboard publications before reaching Nassau. Many frequent cruisers decide to stay on the cruise ship.

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

The cruise industry is trying to put the bad news behind it.  Cruise lines are announcing more and more cruise ships coming on line. The industry is moving into the Chinese market with great fanfare. Today Carnival said that it is ready to start cruising from Cuba. Travel agents and reporters are faithfully reporting the positive stories and trying to add to the excitement.

But there is a steady stream of bad news that simply won’t go away.

A couple of days ago, a NCL crew member went overboard from the Sun but the ship security didn’t know about the missing crew member for 13 hours and never bothered to turn the ship around for a Cruise Ship Crimesearch and rescue. The Coast Guard shut the search down before the public knew what happened, 

Australian television just broadcast a special insight into the cruise industry titled "Murky Water: The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry," which looked at a part of cruising that many people may be disturbed to learn – sexual assaults, drugs, excessive alcohol and the loss of passengers overboard. An Australian newspaper reported, just today, that "most incidents on cruises go unreported because victims fear their attackers may throw them overboard. Crew members who fall victim also face the threat of losing their job if they complain. It is estimated that one person goes overboard on a cruise ship every two weeks . . . "  

This year, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of an U.S. woman who was brutally attacked on a HAL cruise ship in the Caribbean.  The room service attendant beat, choke and raped the women in her cabin over an incredibly violent 45 minute period of time and then tried to thrown her overboard.  The danger of permitting male cruise employees to use master keys have proven to be an irresponsible and dangerous practice over the years, Another service employee pleased guilty this year to using his master key to open a woman’s cabin door at night and sexually assault her on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas

But all the while, the cruise industry markets itself as safe and responsible. Its a shame that the marketing and lobbying association of the cruise industry, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), is also the part of the industry that interacts with the Federal agencies responsible for enforcing the few laws that relate to passenger safety issues.   

Mark Brimble, president of the Australian chapter of the International Cruise Victims, recently told a victimology conference: "The cruise industry is cleaning up its image but it may not necessarily be cleaning up its act."  

The Security Management publication in an article titled Safety at Sea by Holly Gilbert Stowell, explained today how the U.S. Coast Guard has permitted the cruise lines to slide on their legal requirement to install effective automatic man overboard systems. At a bureaucratic level in Washington D.C., the Coast Guard seems more motivated in keeping the cruise lines happy than saving lives at sea.     

The article said that there are "two wildly different pictures of crime statistics are painted by cruise lines and by industry critics. For example, in 2011, victims reported 563 incidents of crime aboard cruise ships. But cruise line websites only documented 102 of those crimes" according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein who obtained the FBI data under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request."

The article also quoted me explaining that the FBI ". . . may be great at dealing with white collar crime but they’ll just say that they’re not interested in getting themselves involved in bar fights and people smashing each other with beer bottles or women who are raped."

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut met today with the family of George Smith who disappeared from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas ten years ago. Senator Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have proposed legislation mandating the use of safety technology and man-overboard detection that could have prevented Mr. Smith’s disappearance.

But the cruise lines have done little over the past decade to improve passenger safety. The cruise industry reminds me of an addict in denial and unable (unwilling) get past step one in a twelve step recovery program. Passengers and crew members will continue to disappear at sea as the Coast Guard and cruise lines work together to dismantle the man overboard system legal requirements. The Coast Guard will continue to posture for cozy jobs with the cruise lines and its lobbying organization. Lives which could be saved will be lost 

The cruise industry has wasted the last decade. It could have agreed to real changes, fully implemented the man overboard technology, and put the issue behind it. But it resisted change, taken the easy cuts and engaged in a massive PR game. The cruise lines have proven once again to be more determined to overcome a bad image than to learn from their bad conduct.

 

WFSB 3 Connecticut

The Travel Channel just posted a cruise safety video as part of it’s Travel 911 series (be prepared before things go wrong on a cruise ship).

Its a very friendly sounding video that says that there’s nothing better than a cruise, but bad things can happen on cruise ships.  

Here are some tips:

  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and avoid public bathrooms. And check out which ships have high scores on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • Attend muster station drills. They are mandatory before the ship sails and can be a life-saver.
  • Limit your drinks. The number one reported crime during cruises is sexual assault. The victims are usually intoxicated.
  • Don’t flaunt your jewelry, handbags, or money. Yes, there are thefts during cruises.
  • Be extra-safe during shore excursions. Keep your cash and jewelry in the cabin safe and wear a traveler’s pouch.   

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

 

https://screen.yahoo.com/cruise-safety-141537603.html?format=embed

News accounts of violent crime against both tourists and residents in the Bahamas continue to be regularly published in the international and local press. 

David Jessop, the Managing Director of the Caribbean Council, has written insightful articles this year regarding the damage to the image of the Bahamas caused by articles in social media regarding such crime. He states that that the Bahamas, like other Caribbean islands, doesn’t have the social media skills necessary to promptly and effectively minimize damage to the country’s reputation when tourists become victims of violent criminal acts. I suggest reading his articles: Social Media and Managing Mitchell Nini Crime BahamasReputation published in January, and Reputational Damage published a few days ago in the Bahamas Tribune.

But how does the Bahamas manage its reputation when its newspapers are regularly filled with gruesome stories of violence virtually every day?

On April 30th the local newspapers in the Bahamas reported that a jury acquitted three Bahamian men in their 20’s of the "near-fatal stabbing" of a Canadian tourist, Mitchell Nini. Mr. Nini was stabbed 7 times in the chest, back and stomach when the thugs robbed a gold chain from Mr. Nini’s friend. 

I have written before that tourists injured during violent crimes in Nassau cannot find justice in the archaic Bahamian legal system, although the Bahamian tourist police seem effective in boarding cruise ships at the wharf and arresting U.S. citizens for small amounts of pot

I first learned of the acquittal of Mr. Nini’s attackers when his friends and family posted the news of the acquittal on Facebook and Twitter.  The articles posted by his mother on Twitter indicate that the three men confessed to the crime but later claimed that the police beat them into signing the confessions. 

The Canadian press published New Brunswick Man Warns of Traveling After Being Stabbed in Bahamas. The newspaper article shows a photo of Mr. Nini recovering from the vicious attack in the hospital while saying that tourists should stay clear of the island. He told the Global News "Whether you feel like you’re safe on the resort, as soon as you step off the resort you’re in a war zone.”

Mr. Nini’s reference to a "war" is appropriate.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perrie Christie told that Tribune newspaper last week that the government is "developing new crime fighting strategies to win the ‘war’ that they are fighting against the ‘hostile young men’ in the capital."

Meanwhile, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney made the news stating that he does not feel safe given the ongoing scourge of crime in the Bahamas. He told the Tribune “I don’t feel safe in this country . . . We live in paradise, but we are paralysed by fear. We are in prison in our own homes because of the criminal element running amuck in this country.”

There is good reason for even the politicians to be afraid of crime in Nassau. In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. Then in January a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enough to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

What’s the response from the Bahamas to these and many other stories about trouble in paradise?  I have received many comments from the citizens of the Bahamas chastising me for suggesting that the out-of-control crime in Nassau also exists throughout the many islands which make up the country. But there are too many stories about crime against tourists outside of Nassau as well.

Last month Edgar George Dart, a 56-year-old British citizen who lived in Canada, was shot and killed and slowly died in front of his family after three masked intruders burst into his mother’s home in Freeport. And a 14 year-old U.S. girl was raped on one of the out islands just ten days ago.   

Violent crime is a part of life in Nassau. Dangerous young men with knives and guns are menacing the residents and tourists alike. Do the families on Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships know that a war is raging in Nassau and even the top politicians in the Bahamas are afraid of crime and have been victimized themselves? How can a country even attempt to manage its reputation as a paradise for tourists when the local residents are paralyzed by fear? 

Watch the video of Mr. Nini below: 

Consider reading: Bahamas Responds to Making the List of Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations: "The Bahamas Is Safe"

Bahamas Weekly: The Bahamas – Still Paralyzed by Fear: "Over the past two weeks, newspaper headlines have recounted horrific stories of violence, murder and mayhem which have gripped communities here in New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island; cementing crime and the fear of crime as one of the country’s most pressing national issues."

Have a thought? Leave a message below or join the discussion on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Global News

WPTV Cruise Ship CrimeWPTV West Palm Beach aired an interesting program last night indicating that the cruise industry reports only a small percentage of crimes committed on cruise ships.

Last year the cruise lines reported only 78 crimes on cruise ships.  However, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the news station located reports of more than 300 crimes on just cruise ships leaving from Florida ports. 

In 2013, the cruise lines disclosed only 14 thefts from cruise ships. However, WPTV’s Dan Krauth stated that a FOIA request uncovered 75 thefts on cruise ship on Florida-based cruise ships alone. Under current U.S. law, cruise lines have to report only thefts involving property worth $10,000 or more. So if $9,999 of a passenger’s stuff is stolen, the cruise lines keep it secret.

Jewelry, computers, money and other valuables were stolen essentially on every single cruise leaving Florida last year but only a tiny fraction of the thefts were reported by the cruise lines to the police. 

The cruise industry conceals the vast majority of physical assaults, sexual assaults and thefts which happen during cruising. It also touts crime statistics based on the incomplete database, creating a false and misleading impression of what really happens on the high seas. 

 

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WPTV interviewed me during the program. The news station also cited a publication by our firm’s former law clerk, Caitlin Burke, explaining that cruise ships evade U.S. law by incorporating in foreign countries and registering their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas. “Flags of convenience” date all the way back to the 1920s, according to Caitlin E. Burke, an advocate for cruise victims. “Flagging a ship under a foreign flag for the convenience of the cruise line is nothing new, nor is it rare,” Burke wrote in A Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

Credit: video and photograph WPTV

Cruise Ship CrimeToday, "America Now – News You Can Use" aired a video about the issue of cruise ship crimes.

The video shows images of 15 cruise passengers who were victimized during cruises. 

Although cruising appears to be a "hassle-free" vacation, there are crimes which occur. The number one crime is sexual assault, with over 30% of such crimes involving minors.

One of the problems with crimes on cruise ships is that there is no independent police force.  The security personnel are employees of the cruise line. There is a conflict of interest which occurs when a passenger is victimized, particularly when the assailant is a crew member.  

Interviewed during the program are Jamie Barnett, the President of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, and Laurie Dishman who was sexually assaulted during a Royal Caribbean cruise to Mexico.

Photo Credit: NBC