Cruise lines monitoring St. Thomas very closely after killing of cruise passenger

Cruise line officials have St. Thomas under a form of higher supervision where cruise onshore excursions are concerned after a 14-year-old cruise ship passenger aboard one of Carnival ships was killed after shots were fired at a funeral session at Coki Point by a local resident. A tour bus was passing a funeral that was in session at Coki Point, when shots rang out on July 11.  

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Updates have to be provided on a weekly basis to the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) with respect to visitor safety and security. These updates will continue for at least a month. During that period, shore excursion groups from the cruise lines will be scouting around checking things out after the incident.

Cruise officials are actively monitoring how quickly the St. Thomas government responds to the variety of concerns that the cruise lines have expressed to them.

This brings into perspective the number of armed robberies that have taken place on Front Street so far for this year. The last one was July 11 – the same day a 14-year old cruise passenger was killed in St. Thomas – when four men raided a jewellery store minutes before 10.00am.

Two store employees were sprayed with pepper-spray. The four culprits left the store on foot heading up-town. Permanent police patrol presence should be considered for different parts of the island as a new measure in combating crime. We shouldn’t wait for something devastating to happen before taking pro-active measures.

The FCCA is waiting to receive a timeline as to the implementation of the St. Thomas Police Department’s action plan leading to an accelerated clean-up of the Coki Point tourist attraction/activity area.

The St. Thomas Police Department safety and security plan for the cruise ships entails basically flooding the streets – violence prone areas, tourist attractions and community events – with police officers.

There will also be increased mobile patrols, upgraded surveillance cameras with 24-hour monitoring and intelligence gathering. Targeted policing entails investigating known associates of high-profile criminals and their behind-the-scene links.

Abandoned vehicles and overgrown bushes in the Coki area will be dealt with in order to ensure that the area is safe and the aforementioned does not become a hiding place for persons with criminal intent.

Visitors will be monitored and the cruise lines will be notified when events, such as funeral are held. It has become commonplace of recent to have officers present for funerals; however, they were not aware of the Coki Point cemetery funeral on July 11 as they were not notified.

Much effort has been placed in fighting crime in the past, however policing objectives and strategies of challenging crime and criminal behaviour at all levels, maintaining public order, and safe guarding the security of the nation needs to be beefed up in order to generate public confidence and safety.

Increased pro-active measures are needed before we end up with a situation similar to St. Thomas. The Sint Maarten community expects such an approach rather than a reactive approach.

Roddy Heyliger