Not So Long Ago Crimes Against Tourists Could Be Hidden – And Often Were. The Internet Is Changing That
There was a time before the internet when governments, news media and the police acted together to very efficiently cover-up crimes against tourists – not only in the Caribbean, but in vacation spots around the world. This cover-up was possible only because large media and news outlets were the sole source of public information about vacation crimes.
The reason for the conspiracy of silence was simple: each of the partners – media, police and governments – had an interdependent economic relationship where it benefited everybody to minimize the perception of crime at any particular tourist venue.
If you want to see where a good chunk of a newspaper’s revenue flows from, have a look at the travel section. No matter how highly an editor values journalistic integrity, once the newspaper owner explains “The way things are”, any editor can see that front page stories about tourists being shot, raped or robbed don’t mix well with the adverts for tropical vacations on sunny beaches.
Even the editors of the largest British and American newspapers feel the pressure to hide Caribbean crime … because the travel sections of their newspapers are filled with advertisements that pay their mortgages and sent their children to college.
Editors are not bad people, so they rationalize their actions to themselves by saying that tourist-based economies are incredibly sensitive to bad publicity, and only one crime does not make a crisis or trend. They tend to ignore vacation crime stories except for those that are high profile. The result is that British and American readers will see stories of the odd murder, but none of daily robberies, rapes or organized hotel thieves.
The impression given to newspapers’ readers is that one vacation destination is much like another as far as crime is concerned – and every society has a murder once in a while so we don’t really worry about that on a daily basis.
Policing In Tourist Destinations Used To Be About Managing The Perception Of Crime – Not Controlling Crime Itself
The internet is changing the ability of governments, police and media to control public perceptions of vacation crime. Have a look at St. Lucia Travel.ORG the website at the the top of this story.
The website was established by an American couple who were horribly assaulted while in their resort hotel room in St. Lucia. Both were beaten by intruders who broke into their Mago Estate Hotel room while they were sleeping. The wife was raped at gunpoint and they were lucky to be left alive. When it became obvious that the St. Lucia police were more interested in closing the casefile rather than finding the thugs, the couple established the website to tell the world.
The result? The St. Lucia Star newspaper removed all articles about the crime from the newspaper’s website… (Hey… is that journalistic integrity or what?)…
But that didn’t matter – Google search “Mago Estate Hotel” and “violence” or “crime” or “complaints” and you will find dozens of articles online about the crime and St. Lucia vacation crime in general. The Washington Post also picked up on the couple’s website and did a story that is probably still causing vacationers to avoid St. Lucia and the Mago Estate Hotel.
Would the Washington Post have printed their story without the couple’s website? I doubt it. They probably wouldn’t have even heard about the story.
Interested parties can no longer effectively limit news of crimes against tourists, nor the economic damage that results when a vacation destination becomes known for violence and crime.
That should be the big lesson for Barbados and all tourist destinations.
What Does It All Mean For Barbados & The Royal Barbados Police Force?
As we stated in a previous BFP article Best Wishes to Barbados Tourism Minister Noel Lynch …
Think “Tourist Safety – Security” and then compare Jamaica with Barbados. No contest. Barbados is a very safe country. Even our few “bad” areas aren’t really so bad. Jamaica has some of the most beautiful natural sights in the world – in truth, even prettier than Barbados – but many tourists won’t set foot on the island because, as they see it, Jamaica is just not worth the risk…
We in Barbados shouldn’t forget about that when the issue of policing comes up. The Royal Barbados Police Force should be the highest paid, best trained and best equipped policing organization in the Caribbean. The police are the true guardians and promoters of the most important segment of our economy. If the tourists don’t feel safe in Barbados, you can kiss goodbye to about 80% of our gross national revenue…
Stupid, Short-Sighted Choices Made By Owen Arthur’s Government
IF the Owen Arthur and the other BLP leaders had been intelligent, they would have made policing and crime control a priority for the last 12 years that they formed the Government. Those idiots don’t recognize that public safety and rule of law is the very foundation upon which everything else is built.
That the Barbados Government has not made policing a priority is there for all to see – over 100 officers short, policing services curtailed, “wages” that are an insult, experienced officers leaving for other organizations or getting out of law enforcement altogether and a deteriorating level of confidence in the ability of the police to deal with increasingly violent crimes.
Many of our officers even lack a proper uniform and cannot afford to purchase decent uniform kit even if they wanted to.
The Owen Arthur Government has been more concerned about controlling the perception of crime in Barbados than about controlling crime itself. As a result, our Royal Barbados Police Force is understaffed, under-trained and under-equipped.
Our police force is quickly becoming a third-rate banana republic organization that pays so poorly it is unable to attract anywhere near enough qualified recruits.
All Bajans and especially whoever forms the next government had better start paying attention to how vital policing is to our tourist-based economy… because if we don’t, those chickens are going to come home to roost.
BFP Photo by Shona: Accra Beach