May 3, 2002 – In a release dated May 1 and circulated Thursday, Police Commissioner Franz Christian said his department "is committed to providing a safe haven for Carnival Cruise Lines and the entire cruise industry and has taken a number of steps to ensure high police visibility, prevention of incidents, improved response times and speedy apprehension of cases of crimes perpetrated against visitors."
Carnival stated publicly on April 23 that it was removing St. Croix from its itineraries because of continuing crime against passengers and crew members. The only remaining time that a Carnival ship is scheduled to call at Frederiksted is on May 11, when the Triumph will be in port.
According to the release, Christian conveyed the information in a letter dated April 22 to Gordon Buck, Carnival operations director. At a Port Authority board meeting on that date, Pamela Richards, who as Tourism Commissioner chairs the board, announced that she had received a letter from Carnival saying that because of ongoing crime, the cruise line "may go as far as to make a decision about whether they want to continue porting on St. Croix."
After Buck wrote Richards last December expressing concern about crime, Police Chief Novelle Francis characterized the incidents Buck cited as "stuff that could have been avoided," including one instance of a crew member who went "looking for women." Christian expressed similar sentiments in Thursday's release:
"It is very difficult to curb incidents where passengers or crew venture from the security of well-traveled areas and inexplicably seek out clandestine locations, such as the known drug trafficking areas where this attack occurred," he said. "I am routinely advised by my officers of having to caution, even admonish, visitors about venturing in unfavorable areas, only for those person to surreptitiously return moments later."
It was not clear which "attack" Christian referred to. Buck sent Richards at least three memos, on Dec. 27, Feb. 20 and April 16, citing different cases. In the most recent, he referred to two assault and robbery incidents that he said occurred while the Victory was in port on April 10. "One instance involved a daylight armed robbery of a crew member … a short distance from the ship," Buck said. "The other case was an evening beating and robbery of a guest … near the Harbour Night Festival."
Francis also had said in response to the Dec. 27 memo that because of a shortage of personnel he could not beef up security.
According to Gordon Finch, Port Authority executive director, VIPA has been paying for police overtime to provide visitor security since January and is committed to continuing to do so through May.
Christian said in the Thursday release that officers "have saturated the outlying beaches, the rainforest, the town areas of Christiansted and Frederiksted with peace officers from several law enforcement entities, in an effort to provide comprehensive coverage of the island during port calls. We have employed a system of tourist-oriented policing that includes, but is not limited to, all police personnel offering ready assistance to lost or stranded visitors, cautioning visitors about unfavorable areas, monitoring guided tours, conducting beach patrols with all-terrain vehicles and the surrounding areas with mobile patrols." Also, he said, police "have inundated the town areas with bicycle and foot patrols."
This week, St. Croix is hosting some 900 visitors for the annual Half Ironman triathlon events. Christian's release did not mention this. However, St. Croix Deputy Chief Angel Santos said on Friday that the department has assembled an 82-member team to provide security support from Friday night's Christiansted Jump-Up through Sunday night's awards banquet at Hotel on the Cay. The team includes school guards, traffic bureau and special operations personnel, in addition to regular police patrol officers, Santos said.
The police commissioner said he feels strongly that "our initiatives are proving effective in terms of a marked decline in reported incidents against Carnival Cruise passengers and our response time in arriving at these incidents." In a further effort, he added, "we intend to take a more aggressive stance as it relates to persons found seeking the purchase of drugs in known drug-trafficking areas."
The police, Christian said, "will continue to make every possible effort to provide the necessary security as proof of our commitment to a lasting relationship with Carnival Cruise Lines and the rest of the cruise industry."
Although the release did not exclude the St. Thomas-St. John district, Christian's specific comments all were in response to the St. Croix situation.
After the May 11 visit by the Triumph, the next time a cruise ship is scheduled to call on St. Croix is Oct. 30.
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