Now Boarding: Trouble in Paradise

Recently, we’ve been trying to book my inlaws on a much-deserved tropical vacation for a week. They wanted somewhere quiet, clean, comfortable, ocean view, with good restaurants and weather, minus screaming kids, minus drunk college students, minus drunk middle agers pretending to be in college. So we chose St. Martin – an island for those with refined taste, slightly pricier, but oh-so-beautiful sand and beaches and astounding restaurants.

Then mother-in-law found out some disturbing information: that there was crime in St. Martin.

Well, of course there is crime – nowhere is safe. But I did a little research, and it appears that some parts of the Caribbean, including St. Martin, have experienced a rise in crime targeted at tourists, ranging from pickpocketing and hotel robbery to mugging. Though few actually get hurt, the incidents are enough to ruin a vacation. (The Washington Post ran an article about this rise in crime rate last year).

Crime has risen in the Bahamas, Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Why the rise? Well, blame the economy (everyone does). Caribbean residents, for the most part, are not wealthy. They depend heavily on the rich tourists who come in with money to spend, and those who do not profit from them begin to resent them. As the economic situation worsens personal situations, people become desperate and tourists become quick and easy targets.

That shouldn’t keep you away from visiting the beloved islands, of course. Jamaica and parts of Mexico are notorious for terrible crime, yet they still attract millions of tourists a year. Some experts say that people are actually safer in the Caribbean than in their home cities.

Locals hate the crimes as much because it ruins tourism in their area. When we were robbed in Costa Rica, the perp was caught and stuck in the back of a police car, while local businessowners taunted and scolded him for being part of the problem. My in-laws don’t want to go to St. Martin now because of the reputation built by these criminals.

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise the same amount of caution as you do at home. Lock your doors, leave valuables at home and out of sight in cars, watch your wallet and purse, and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk around alone at night and ask your concierge about what areas are safe and where to avoid. If you are approached, don’t put up a fight. Your money will be recovered and your wallet/ purse can be replaced. Then call the local police.

 Bottom line? In most likely scenarios, you’ll be perfectly safe and your vacation will go without a hitch. So enjoy, be safe, be aware, and have a great time!

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