The Advisory refers to an incident at The Sand Trap in 2016 and warns folks not to go to the area. THERE IS NO SUCH AREA. As this picture shows, the bar where the incident took place has been out of commission since 2016 and only remnants of the structure exists.
By Ed Fields
Downtown Nassau Partnership
Every year we have a circular discussion about the Travel Advisory issued by the US. State Department. It usually comes out in January, but because of the shutdown, it was just released. It is time we get off this hamster wheel once and for all.
It is important to state that as far as victims of crime are concerned one crime is too many and we should continue to be sensitive to that and to bring the numbers as close to zero as is possible.
Let’s dissect the most disturbing part of the opening paragraph contained in the Advisory.
“Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assault, is common, even during the day and in tourist areas. Although the Family Islands are not crime-free, the vast majority of crime occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands. US government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime.”
According to the crime statistics with respect to serious offences against US visitors, here are the numbers:
• In 2018, there was one burglary/robbery. There were four armed robberies, five sexual assaults, three in Nassau, one in Eleuthera and one in Grand Bahama. ZERO MURDERS.
• In 2017, there was one burglary/robbery. There were three armed robberies, two sexual assaults. ZERO MURDERS.
• In 2017 and 2018 we had approximately 6,000,000 visitors to these shores.
While it would be accurate to say these categories of crimes have an unacceptable degree of frequency as they relate to Bahamians, it would be entirely inaccurate to use the word common as it relates to visitors. In fact UNCOMMON as it relates to visitors would be extremely accurate and in fact, I would go so far as to say that with respect to violent crimes, our visitors are extremely safe and, if normal precautions are taken, petty crimes can be avoided.
In total, there were 43 offences against visitors in 2018 or .00000717 percent. Thirty or .000005 percent of those were against US citizens according to the statistics from the RBPF. Not quite what one would call common as it relates to visitors, but the way the Advisory is worded has the phones ringing off the hook and coverage ranging across 50 states.
It is not the obligation of the US State Department to provide this breakdown. Its job is to provide information to its citizens but in doing so, there must be some accountability for accuracy. For instance, an incident occurred at The Sand Trap in 2016. The advisory warns folks not to go to the area. THERE IS NO SUCH AREA. The bar where the incident took place has been out of commission since 2016 and only remnants of the structure exists. They can verify this by just looking over the wall of the US marine complex located next door. State Department - PLEASE DELETE THE REFERENCE TO THE SAND TRAP.
However, while it is not the responsibility of the State Department to provide context, it is the duty and obligation of our leadership and our media to do so.
What is not expected is for the Bahamian media to simply regurgitate the Advisory without providing the proper context. Why did the local reports not allude to The Sand Trap faux pas or to the fact the alert for the Fish Fry and Over-the-Hill areas was reduced from “avoid” to “exercise caution”? In other words, we IMPROVED. However, readers and TV viewers here and aboard saw no context.
Even more questionable is why so much press is given to the report in the first place? Most countries never publish this. Does the US publish our warning to our citizens in their media?
The US Embassy does not issue a press release on the Advisory. Our own media searches out this information but fails to take the time to analyse the content and offer appropriate background. Like The Bahamas, the Netherlands, France and Britain are also under a Level Two Advisory on the US State Department list. I do not see their newspapers splashing it across the front page. This reporting is picked up by the international media and makes it seem as if you visit The Bahamas you are destined to be a victim of crime. THAT IS NOT THE CASE, unless you consider .00000717 percent high risk.
So please, Mr and Mrs Reporter, when a travel advisory speaks to how the country’s murder rate is very high per capita, please make sure the Advisory’s targeted audience knows that over the past five years The Bahamas has had approximately 30 million visitors, and not one of them was murdered. They may be interested to know that sort of detail.
So many people could do such a better job to get the true message out – just like anywhere a bit of commonsense and you’ll be as safe as anywhere.