KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Six yachts were burglarised in Bequia during the first week of the tourist season, triggering fears of a negative impact on the sector if the trend continues.
And Minister of Tourism Saboto Caesar has sent a “very stern warning” to the perpetrators that his ministry has taken notice and will be taking action.
Caesar called into “Shake Up” on WE FM yesterday in response to several callers, who complained about crimes against yachtsmen on Bequia.
He said that Ministry of Tourism and law enforcement officials would meet with stakeholders on the Northern Grenadine island on Friday to discuss strategies for eliminating the problem.
“The issue definitely in Bequia is flaring up and it is one that I have to address at the level of Minister and I would definitely have to involve the Commissioner of Police,” said Caesar, who was in the United States at the time.
He said crime was not a pressing issue when he spoke with tourism stakeholder during a visit to Bequia about ten days ago when a library was opened there.
Residents, however, were concerned about garbage collection, the boardwalk and a private developer who wanted to do some construction in and around the fort.
“From reports that I am getting, there are persons who probably journey to Bequia, do what they have to and leave on an evening on the boat,” Caesar explained.
“Well, I want to send a very stern warning — a stern message — out, because we are going to put as many officers as possible to ensure that there is a stop and search wherever there is any evidence that something suspicious is going to take place our would have taken place,” Caesar said.
“So for those persons who are intending on creating some mischief within the tourism sector and causing such hardship on those persons who are investing their hard-earned money in the tourism sector in Bequia, we are going to deal with this thing head on,” he further said.
Caesar, however, explained that the stop and search does not mean that water patrols would not continue.
He further encouraged citizens to report suspicious activity “as soon as possible to the police.
“I must say, the Ministry of Tourism, we alone cannot solve the problem of crime. It takes a joint initiative between all the citizens on the island. And the police will be on hand and we are going to ensure that we address this very grave problem,” he said, adding that the Coast Guard will also be involved.
Caesar said that his ministry has already done a lot of background work on the situation in Bequia.
“Because what I did not want to do … is to go down to Bequia and we hearing a lot of the problems for the first time. So, over the last three weeks or so we were collating a lot of the information,” he explained.
Caesar said that the response in Bequia would be similar to the Southern Grenadines, where a crime wave broke out earlier this year.
A joint initiative between the police and residents was set up in the Southern Grenadines. “And it has definitely been a success,” Caesar said.