KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines Dr. Godwin Friday is not satisfied with the government’s response to a recent spate of yacht burglaries in Bequia.
He said that the situation is now at “crisis” level and accused the government of not taking it seriously and of responding in a “haphazard” way.
“In the yachting community, their perception is that nothing has been done to address the concerns that they themselves have raised,” Friday said at a New Democratic Party (NDP) press conference Wednesday.
Friday’s comments came on the heels of a Nov. 4 meeting in Bequia where government officials and tourism stakeholders discussed the problem.
Friday, along with Tourism Minister Saboto Caesar, Commissioner of Police Keith Miller and a Coast Guard representative attended the meeting.
Caesar said there is a need for all police units to be “beefed up” on the island since the Rapid Response Unit primarily focuses on narcotics.
The meeting also proposed patrols in and around Admiralty Bay. “We are trying to work on and have already located patrol boats for the harbour,” Caesar said.
But a Nov. 8 post on Caribbean Safety and Security Net — which exchanges information about safety and security concerns while cruising in the Eastern Caribbean — spoke of the problem in Admiralty Bay.
It said some of these incidents were theft, in that the boats had not been locked, while others have been burglaries, involving breaking in.
“It appears that all have occurred during the dinner hour, presumably while the crews have been off to shore or to another yacht for dinner and/or drinks,” the network said.
Caribbean Safety and Security Net noted that officials have met to discuss the situation but said they hadn’t so far received “word of what is being done to address the situation and to protect the visiting yachts”.
“Until there is evidence that someone is arrested or that security patrols by the police and/or coast guard are routinely taking place in Admiralty Bay, the Caribbean Safety and Security Net urges all yachts to stay onboard after dark. Locking up during the day when leaving the boat is always the appropriate precaution,” the network said.
Friday mentioned to that advisory and urged state authorities “to move rapidly, in a systematic way to ensure that the security issues are addressed”.
He highlighted the possible loss of revenue if yachters stay on-board at dinner time rather than coming ashore to eat there.
“In the past, what has happened, the Coast Guard has made … public relations forays into Amorality Bay from time to time,” Friday said.
“They will circle around the harbour and when everybody has seen them, they will disappear and go back up to Calliaqua.
“That is not what is needed. We don’t need public relations; we need effective security in the water. It means that there has to be a permanent presence of the patrols until this matter is brought under control and we can have a thriving yachting industry again,” Friday said.
Deputy Director of Grenadines Affairs Herman Belmar, speaking ahead of the Nov. 4 meeting, said he was “seriously concerned” about crime visitors to the island as six yachts were broken into during the first week of the tourist season.
“By the end of November, we ain’t got any tourist in Bequia if this is going to continue,” he said.
Caesar, speaking at a political rally earlier this week, said that yacht visits between January and September were up by 7.7 per cent. Stay-over visitors have increased 2.1 per cent over the same period last year; while the figure had jumped 8.8 percent this September, compared to the same month last year.
The Ministry of Tourism, up to Thursday night, was yet to respond to an I-Witness News request for an update on what practical measures have been put in place to address the situation.