KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The Jamaican government said it will begin
deploying military troops in or near resort areas as a deterrent to
crime and harassment targeted at foreign visitors.
Adrian Robinson, chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board, said,
"We support any activities that work to insure that criminal
activity and harassment are not directed at our visitors." He added
that troops will be "carefully and strategically located to send a
clear message of 'hands off tourists' to potential criminals."
The government's plan also was endorsed by Sandals Resorts,
which has seven inclusive properties throughout Jamaica, and by the
Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association. Cruise lines that have
scheduled port calls in Jamaica said they are seeking a greater
presence of visible police at dockside (see sidbar, below).
Although specific details were being worked out, the deployment
could take effect as early as this week, officials said, and will
be concentrated along the island's resort-studded north shore, home
to several Sandals and SuperClubs resorts, among others. The
180-mile coastline stretches from Negril to Port Antonio.
Neither the number of soldiers involved in the action nor any
determination regarding whether they would be in uniform had been
The deployment follows two high-profile incidents against
In December, 14 German tourists were held up and robbed on a
tour bus excursion near Montego Bay. One month earlier, 18 German
visitors were robbed on a Jamaican tour bus near Port Maria, east
of Ocho Rios.
John Lynch, Sandals' executive vice president of sales
worldwide, said, "The most important factor for our guests is that
they feel secure while on vacation." Sandals' reservations agents
have fielded questions from several tour operators and agents
regarding the announcement, but no cancellations have been
Tourism is Jamaica's top industry, attracting more than 1.2
million foreign visitors last year, up 3% over 1997 figures,
according to the tourist board.
Jamaica's crime figures have decreased in recent years, down
from 380 incidents against visitors in 1989 to under 200 incidents
last year. Harassment, however, is so widespread that Jamaica
drastically raised fines last year to $2,700, up from $27, for a
first-time offense, and $4,100 for repeat offenses.
Cruise officials support dockside police
By Ernest Blum
MIAMI -- Cruise line officials whose ships call at Jamaica,
principally Ocho Rios, said they are concerned about crime and
harassment against their passengers and are seeking a greater
presence of law enforcement at dockside.
Florida Caribbean Cruise Association officials planned to
discuss the matter at an association meeting this week, said
Matthew Sams, a Holland America vice president and head of the
association's security/operations committee.
Cruise line officials said that their concern stems mostly from
harassment by panhandlers, beggars, trinket dealers and drug
Ships calling in Jamaica routinely advise passengers not to
wander off the beaten path. They often advise clients to book an
organized shore excursion or take a taxi to the main shopping
Executives noted that more visitors will arrive at Jamaica's
port once the 100,000-ton-plus megaships enter service in the
Caribbean. Royal Caribbean International's Voyage of the Seas, for
example, will begin calling on Ocho Rios with its inaugural cruise
from Miami on Nov. 21, joining the line's Majesty of the Seas.
With both ships calling in Ocho Rios on Wednesdays, the line
will deposit upwards of 5,000 to 6,000 passengers on the island's
shores. A spokesman for Royal Caribbean said that Ocho Rios
authorities have begun cordoning off the dock area to keep peddlers
away from disembarking passengers. "But we're looking for a greater
presence of visible police," he said.
The spokesman, who noted that fewer passengers go ashore in
Jamaica than in any other Caribbean port, added, "We encourage the
passengers to stay in well populated areas."
Carnival Cruise Lines' Destiny currently visits Ocho Rios, and
it will be joined by the Triumph when that ship makes its inaugural
voyage from Miami on Oct. 23. The Paradise also calls on the port,
and the Celebration recently began sailing there from New