Cruise Passengers Beware: American Sailor Murdered in Bahamas Shows Crime Rates are Increasing

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Are cruise vacations really safe? That’s a question our cruise accident attorneys often ponder following what seems to be a never-ending string of maritime incidents both at sea and in port. Just a few weeks ago, we reported about increasing crime in the Bahamas and how cruise passengers should be wary when visiting the island nation. Now, after the death of an American sailor, we advise that travelers be extremely cautious when calling on the Bahamas to avoid any life-threatening situations.

The seaman was shot to death in Nassau over the weekend while attempting to help a female tourist who was being mugged. Victim Kyle Bruner had been working as a private sailor aboard a tall ship that was docked in port when he witnessed a woman being mugged for her jewelry and tried to stop the crime.

Bruner’s relatives are suffering with his loss, but say they are not the least bit surprised by his heroic efforts.

“It was very much in his character,” said Bruner’s father, Rick. “‘He never liked bullies, and he never stood for people around him being bullied. So, this what he would do.  In retrospect, you say maybe he should have avoided the situation but that’s not really who he was or the person that we loved.”

According to Bahamian authorities, one suspect connected to the murder is in custody but two others are still at large.  The area where the incident occurred, New Province Island, where Nassau is located, is especially notorious for increasing crime rates. Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe even issued a warning for cruise passengers visiting the area because criminal activity is increasing at an alarming pace.

The Minister explained cruise lines have been warned to take the necessary safety precautions to ensure passengers and crew members are protected, as well as to stay informed of crimes that are taking place against tourists.

While Nassau was once one of the most popular ports of call for cruise lines, cruise travelers are now being warned to remain onboard their ships if possible to avoid even the slightest chance of violent crime. The situation has grown so out of hand, that the Royal Bahamian Police Force reported a 35 percent increase in the number of murders between 2010 and 2011. Of particular concern in Nassau is what are known as ‘Snatch-and-grab’ crimes, which are increasing rapidly across the city, along with violent crimes, including gunpoint robberies, battery and sexual assault.

Although criminal activity is less common in areas where tourism is prominent, Bahamian authorities continue to report several incidents, especially sexual assaults and kidnappings among female cruise passengers, in areas where casinos and hotels are located, and surprisingly, onboard the cruise ships themselves.

Our cruise crime attorneys have always advised travelers of several ways they can stay as safe as possible on the high seas and in foreign ports, where U.S. laws that protect passengers might not apply. It is important for all cruise travelers and crew members docked in a foreign port to travel in groups and never wander around the area alone – no matter how safe a particular country might seem. Criminals are trained to spot for tourists and will quickly make a move to nab a wallet, purse, watch, or other valuables.  Many of these assailants are just looking to make a quick buck and fast getaway, but unfortunately,  since local criminals know that travelers will most likely not press charges or bother to open an investigation, they may decide to escalate the incident and attempt a mass robbery, such as the gunpoint cruise passenger robbery in St. Lucia last month.

Another way to reduce the chances of being hurt in foreign countries is to carry traveler’s checks instead of credit cards or cash. Traveler’s checks can easily be replaced, so if by chance you or a loved one are attacked, hand over the checks as quickly as possible to prevent the assailant from using violent tactics. Also, it is wise to store all valuable jewelry onboard in your cabin’s safe and never wear anything that looks even remotely expensive or flashy while exploring a foreign port.

Because there are areas in the Bahamas more prone to crime than others, cruise travelers are warned to stay far away from the trouble areas and stick to locations that have been deemed safe thus far, such as Señor Frogs, which is located right on the Nassau dock. Staying as close to port as possible and refraining from visiting local bars and clubs will significantly reduce the chance of a burglar attack or other serious crime during your cruise.