Anguilla Crime: Summary and Outlook

Here’s the 10-point summary of where are at regarding crime as of March 4, 2013…

1) Over the past 10 years, Anguilla has slowly, steadily become less safe. More crime, some local gangs, guns, drugs. The pace is picking up.

11 years ago, when we first visited, Anguillians would laugh when I locked the villa door. Now they close their windows at night.

That said, it’s still the safest island in the Caribbean (and the most special, but that’s just my opinion :-) ).

That said, while it’s still safe, we need to act now or we could be ‘just another island’ in a year or three.

2) Local, NON-tourist crime accounts for most of it, but THAT never warrants any coverage over at Tripadvisor.

Up until “THE” robbery, even the occasional tourist crime never seemed to get much play, but it DID happen, and not just the typical beach-snatch-and-run that can happen anywhere.

3) That “code of silence” all changed on January 31, the day of THE spectacular robbery at Blanchard’s Restaurant, perhaps THE most famous of all our restaurants.

A thread started at TA on Feb. 1. It lasted almost 3 weeks, running 318 posts. For those who missed it, here is the first page of that (click on the image to enlarge it).

4) A PR nightmare. Our small island is virtually 100% dependent on tourism.

What makes us so different? Our beaches, yes. The people, absolutely.

And SAFETY. “TRANQUILITY wrapped in blue,” Anguilla is the safest island in the Caribbean.

Subtract “safety” from the equation, though, and this island will suffer badly. Think about it…

What happens to tourism in Jamaica when a crime is reported on their forums? Nothing. Why? No one goes there because it’s safe.

What happens here, though? Each report is a little chip in our reputation. Build up enough chips and our entire economy would be in serious trouble.

Worse, that starts “the spiral to nowhere”…

crime publicity > tourist fear > less tourism > fewer jobs and dollars > more poverty > more young men going into crime > more crime > more crime publicity.

So everyone here, government and private industry, is mobilizing. I can’t say what the British Governor (who is responsible for internal security) is doing because he’s not saying.

The KEY, though, is NOT just to make the tourist zones safe. We’d end up “ghetto-izing” Anguilla, like so many of the other islands. That would NOT be Anguilla…

One of Anguilla’s unique charms is that you can drive anywhere. Find a secluded beach that looks nice? Stop, sunbathe, snorkel and picnic, with no worries.

Safe access to ALL of Anguilla CANNOT change!

5) Yes, Anguilla is STILL the safest island. Let’s summarize, though, the fast change in perception by some…

BBR (Before Blanchard’s Robbery): Anguilla was probably NOT as safe as the general perception. That slow, steady deterioration had gone unnoticed by most tourists, but not by those of us who live on the island.

PBR (Post Blanchard’s Robbery): For those who’ve seen the story, Anguilla is now safer than your damaged perception. After a few days here, you’ll feel that nothing has changed. And that would true for everyone…

Except for the one person who happens to get robbed or worse.

So DO take precautions… for now. Can I confidently tell you, for example, that you’re safe if you go to Little Bay to snorkel in that perfect little spot?

99% sure, yes. You will ALMOST surely be fine. But that “absolute confidence” is gone… for now.

That’s unacceptable. We MUST get that back. More on how we do that below (HINT: It’s not by making YOU safe.)

6) As I said, the publicity got a lot of people’s attention, both private and public interests. It’s too bad that it took that long to get our attention. (Humans do seem to be a reactive species in all things.)

Aside from local, private initiatives, a more comprehensive project is falling into place. It is called “Take Anguilla Back.” You can read the most recent iteration (V5) here (right-click to download).

It is NOT only about making tourists safe (creating compounds), it is about making all of Anguilla safe by preventing and defeating crime, period….

Moms should feel no worries when sending their children to school.

Local merchants should not worry if someone is carrying a gun.

I never want to look over my shoulder when we go surfing off the point of Forest Bay.

And you want to climb to the top of Windward Point without worry… without even worrying about worry.

The only way to do that is to fix crime island-wide.

That is what “Take Anguilla Back” (“TAB”) is all about.

7) Things get pretty political here in Anguilla, but the TAB Mailing List that was established to discuss and move this project forward has been productive AND collaborative, doubling in size.

Haydn Hughes, the Permanent Secretary who is THE man who is in charge of tourism, has been remarkable.

The Governor, Alistair Harrison, who is in charge of internal security and the police, has been silent. I hope that he is merely waiting for directions from London.

8 ) When I say that things get “political,” I don’t only mean the politicians. Last week, unfortunately, a prominent Anguillian took a political swipe at expats and at “Take Anguilla Back” (“TAB”) in The Anguillian newspaper

Our Mailing List went silent for 3 days. It has now rebounded and we move ahead.

9) Haydn Hughes and the government seem to be on board (we hope to finalize their financial participation shortly). I meet with the head of the AHTA this Wednesday to organize funding for the TAB Fund. (The Fund starts with $50,000 from a private citizen, to be matched by Government, Governor and private interests.)

With or without the Governor’s involvement, we WILL move this ahead.

(TAB is built upon the foundation of a St. Kitts program that has been remarkably successful. And TAB adds a key concept of mobilizing the population to “take Anguilla back.” Details are in the pdf document above.)

I will update you on progress here periodically (subscribe to the RSS feed).

10) There are at least 3 more significant and genuinely exciting developments. It is not my place to announce them, but do expect tangible good news very shortly.

Changing Crime Without Changing The Island

“Take Anguilla Back” gets to the heart of beating crime in a way that does not change the island’s nature. Hon. Haydn Hughes spoke of how our unique form of tourism evolved here

If we don’t beat this thing, we will indeed lose what took 30 years to build.

A TA poster called “Mstvl” spoke about how she does not “want to be locked up in a concrete compound on the beach.” Well…

If you ever see that happen, know that “the real Anguilla” has died.

It must never happen. By helping to make ALL of Anguilla safe, Anguillians and tourists, we won’t have enclaves or all-inclusives.

We’ll have the real Anguilla, safer than ever.

So many key people are helping to make TAB happen… Haydn (gov’t), Gilda (AHTA), Caribbean Associated Attorney (free legal work), volunteers experienced in accounting and reporting/transparency, the support of Mark Romney (head of Lime, which is developing one of those exciting projects), key advisors who prefer to remain nameless, and many villa and restaurant owners…

It’s already a big team effort.

Can it still be derailed? Anything can happen! The article in the newspaper was a blindside. The government might let us down. The Governor may do, well, I’m not sure what he might do (I do wish he’d speak out and help, though).

CONCLUSION: I believe that we’ll make Anguilla as safe as it was when we first vacationed here. We WILL get there if the culture of collaboration that has been established in the TAB group holds true and if those in key positions support it.

SUGGESTION: If you feel it’s important to report a crime, do so. Post it (in the Facebook-or-blog comments below, or at TA or Yuku or other Anguilla forum). Leave it at that. It’s relevant information for tourists AND it lets everyone here know that you’re paying attention!

But there’s no need to make it a political movement. THAT message has been received from tourists, loud and clear!

WORRY: My only worry? If all this TAB activity that is heading in the right direction drifts away into inaction, if nothing gets done.. we WILL have a problem.

The BIG picture has been heading in the wrong direction for years now. YOU are “the customer.” It’s YOUR feedback and reports that count.

BOTTOM LINE: Should you vacation here?

Of course! It’s still 99% the same Anguilla. As I posted in the “mega-thread,” you can still safely explore anywhere, get out of the car anywhere.

You still meet and talk with the same friendly people, visit the varied and magnificent beaches, with the the same sunny desert conditions, and the best set of beach bars and restaurants in the world.

Anguilla is still safe, but…

Until we set crime back to where it was (minimal and trivial), don’t walk around Blowing Point at night. And skip Little Bay this time around, just to be 100% safe. Take a few precautions that you might not have done in previous years.

That’s about it.

Comments

  1. Tom Turton says

    Indeed, this is very sad and disturbing. My wife and I have been visiting Anguilla since 1991. Our last visit was in 2010. We have stayed in private villas or small hotels on our previous visits and have always felt safe at night or when exploring a secluded beach. I can no longer feel that way after reading this. Although the reality may be that Anguilla is 99% safe, the perception left is that it is no longer the place it once was. As fate would have it we were forced to cancel our “lucky 13th” trip to Anguilla in January due to a close family member’s illness. We were in the process of putting together plans for a January 2014 trip to Anguilla. However, after reading this, all future travel plans to Anguilla are on hold until we see how this all turns out. My hope is that we will feel better about returning sometime in the future. The island and people of Anguilla have always held a special place in our hearts. I wish you all the best of luck as you take action to correct this disturbing trend.

  2. admin says

    Sorry to say not much came of it, Tom. I’ll publish if when a development occurs. I took it as far as was possible.

  3. Gordon says

    Good Luck
    Crime in the Caribbean has exploded over recent years. As people who love to charter small yachts for our holidays it is so sad that we now have to plan holidays based on where the risk of violent crime is less likely. Petty theft is rampant the world over and although not pleasant is not a major issue when choosing where to vacation, just the tactical planning of where NOT to visit on an island. However, risk of wounding, death or personal violation is a big turn off visiting a country.

    As some islands have found out – the financially impact of cruise liners missing out their port and major charter companies pulling out(eg St Vincent) ruins respectable people’s businesses and jobs and internal crime escalates further. Islands which treat “petty” crime seriously and tackle it head on and early are far more likely to re-establish their reputation than those where police are under resourced and sometimes under motivated.

    As an outsider I have always been surprised by many islands casual attitude to financing law enforcement when, is reality, much of their GDP is tied up in tourism which is directly affected by increasing lawlessness.

  4. says

    Good points, Gordon. The sad thing about Anguilla is that it is safe for tourists. That may sound odd, but it’s the “local” crime that weighs heavy on residents. There should be NO double standard.

    It’s understandable for tourists to consider Anguilla as “safe.” It is, for YOU. You can safely moor in Sandy Ground, come ashore and have a wonderful time. Crime-on-tourist is extremely low by Caribbean standards.

    Local crime, though, worries moms who send their children to school (local gangs and drugs), local businesses (worry about getting robbed) and many concerned about gang shootings, and breaking and entering of local homes. From the Anguillian point of view, Anguilla has changed. Tourists have no reason to know about this, so it is not an issue that deters them from visiting.

    Why we’ve done so little about local crime is a mystery. Sooner or later, it will spill over to tourists (again). Since the robbery at Blanchard’s, there has been very little crime-on-tourist that I know of. It’s a shame that it is going to take a catastrophic event that reaches the world media before anyone here worries about “fixing” crime again.

    And even then, the motives will be all wrong. We MUST resolve this at the LOCAL level.

  5. Mary says

    Hi Dad and thanks for your great work!

    Do you think it is safe for a young woman to attend St James School of Medicine in Anguilla for 16 months? She is a very careful kid and not a drinker or partier.

    Thank you for your impression of St James School of Medicine!

    Mary

  6. says

    Mary, are you asking if it’s safe to attend Anguilla’s medical school? It should be OK, as long as she doesn’t cut her hand with a scalpel when dissecting something. 😉

    OK, I’m just kidding. You’re more likely asking if a young woman on her own is safe in Anguilla, right? The answer is the same as I’d give if she was attending school in Boise, Idaho…

    Take normal precautions. If you wouldn’t do it in Boise, don’t do it in Anguilla. Some of the students are not as careful as your daughter (i.e, “partiers”), and yet there have been no bad stories (none that I’ve heard, anyway).

    It sounds like your daughter is more serious about her studies, and that she knows the type of scenarios to avoid. So she should be fine — just tell her to be careful with that scalpel! 😉

    All the best,
    Ken

  7. Kevin Moore says

    Our villa — which we own and live in 6 months a year — was broken into 2 years ago. It cost over $5000 to replace all that was stolen, not including shipping and customs, close to another $1000. Police came to the scene, we filed a report along with a list of stolen items. It ended there. Police did nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    Now, 2 years later, we’ve been broken into again. In spite of new double deadbolt locks, steel bars on windows, etc. They simply destroyed a heavy wooden door to gain access. As before, zero results from the police. Nothing.

    We’re throwing in the towel, the house is up for sale. We’ve replaced the destroyed door, the TV,the appliances, etc. Anguilla used to be a wonderful, friendly, safe island. We’ve been going there for 15 years. But it has changed. And we’ve had enough.

  8. says

    Kevin sorry to hear about that. It’s discouraging stuff. We have several Anguillian friends who’ve lost goats or been robbed. It’s always the same story as yours.

    When we started coming here in 2002 (we moved here a few years later and live year-round), Anguillians used to tell me to lock the doors when leaving our villa. They’d feel sheepish about it, adding that 10 years earlier (say the early 90s), no one ever locked their doors. So yes, it’s slowly-but-surely getting worse.

    To be balanced, it’s the same story on every island. Anguilla’s violent crime rate, especially on tourists, is still very low. It’s a safe place to vacation. And home invasions (i.e., robberies when villas are not empty) are very rare. But, as the “Take Anguilla Back” effort recognizes, there’s serious work to be done.

    We got very close to putting it into place. But, right at the moment where plan becomes action, all the key stakeholders just melted away.

    Unfortunately, we merely repeat the once-or-twice-a-year cycle of…

    1) an-attention-getting-crime
    2) public uproar
    3) lots of talk and “we have to do something about it THIS time”
    4) revert to silence until next time.

    It’s frustrating to watch. I’ve done my best, but there has to be real will by the powers in place.

    The residents of Anguilla deserve so much more – we’re a village. There’s no excuse for this.

    I don’t know what it’s going to take for talk to be replaced by action. Somehow, as long as tourists are safe, it seems to be OK to let it just drift along.

    Sorry to see you go. Best of luck to you.

    All the best,
    Ken

  9. Kevin Moore says

    Ken,

    I wish all we were missing was a goat or a few household items. The majority of thefts reported in the local newspaper are minor: a goat, a pack of cigarettes, loose change, etc. Ours were not so minor. And neither break in has ever been mentioned in the press.

    The first time, a window was destroyed, glass sliders severely damaged, the place was stripped of clothing, pots & pans, cutlery, mattresses, linens, towels, canned goods, laundry supplies, small appliances, radios, luggage, etc. The list goes on and on. Hardly a petty crime.

    We were not at home and therefore were ‘safe’. No physical harm. No guns or knives. No results from the police.

    The second break in was much like the first. Again we were not at home and therefore ‘safe’. Again zero from the police. Again I wonder why–again–no mention in the press. Bad for tourism?

    Anguilla was a wonderful place for a long time. Was. Now it has a serious problem. Very serious. And getting worse. Rapidly.

    So far, our losses are monetary. We’re leaving while we’re still ‘safe’.

    Good luck to you and yours Ken.
    Kevin

  10. SM says

    Dear Anguilla,

    I was going to live in Anguilla and invest. But now? NO way.

    After Dad’s comments and those of others, along with further research, sorry. In the UK we have many problems, but we live in a quiet area and we take care of it, while the police generally get the job done, solving crimes and patroling to prevent them.

    The Anguila police seem to need a kick up the _____. Why don’t they ask the British police for help?

    Only 13000 residents or so? You and the police must know who the bad ones are – they are traitors to you all. I can understand that there may be fear to “talk,” though. The police should be able to solve more on their own. But it seems that few crimes are solved if the criminal is not provided to the police on a silver platter by a local citizen (putting him or herself in possible danger). Real good police work does not DEPEND on “tips,” although they are nice to have.

    Your police should go on the offence. A small number of regular offenders should be watched, targeted and seriously taken out of action. If Anguilla police can’t do that, well – With over 150 years of British policing, probably the best in the world, your police should ask us for help and use our expertise. Anguilla is, after all, a British Overseas Territory and the Governor is responsible for providing adequate police protection.

    It seems, though, that the chief of police refuses to ask, saying that it is an Anguillian problem and can be solved by Anguillians. But the evidence is to the contrary. I have read stories here and elsewhere about bad guys who rob restaurant owners and who smash through villa security to get inside. What would they do if someone was in, tried to stop them? Meanwhile, many of these are not reported in the press, no serious investigations seem to happen and victims receive no follow-up by the police?

    There seems to be little effort to catch them. And when they do, the punishment seems to be minor. When that is the case, criminals will always take the easy way to live and be dishonest. And more will join them under conditions like that.

    Crime is everyone’s problem, but if your police and justice system don’t rapidly shape up and crack down, well pray and good luck.

    -SM

  11. Joseph says

    Crime is everywhere. Some places more then others. One has to live with it. People have to stick together and get proper legislations to combat crime at it source. Ignorance of basic personal safety is something that people have to account for themselves.

    No need to panic. Plan your trips accordingly. Do visit Anguilla. Small town America has more dangers then your wonderful Island.

    Peace be with you all. There are many more good decent people then bad ones.

  12. dc says

    The safest island is St Barts . Patrol boats patrol harbors at night and the French as passive do not tolerate crime as this island is where hte bling goes and will not tolerate it. I have driven noon to 3 am never encountered any crime anywhere here. I am coming to Anguilla later in 2015 and hope for the same. I do not feel safe on Jamaica out side of any resort, St Kitts is very dangerous as a huge drug cartel.

  13. Ryan says

    My wife and I were robbed and car jacked leaving Sandy Ground area Monday night around 11pm. This was our 3rd trip to Anguilla but our first in five years. Not the same Anguilla we knew. Highly doubtful we’ll come back

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