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.