Caribbean, Trinidad - Escalating Crime Situation
On Monday July 24 a group of over 100 cruisers met at the Bight restaurant in Trinidad to consider their options to fight a crime spree in Chaguaramas that has escalated from dinghy theft to breaking and entering boats and finally armed robbery. Although comprehensive numbers do not seem available, an inspection of YSATT (Yachting Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago) records shows that in the last half of May, 5 dinghies were stolen from boats and marinas and one attempted robbery was foiled. So far in July, 5 dinghies or engines and 2 generators were stolen from boats at anchor and in marinas, even though the dinghies were cabled and/or lifted out of the water. Two boats have been broken into, robbed and vandalized. Two weeks ago, one cruiser was robbed at gunpoint about 5PM as he walked along the Western Main Road that connects the marinas in Chaguaramas. Last week 4 cruisers were robbed at gunpoint at 10AM when 2 men entered a maxi taxi near Tropical Marine. Their principal target seems to have been one cruiser who had left a nearby ATM with an obvious pocket of cash. None of the Trinis on the maxi were robbed.
At the meeting, organized by Andy Pell on Tixi Lixi, one person with a security industry background reported that the best deterrent to these crimes was to catch some of the responsible parties. He recommended that cruisers take responsibility for their belongings and keep everything under lock and key. There were suggestions from the participants for a shared all night dinghy patrol, a weeklong boycott of the local marine businesses who seem to be doing little to protect their customers, and letters to various organizations outlining cruisers’ concerns. Particularly notable were the revelations of Bernard Bouygues, General Manager of Caribbean Yacht Works, who appeared to be the only local marine business represented. He told of having his boat broken into and one of his own dinghies stolen and of the total lack of assistance he received from both the local Coast Guard and police. He offered one of his dinghies to the group to use for a patrol. His experience with the authorities was echoed by one participant who had had his dinghy stolen and reported the police were more interested in his age and weight than the details of his dinghy. The meeting ended with a small group volunteering to pull the suggestions into a plan and come up with additional recommendations. Before the day was over a night time boat watch had been organized and implemented in the anchorage at Charguaramas.
Any one venturing into Trinidad waters should hoist and chain their dinghies and take appropriate cautions against being boarded and robbed and robbery while traveling on land.
Carter Crawford, s/v Liberty
After a whole spate of thefts, burglaries and armed robberies in Chaguaramas, yachties convened a security meeting this morning at 10:00 o'clock in "The Bight" at Peake Yacht Services. Andy of TIXI LIXI organized and chaired the meeting and about 100 yachties and cruisers showed up (at a similar meeting in March about 10 people came). Especially invited were the Yacht Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago (YSATT), the police in Carenage, and a representative from the ministry of tourism. Unfortunately I did not see any of the representatives and the local paper covering the boating scene understandably didn't want to print things that might keep people away from the place.
Quite a few of the people present had lost dinghies, outboards, generators or other things from their boats and not a few of them were victims of armed robberies where the attackers held guns to their heads. One French sailor had his boat broken into at the reputable marina Crews Inn. The boat got completely ransacked and the thieves had taken absolutely everything of any value. Even the diesel generator and the engine were gone.
One person stopped his car at a red light, when a robber smashed the window and held a gun to his head. Another was robbed in his house and received multiple serious stabs in the front and the back. One woman about 70 years of age was robbed three times while taking a maxi-taxi (minibus) from Chaguaramas to Port of Spain. She now has obtained a permit to carry a gun. These were all local people, not visitors, tourists, yachties or cruisers. This is not only a yachtie problem - but yachties are prime targets for thieves and robbers.
Naturally some of these people were extremely upset, with tempers rising and flaring. Some cruisers called for the formation of an armed militia, which suggestion didn't receive much enthusiasm. Other people were quick to demand all kinds of things from the local business community and the local government. Finally, most yachties present signed a petition to send off to the authorities, while a subgroup discussed forming a dinghy-watch run by yachties in a revolving manner on a voluntary basis. One circumnavigator, whose wife was on the most recently robbed maxi-taxi (minibus) suggested a concerted boycott of all the local businesses to draw their attention to the security problem. He received a round of solid applause.
Amongst the other numerous suggestions was the idea to suggest a harbor watch to the local marinas and YSATT, as they already have most of the necessary infrastructure in place. And pretty much everybody agreed that the SSCA, Trans-Ocean and similar organizations and publications should be made aware of the atrocious and worsening security situation here in Chaguaramas and Trinidad.
As it stands right now, there are quite a few boats leaving for Venezuela and elsewhere, many of them never to return. They will do their best to spread the word amongst their friends, acquaintances and fellow cruisers.
Aurora Ulani, Liping & Holger Jacobsen
S/V DHARMA BUM III
August 17, 2006: Armed boarding and robbery of S/V VESLA from Norway in Chaguaramas Bay between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m. A dinghy with several Trinidadians boarded the boat, armed with a gun and machetes, the boarders ransacked the boat, threatened the crew, before making off with most of their valuables.