Honduras, Roatan: The Reality of Crime in the Islands
Published: 2012-07-09 15:20:31
Our thanks to Ken Carrothers, Dockmaster at Fantasy Island Marina, for his comments about crime and safety in Honduras in response to the recent attack on a cruising yacht in Port Royal, Eastern Roatan. See the report about this attack here.
There is no disputing that Honduras has problems with crime, much of it due to the extreme poverty, and also the proliferation of drug trade participants. Port Royal is an area that is sparsely populated, and isolated. There is no road access, and it is frequently used for drug smuggling operations because it is so difficult to patrol. During the cruising season, it is my opinion that the larger number of boats and cruisers tends to discourage crime against the boaters. Also, the cruise ship passengers do tend to help the local economy by spending money. In these slow times, the local people have no work, no source of income, and many are on the verge of starvation. When they see a Gringo pull in with a boat worth 100 times more than they will ever earn in a lifetime, they get tempted. It's not right, but when your kids are starving, it's not easy to have ethics and morals.
Another thing that plays into this situation is the poverty and corruption in government. The government often lacks the money to pay their police or customs officials for months at a time. Again, the officials have kids to feed, so they often accept a token payment rather than writing a traffic ticket, etc. Similarly, the government lacks resources like boats to patrol these more isolated areas.
There is more police and security presence in the western part of the island. The Ace Hardware store in French Harbour has an armed guard outside and another inside. The local grocery store is similarly protected. The businesses and resorts that depend on the tourism take steps to try and protect their customers.
The local police often depend on local merchants or other supporters for gas for their vehicles. They do not have boats for patrols, and the less populated areas do suffer as a result. In this case, the victims went to Coxen Hole to report the incident. This compounds the difficulties as Coxen Hole is in a different municipality from where the incident occurred, and some 30 miles from the scene of the crime. I can understand that the authorities there would be reluctant to investigate a crime that occurred in another municipality.
Many cruisers anchor in places like Calabash Bight, and other East-End anchorages without any problems. On the other hand, we have had vessels approached and boarded while surrounded by 20 other boats in the anchorage in French Cay Harbour. One vacant boat tied to the Marina wharf in front of my boat was boarded, and I did not see the culprit approaching. It is a fact that poverty, drug dependence, and many other factors contribute to crimes of this type.
I would not say that cruisers should avoid the eastern part of the Island of Roatan. I think that they are probably safer there than in an isolated anchorage on the mainland coast of Honduras, Nicaragua, or many other areas. I would say that cruisers in this area, like any other, need to be very vigilant. Being in isolated anchorages in Honduras or anywhere, brings the benefits of quiet, privacy, solitude, but also the dangers we have seen here.
Ken Carrothers, Dockmaster
Fantasy Island Marina
On FaceBook: Fantasy Island Marina