At a time when tourism fears have escalated in the Caribbean, the State Department has stopped publishing crime data involving Americans harmed in Jamaica — but it won’t say why.
For the first time in seven years, the State Department did not list how many Americans were sexually assaulted, robbed, murdered or kidnapped in Jamaica in its 2019 Crime and Safety Report. That information was previously published in reports that were cited in a 2018 Free Press investigation, which found that sexual assaults of U.S. tourists in Jamaica is an historic and unchecked problem,with an estimated one American raped a month.
That’s according to State Department data that was publicly available for seven straight years — until now.
The Detroit Free Press, which interviewed numerous U.S. victims who said they were sexually assaulted in Jamaica, including four Michigan tourists, asked the State Department multiple times why the 2019 report omits data involving American crime victims in Jamaica. The agency wouldn’t explain, beyond saying: “We do not have any other information to share at this time.”
But the State Department did warn in its 2019 report that “rape and sexual assault are serious problems throughout Jamaica, including at resorts and hotels. The use of date rape drugs is possible, even at private parties and resorts.”
The Jamaica 2019 Crime and Safety Report was released in the wake of a tourism scare involving the Dominican Republic, where 10 American tourist deaths have been reported since May. Several more U.S. tourists have reported becoming severely ill while on vacation there, including a Detroit man who landed in Harper Hospital’s ICU following his May vacation to the Dominican Republic.
Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are among nine Caribbean and Central American destinations that the U.S. State Department has issued Level 2 travel advisories for, citing violence and crime. Level 2 means “Exercise Increased Caution.” The other countries on the Level 2 travel advisory list are: the Bahamas, Belize, Colombia, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, Mexico and Guatemala.
There are four categories of travel advisories: “Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions”; “Level Two: Exercise Increased Caution”; “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” and “Level 4: Do Not Travel.”
Caribbean destinations currently deemed safe for travel with no travel advisory:
- Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados,
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica, Curaçao, French West Indies, Grenada
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Countries on the “Level 3, Reconsider Travel” list are:
- El Salvador
Countries on the “Level 4, Do Not Travel” list are:
While the FBI investigates the Dominican Republic deaths, tourism officials there are working feverishly to dispel concerns about travel safety. So are officials in Jamaica, where an island-wide security audit of resorts was ordered in the wake of the Free Press investigation, which detailed the rapes of two Detroit women who were attacked at gunpoint by a Jamaican resort employee last fall.
Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said in early July that the months-long security audit is complete and that his office is reviewing it. Findings have not yet been released.
“The issue of safety and security is very central to us. We will have further discussions with the (Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association) as it relates to the recommendations, and together we will craft the new architecture in Jamaica,” Bartlett said at a June tourism meeting.
The audit sought to uncover, among other things, non-compliance by resorts regarding safety incidents. It focused on building safety, personnel, security measures, communication devices and security incident history.
Meanwhile, State Department warnings about sexual violence against women tourists in Jamaica continue.
“If you are a victim of a sexual assault, contact the police and the U.S. Embassy in Kingston as soon as possible,” the State Department states in its 2019 report, reminding victims that Jamaican hotels and resorts “should assist you with these communications.”
That message highlighted a key finding in the Free Press investigation.
Numerous victims told the Free Press the resorts ignored or downplayed their fears, discouraged them from going to the police, and in some cases silenced them with free travel in exchange for them signing non-disclosure agreements.
The 2019 State Department report also highlighted this finding by the Free Press: tourists who are sexually assaulted in Jamaica feel justice is out of reach. As one mother told the Free Press three years after her daughter was allegedly raped in a laundry room by a resort lifeguard: “My daughter will never have justice.”
The rapes of two Detroit women at a Jamaican resort has highlighted a pervasive problem on the island getaway: sexual assaults are ignored.
Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press
Four and a half years after the alleged rapes of the girl and her friend, the case is finally going to trial in Jamaica in December. The victims will testify from a location in the U.S.
The State Department warns about such delays.
“Victims of sexual assault in Jamaica should not expect the same assistance routinely offered in the United States,” the State Department writes in its 2019 report. “Rape kits are not always available, and victims must often ask for medication to avoid STD transmission and reduce the chances of pregnancy. An offer of counseling is unlikely.”
Police resources are also limited, the government says.
“Law enforcement shortcomings exist in collection of evidence. Prosecution of rape cases moves very slowly,” the State Department states, adding: “Victims may need to return to Jamaica during the legal process.”
Contact Tresa Baldas: email@example.com.
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