The new Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act mandates that cruise lines report crime
allegations to the Coast Guard
Cruise Crime Reports Come In
The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel contacted us yesterday to say they have published the first batch of cruise crime reports from the cruise lines as mandated by the new Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. This new law, signed by President Obama just last week, mandates the cruise lines to compile a comprehensive list of all allegations of serious crimes reported onboard their cruise ships and even in port.
The crimes the cruise lines must report include sexual assaults, physical assaults and thefts over $1,000. They must make this list available to the FBI and the Coast Guard.
The Sun Sentinel has done an excellent job of categorizing these incidents, all reported between December 2007 and October 2008. There are 12 cruise lines reporting 12 different categories of "incidents" including death, assaults, man overboard, stalking, sexual assault, theft, child pornography, drugs, robbery and sexual contact.
But the average cruiser needs to understand that these lists are merely the re-reporting of allegations made to cruise ship safety officers onboard. These are not lists of proven crimes, they are reports of incidents that may or may not indicate a crime has taken place; essentially the same information one would get listening to a police scanner.
The database categories include the ship's name, its location at the time of the incident and whether it was in port or at sea. For example, the very first incident listed in the database compiled by the Sun Sentinel is under the category "death."
The next category is "victim." Now, we aren't sure we agree with this term since it implies a crime occurred in every event. In fact, the category only signifies whether the person involved was a guest or a crewmember.
In this first incident it was a guest. The next category is "did the report mention alcohol" which only requires a yes or no response. In this case the indication is "yes."
Next is the "description of the incident." In this first incident it says, "A 77-year-old guest was reported missing from the ship, with his luggage and an open bottle of vodka on the balcony. A suicide note was later found."
The final category is "outcome of the investigation," which reads "Investigators learned that the man was in extremely poor health and had left a suicide note for his ex-wife."
End of story - for this incident anyway, and for this man who decided to end his life the way we have been reporting for many years is more common than you may think - suicide by cruise ship. It isn't a subject we talk about commonly, but it is a reality of life, and death, at sea. People sometimes choose to end their own lives by jumping from a cruise ship, which as we have said, is more of a "final solution" than many people probably expect. The chances of being rescued after jumping from a ship are very small. There are eight listed incidents of death in these reports, plus two incidents of man overboard. There are no reports of "murder" or of people being "thrown overboard" in the months covered in this report. We since have heard about one case of domestic murder on a cruise ship which resulted in an immediate arrest by almost a dozen FBI agents arriving by Coast Guard cutter before the ship was even within U.S. jurisdiction.
There is only one robbery listed, which occurred in port in the Solomon Islands.
The one incident of "child pornography" is actually an allegation made by one female guest that another male guest was showing inappropriate pictures to children. But the interesting part is the location; in port in Key West, in front of "trolly bar." Why weren't local officials notified and arrests made? Most likely because the report was not made until everybody was back on the ship. Why?
There are 90 reports of sexual contact, but 43 reports of sexual assault as a separate category. Interesting differentiation. One would assume the difference is that the sexual contacts were not found to be crimes, but that is not true. In fact, the outcome of many of the listed "sexual assaults" is that no charges were brought, either because the victim chose not to press charges or the accused said the incident was consensual. Either way, no follow-up investigation ensued; and that decision is always made by the FBI.
In case you didn't know, the cruise lines all signed a mutual agreement to report all incidents of crime on cruise ships to the FBI back in 1999, according to CLIA. In fact, it is common knowledge that the FBI believes the cruise lines over-report crimes, and they do not take any action in the majority of reports they receive. But the cruise lines report them all - and have been doing so for over a decade now.
In the end - it is the very vagueness of this "mandated reporting of crimes on ships" that bothers us. There is next to nothing new about cruise ship crime you can glean from these reports. There are always two sides to every story. CruiseMates has been telling you for years that these reports would be damning to those who want to read them that way, and exculpatory to those of us who still believe cruising is the safest vacation possible.
I am sure a lot of people will be reading these reports in the near future. And if you feel any different about cruising when you are done please tell us why here:
First Cruise Crime Reports Released.
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