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Cruise Crime and Doris Matsui

Written by: Paul Motter

Its almost like announcing the new television season, “Cruise Crime Drama returns to the small screen for 2009!” Except you have to watch C-Span, and its exactly the same plot as last year’s episodes, with the same actors, and it is far less engaging than any other political topic this year.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who represents the landlocked fifth Congressional district, including Sacramento, California, is reviving the congressional hearings on cruise ship safety that were conducted and dismissed without resolution just last year – back before the economic collapse.

Why is she bringing this subject up again? Is it because there has been a dramatic rise in cruise ship crime since the hearings were held last year? No. Is it because three congressional hearings on exactly the same topics with exactly the same witnesses reciting exactly the same testimony is still not enough? No.

Is it because our nation is so economically stable this year vs. last year that our lawmakers have plenty of time to devote to fine tuning every safety factor of world society – even those that happen far away from Ms Matsui’s own district, actually in international waters? No.

Is it because Sacramento itself has become such a bastion of human kindness that Ms. Matsui deserves to serve as the world ambassador for freedom from societal crime? No.

Just yesterday, Thursday March 12, the office of the Representative issued a press release saying she is reintroducing the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act that was proposed in 2008 but is now called the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009. In the press release Ms. Matsui makes the following claims:

“We have now held two House hearings and one Senate hearing on crimes aboard cruise ships, and this legislation will ensure that those who have bravely stepped forward to tell their story will not have done so in vain. For far too long, American families have unknowingly been at risk when they have embarked on what should have been relaxing sea voyages.”

Question – what is the basis for the statement “American families have unknowingly been at risk when they have embarked on what should have been relaxing sea voyages”? Is it because cruise sites like CruiseMates have failed to run articles on how to be safe on cruise ships – despite the fact cruises are statistically proven to be the safest vacations possible? No. Is it because we need more nameless web sites to sensationalize “crimes” at sea with innuendo, unsubstantiated comments and bad statistic accounting procedures? No.

Some 36 million cruises have been taken in just the last three years by Americans alone. A number almost equal to the population of the state of California. Yet Ms Matsui cites the same case from Feb. 2006 used in all of the previous hearings as the reason for bringing these hearings back yet again. This was the 2006 alledged rape of one of her consituents. To be precise, this will be the fourth time this case has been cited as the main reason for holding Congressional hearings on cruise ship crime. Why this 2006 case? It is said to be representational of an ongoing cover-up of a horrific crime problem on cruise ships.

Question: If there is an ongoing problem with crime on cruise ships, with some 36 million more cruises under our belts, in this age of open editorializing on the Internet, of forums and bloggers, if there is such a huge problem with crime on cruise ships why aren’t we hearing about tens of thousands of new cases? I see 200+ articles listed in Google about this week’s arrest. There is NO problem with reporting these cases.

The incident was fully reported to the FBI – exactly as the proposed legislation mandates. They secured the area, confined the perpetrator to a room with a security guard posted and waited for the FBI to investigate and ultimately arrest the man. What is the complaint here, that the crime happened at all? Crime is sad, but don’t neglect the big picture.

In fact, Matsui did make this statement, “Going on a cruise ship is not like being at home in your city,” Matsui said. “Any person who goes on a cruise ship should feel as safe as they can be. We want to ensure that it really is safe.”

Well, let’s look at Matsui’s own home town of Sacramento. In the three years 2006-2008 in her town of only about 455,000 residents there were 558 arrests for forcible rape. I’m not very good at math, but it seems that the rate of rape is magnitudes higher per person in Sacramento than it is on cruise ships.

In Sacramento alone in 2006 she could have picked from any one of 196 rapes, from 2007 any one of 194 rapes, in 2008 any one of 168 rapes, in a town of only 455,000 residents.

Considering the statistical averages of about 190 rapes per year in Sacramento vs. a cruise fleet that carries 12,000,000 each year shouldn’t there be tens of thousands of new cruise crime cases to consider? This is 2009, after all. Where are the new cases? Where is the coverup?

This one “cruise crime” case from 2006 must be so much more compelling than all of the 558 prosecuted rape cases reported in Sacramento alone, right? Well, in fact the FBI investigated the case and concluded there was insufficient evidence to go forward with an arrest, let alone a prosecution. The cruise line admitted honest mistakes were made in following up the incident, but since the previous three Congressional hearings on this same topic they have also gone beyond taking strides to fix those problems, they have leapt over buildings. That is precisely why the number of new cases for Matsui to bring to light in new hearings is so small.

Ms Matsui said in her statement yesterday, “With news coverage of a recent rape by a crewmember on a Princess Cruise almost exactly three years after Laurie’s (2006), it is clear that legislation is necessary.”

“News… of a recent rape… three years after her case… clear that legislation is necesary.”

Yes, there was an arrest of a crewmember earlier this week. The arrest occured because the cruise ship reported the crime to the FBI immediately after it was reported to them. The crime scene was secured, an examination was given to the victim and the perpetrator was interrogated and arrested. Exactly the process these hearings have all recommended the cruise lines use.

For the record, nothing in this proposed legislation would have changed any of the circumstances of this week’s case. It happened in a dining room where the victim had agreed to meet the perpetrator and had been drinking wine with him after dinner. It sounds like a classic case a date rape and a man not honoring the “no means no” rule.

This recent news of a case where an arrest has already been made, almost 3 years to the date after the single case that brought this “cruise crime” scourge to Matsui’s attention, makes it “clear that legislation is mandated.” Yet she knows that about 36 million cruises have been taken in the time span between cases.

Matsui would say it is this very lack of reporting, arrest and conviction on cruise ship crime that makes it such a pressing societal problem. Is that right? Well, it seems to me that in this case the process worked just fine, and I repeat – we are a cruise-oriented web site. If there are even a fraction of the number of allegations most cruise crime alarmists claim there, don’t you think we would be hearing about them here?

Perhaps Matsui might also say that her main concern is what happens afterwards, such as getting the victims proper counseling and securing the crime scene. Well, nothing wrong with that, but what about these verified Sacramento rapes that possibly could have been prevented?

We are talking about a vastly higher number of victims, especially statistically, who could benefit from counseling both before and after the fact. In fact, the number of cruises taken in the last three years is roughly equal to the population of the entire state of California. During that time about 30,000 forcible rape arrests were made statewide, 9213 in the same year (2006) as the one case Matsui cites as mandating cruise crime Congressional hearings in 2009.

Wouldn’t the Congresswoman’s time have been far better served had she focused on the much larger problem of rape in her own state these last three years?

Yes.

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Comments

Comment from Todd De Haven
Time March 13, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Did you also notice Paul, where they again want to extend the height of the rails to 54 inches?

Also Senator Kerry is again a co sponsor.

I still want to know why the rails on cruise balconies should be raised when the rails on millions of dwelling units in condos, apartments, hotels, motels, etc. do not?

I am not going to get myself worked up over this for after all, these are the type of people we elect to public office. We therefore deserve everything we get.

Comment from L. Schwigen
Time March 20, 2009 at 10:23 am

I will answer your last question first: No.

Representative Matsui is a member of the United States House of Representatives. Addressing crime in her home district and her own state is, under our federal system of government, first and foremost the responsibility of local and state elected officials and law enforcement.

But to address your larger point, are you suggesting that, because crime exists everywhere, the United States government has no role to play in reducing crime that occurs on cruise ships on the high seas, or in ensuring that the victims of crimes on the high seas don’t have access to needed resources. Because if that is your point, it’s pretty lame.

I’m sure that Representative Matsui would agree with you that legislators and law enforcement everywhere should do a better job of dealing with preventing crime and helping crime victims. But there is currently no legislation or regulation that mandates that cruise vessels provide basic services when a crime is reported. Voluntary compliance is not enough, and the proposed legislation is a good start.

Comment from Todd De Haven
Time April 27, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Sorry but I just noticed the reply below mine.

Everyone to their own opinion, but I have to say, the reasoning provided by L. Swiegen absolutely has to be motivated either about a single experience (even if not experienced by the respondent wherein the judicial outcome did not satisfy the respondent OR as is far more likely, it’s a purely political response.

The reason for this is it’s about as preposterous to hold such hearings based on the statistics, as it is to demand that a police officer be permanently placed at an intersection near someone’s home because a traffic fatality occurred at that intersection once in the past fifteen years.

To borrow a grossly overused expression, Duhhhhhhhhh……………………

As for Representative Matusi, I’m sure there are far more pressing problems to her overall constituency requiring her attention than this obvious (and in review of the previous “Hearings”) embarrassingly hilarious attempt at grandstanding.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time May 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm

“But there is currently no legislation or regulation that mandates that cruise vessels provide basic services when a crime is reported.”

That is not true. There are laws which say an US citizen who is a victim of a crime anywhere in the world on the open seas, cruise ship or dinghy, can and should report it to the FBI. The venue for redress is Federal Admiralty court for which there are offices in every major US port city.

Her consituent, Laurie Dishman is already suing the cruise line in this case in this court of law. Why do we need congressional hearings?

The point is this is but one case in three years and the alledged victim is getting her day in court after an investigation of her crime was conducted by the police agency (FBI) of legal jurisdiction.

Please get your facts straight before you spread misinformation around the Internet.

For example, I was hit at freeway (65 mph) speeds by an illegal alien with no car insurance in California and it is costing my insurance providers (car and health) close to $100,000.

What happens to me happens all the time and is far more costly to taxpayers than “crime on cruise ships.” These bills will only cost the cruise lines and hence their customers, and taxpayers, more money. It just isn’t worth it for a system that isn’t broken.

Comment from Bill Carlisle
Time July 2, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Has anyone investigated possible involvement of the land-based vacation industry in this “movement”? Not only could they level the playing field a bit by imposing cost and regulation on their competition, but it might distract some McLawyers from their own issues. Don’t get of the ship in Aruba unless you’re Dutch.

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