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by Shawn Cumberbatch

cashforgoldBarbados’ big jewellery theft problem, which has seen thieves make off with almost $1 million of the gold variety in the first two months of this year alone and prompted warnings from police, has some past and potential tourists to the island nervous.

Foreign nationals from the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere have been taking to popular American travel Website TripAdvisor in recent days to voice fears, following reports that the cash for gold trade might be fueling crime.

But a number of longstanding visitors to Barbados have also been defending this destination, arguing that in most cases it was safer than even their home countries. Barbados TODAY was directed to TripAdvisor by a local hotelier, who did not want to be identified, but feared this type of negative publicity could harm an already challenged tourism industry.

The debate online by foreign nationals was apparently prompted by a post from an unnamed individual from Luton in England last week, who said he was traveling to Barbados next month with his fianc√ for the first time and was “looking forward to it”, but wanted to know if he should wear his “gold Rolex”.

“I was wondering about the crime rates there, as I’m contemplating whether to wear my gold Rolex out at night. How safe would you say it is there? Quite an abstract question I know but for example having been a seasoned traveller particularly to more dangerous islands … I can say for sure I wouldn’t wear it there as it wouldn’t be worth the risk,” the individual stated.

“Obviosuly Barbados isn’t in the same league as JA but I don’t want to be walking around on guard especially when with the Mrs, just want to enjoy it and back a few rum cocktails!” Among the responses was one from someone using the moniker CaptainSpiky, who advised: “If you value your safety — don’t go to Barbados!” and urged that the island be boycotted.

“Have you not read all the press recently about attacks on British tourists? A couple robbed and attacked by knife on their first night there, another couple robbed in broad daylight, two ladies raped in the middle of the day on a public beach and so on,” the individual stated.

“And what do the police do? Nothing! Despite a huge effort on the part of the two rape victims to highlight police incompetence and indifference and to seek justice, nothing changes. They were and are treated with contempt by the Barbadian authorities.

“The only way to make these authorities do something is to boycott the island so that they have to act in order to save their tourism trade.”

Another visitor said: “Wow they really need to get a grip on this or tourism will be down the pan. Who wants to go on holiday and be looking over your shoulder for someone to mug you! That is a lot of incidences of tourist theft from the person on the South Coast I have read about on here in the last few weeks.

“If people had to prove they were the owners to sell jewellery for cash and it was regulated as they have been talking about then surely it would put an end to this kind of thing. I feel sorry for the hoteliers too as they are not stupid, they know that their livelihoods are at stake.”

But among the travelers defending Barbados was one of the island’s longstanding visitors, who said they were vacationing here for almost 30 years.

“Yes, of course crime has always existed as anywhere else — but I can’t say I feel threatened — certainly not to the extent I should start going to other islands. Unfortunately in these bad economic times, crime is bound to grow everywhere, and Barbados will be no exception,” they said.

“One must simply be sensible — I will not be taking any expensive jewellery with me this trip. It is not necessary and I don’t want to feel I have to look over my shoulder all the time. That way, I know I can enjoy myself and relax. I am pleased to see from the newspaper that the police are at last responding to these crimes and hope that they get to grip with the situation soon.”

A Canadian visitor, who up to last Monday was on the island, said “most people who go to Barbados have a great time”, and believed “all the authorities have to do is publish information about safety, give some tips about crime prevention, ask the assistance of the public if they see anything to advise them”.

“So come to Barbados, enjoy everything it has to offer and just be street smart and use common sense. That goes for wherever you travel to in the world,” the visitor advised. Another traveller from Aberdeen, Scotland said Barbados was no more dangerous than their own country.

“I live in a city in Scotland with a population similar to Barbados. I have just read the local evening newspaper. Reported are two break-ins, an attempted shop robbery, two assaults, 10 cars stolen/vandalised a sexual assault and umpteen car accidents.

These are the ones reported and/or police action taken,” they noted.

“Am I worried living in this city? No. Are there areas I would avoid at night? Yes. Am I worried about visiting Barbados? Absolutely not. Are there areas I would avoid in Barbados at night? Yes.

“In my opinion Barbados is far safer than most if not all the islands in the Caribbean. The people are very friendly and kind and the vast majority are totally honest. As long as you take the same precautions you do at home; don’t flaunt wealth, keep your windows closed at night etc you will have a wonderful and very safe holiday,” the traveller stated.

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