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Bahamas steps up security measures after US warns on crime spike (updated)

Nassau Cruise Port on Dec. 27, a very busy day. Director Mike Maura Jr. told Nassau's The Tribune that tourists aren't likely to be impacted by the crime uptick
The Bahamas government assured it is focused on keeping the destination safe after the US Department of State advised travelers to exercise increased caution due to crime.

The Level 2 warning on a four-level scale is unchanged from the past. It said most crime occurs on New Providence (Nassau) and Grand Bahama (Freeport) islands

It advised: 'In Nassau, practice increased vigilance in the “Over the Hill” area (south of Shirley Street) where gang-on-gang violence has resulted in a high homicide rate primarily affecting the local population. Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas.'

Prime minister's assurance

Update: In a statement issued Tuesday, the prime minister's office said the government is 'alert, attentive and proactive to ensure that The Bahamas remains a safe and welcoming destination.'

The statement noted a record more than 9m people visited the islands in 2023. 

'The rating of The Bahamas has not changed; we remain a Level 2 alongside most tourism destinations. The incidents described in the January 2024 US Embassy crime alert do not reflect general safety in The Bahamas, a country of 16 tourism destinations, and many more islands,' the statement continued.

'Robust crime reduction and prevention strategy'

'The government of The Bahamas is implementing a robust and innovative crime reduction and prevention strategy. This comprehensive approach is informed by the latest research and successful international models, focusing on five key pillars: prevention, detection, prosecution, punishment and rehabilitation,' the prime minister's office said.

'Our law enforcement agencies are taking rigorous steps to maintain our well-earned reputation, including an enhanced police presence and additional police resources (including facial recognition CCTV surveillance technology) and training. We have a zero-tolerance policy for firearm possession and a dedicated magistrate to handle firearm offences.'

The statement concluded: 'The safety and security of everyone is of paramount importance to us and we are confident that The Bahamas will remain safe and welcoming for millions of visitors to continue to enjoy the magic and beauty of our beautiful islands.'

'Highly, highly unlikely' to impact cruisers

Speaking to The Tribune, Mike Maura Jr., CEO of Nassau Cruise Port, called it 'highly, highly unlikely' that cruise passengers or any tourists will be impacted by the crime spike.

'If any type of event takes place that included cruise passengers, it usually happens some place outside the normal areas visited by tourists,' he said, and occurs when visitors 'wander into an area they shouldn't be in or are looking for something that's not necessarily legal.'

Royal Caribbean 'closely monitoring the situation'

'The safety of our guests and crew is our top priority. Our global security teams are closely monitoring the situation in the area,' Royal Caribbean said in a statement. 'At all times, we remind guests to remain aware of their surroundings while ashore and follow all State Department guidelines. Should any changes be required, guests will be notified directly.'

Carnival Cruise Line, which frequents Nassau and Freeport and is building its first private destination, Celebration Key, on Grand Bahama Island, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.