News Clipping: Homicide in the Virgin Islands

January 5, 2012

News clippings

So this is not my usual, sunny news clipping, but after I read this article in the Virgin Islands Daily News I knew it needed to be shared. A high homicide rate is deadly for tourism, as the article points out, so there is a tendency to downplay the issue of violence in the context of tourism in the Virgin Islands. In fact, talking about the violence problem among visitors is considered by some to be downright unpatriotic.

But I think we must give our visitors more credit. Anyone who reads this article would realize that visitors were not the target in any of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ 48 homicides in 2011. (Though, for the record, we must make note of the tragic death in 2010 of a 15-year-old cruise ship visitor to St. Thomas, who was killed in crossfire at Coki Beach.) But anyone reading this article would also realize that the problem we have with guns, violence and delinquent youth will fester and eat away at us in myriad damaging ways unless something is done. While tourists can get on a plane and return home to a homicide rate of 4 per 100,000, those people who live and work in the islands are stuck with the nation’s highest rate of violent death.

Just how visitors are encouraged to care about the protection of our coral reefs, how about encouraging them to care about our young men and vulnerable communities too? No matter how many walls we build, crime and the pain it leaves in its wake will find its way around. Until we all admit that a serious violence problem exists in the Virgin Islands we can’t really start to solve it.  We must be outraged into action, and outrage requires us to yell at the top of our lungs and not care who hears us.

This article speaks to the homicide rate in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and while absolute figures in the BVI are lower, a similar brand of seemingly meaningless violent crime is a serious and growing problem here too. And if you listen to the Caribbean news like I do, you would hear similar tales of rising violence and the authorities’ inability to contend up and down the island chain. There is a dire need for all Caribbean nations to compare notes and put heads together and share strategies that work in our unique communities.

There is a certain tone in this article that makes me cock my head. The writer compares the U.S. Virgin Islands’ homicide rate with the U.S. mainland and concludes that “it is more aptly comparable with South and Central American nations or its Caribbean counterparts than anywhere in the United States.” I know that we all labor under the disillusion that the power of the United States is all-knowing and all-powerful but should it really come as a surprise that the Virgin Island are more like St. Kitts or Jamaica than they are, say, Nebraska?

Finally, I must say a word of thanks to the Virgin Islands Daily News for writing this article in the first place. It turns out that serious professional journalism is one thing which the USVI has adopted from the United States, and I am thankful for it.


About Susanna

Susanna is a Tennessee native transplanted to the BVI, and the author of Moon Handbooks Virgin Islands.

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2 Comments on “News Clipping: Homicide in the Virgin Islands”

  1. Bradley S Preiss Says:

    OMG your so wrong.. You have obviously never been there…. I lived and LEFT St. Croix (one of the US Virgin Islands…… I had to tell you because I am sure you have no idea where it was I was speaking of).

    You are DEFENDING that article?? That article tries to let a UNITED STATES TERRITORY off the hook because of where they are?!! Are you serious? Thats like saying “it’s ok to murder people in Brownsville, TX because , well hey look how close they are to another country…seriously??? St. Croix is so dangerous I am unable to explain…sunset in St. Croix means “go home and lock your door”. You are giving our and the USVI government a pass??? I say NO, it is out of control down there and you should do your job…research EXPOSE the problem….not repeat a rediculous article that says it’s “kind of” ok for a US territorly to surpase the entire world in per capita murder rates!!! C’mon….seriously!!!! Hel[ those people!!! PLEASE contact me I have Senator Ronnie Russel’s cell phone and home phone – maybe you can call him and get a quote…make some noise….this is HUGE news and no one even cares…Ronnie Russel is the President of the Senate down there and a great guy who needs help….he needs help to help St. Croix. 42 Murders per 100,000 is NOT ok in the United States.


    • Susanna Says:

      Hi Bradley. I lost a close family member to gun violence on St. Thomas and I agree that even one murder is too much. I was trying to write about the conflict between being a tourist-based economy that depends on its reputation for peace and tranquility, and being a small island contending with an epidemic of gun violence. There are no easy answers but as a community we have to try to find them nonetheless. Thanks for the comment.


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