BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – TOURISTS aboard a coaster tour bus were this morning (Nov. 14) robbed of an undisclosed sum of money, jewellery, cellular phones and other personal items while on their way to visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park.
Information reaching SKNVibes states that a tour bus was travelling along the access road to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park in the vicinity of Lime Kiln with 17 tourists (including a baby) when the incident occurred.
“While the bus was driving up the road to Brimstone Hill, the driver saw a large branch from a tree was in his path; so he stopped the bus and disembarked to remove it. But in the process of removing the branch, two masked gunmen emerged from the bushes and said to the driver, ‘This is a #@+# robbery.’ Two other men were also in the bushes. However, the driver then ran towards a nearby gas station on the Island Main Road, from where he got assistance to call the police.
“Officers from the Sandy Point Police Station responded to the call and the driver returned to the scene. However, the gunmen had already robbed the tourists of their valuables and cash and made their escape in thick bushes in the area,” said a taxi operator on the condition of anonymity.
He also said that the robbers were clad in blue clothing with black hoods over their heads and faces.
When the owner of the bus was contacted, he confirmed that there was a robbery but noted he would not comment because he was assisting the police with their investigations into the incident.
According to a release sent this afternoon from the Police Public Relations Office, police received a report of the robbery at approximately 11:15 this morning and investigations revealed that the tourists were robbed but none of them were physically harmed.
“On Sunday 14th November 2010 at approximately 11:15 a.m. police received a report of a robbery in the Sandy Point area. As a result police officers from the Sandy Point Police Station, the District B Crime Response Unit (CRU) and other officers from the Anti-Gang Unit and the Special Services Unit responded immediately and their investigations revealed that a local tour bus of cruise passengers had been robbed at gunpoint.
“According to the investigators, seventeen (17) passengers including an infant were aboard the bus and are all physically unharmed and are safely back on their ship. Police Officers recorded a number of detailed statements and the scene was processed by officers from the Crime Scene Department. There are no suspects in police custody in relation to this matter, however, investigations are ongoing. More information will be made available as more facts are known.”
The release also stated that the tour bus robbery was an unprecedented incident in St. Kitts, where visitor safety is of highest priority.
“Last year, over five hundred thousand cruise passengers safely disembarked in St. Kitts to enjoy the many attractions of our island. We deeply regret any type of incident that might tarnish our visitors’ experience. As law enforcement authorities, we are committed to root out and expose the persons responsible,” it added.
Meanwhile, on a visit to Port Zante, SKNVibes learnt that the passengers were distraught and had decided to discontinue the tour and return to the Celebrity Mercury; the cruise ship in which they journeyed to St. Kitts.
Speaking with a popular taxi operator on his view of the incident, he told this media house that security needs to be boosted during the tourist season not only in and around Basseterre, but also in those isolated areas around the island.
“I think that there is need for more police presence around the island during the tourist season, especially when more than one cruise ship is docked at Port Zante. I know that we have a relatively small police force but in times like these, the authorities can use members of the Defence Force to assist in security.
“I would like to suggest that the Defence Force deploy some of its members in those isolated areas, such as the thoroughfare leading to Brimstone Hill and the South East Peninsula, whenever tourists arrive here in large numbers. They can do so under the guise of training exercises as a deterrent to intended robberies. Should this be done, those criminal-minded individuals would be scared by the soldiers’ presence and not only taxi operators will feel a sense of security, but also the tourists upon whose money we depend to maintain our families.”
Another taxi operator said similar robberies have occurred in the past and the Tourism authority needs to put safety measures in place.
“This is not something new. A few years ago there was a robbery in the Rain Forest area, and I think that the Tourism authority, being aware of this, needs to put measures in place to make sure we don’t have the same experience as in other territories.”
Asked what is feasible, the taxi operator said, “We can’t put dollar value on the security that we have to have on tourism. The police presence must be known. If it is known that there is police presence, if there is visibility…then this would act as a deterrent to crime. Take for example, if along the road to Brimstone Hill Fortress one armed, undercover officer is positioned with a radio at the entrance, one more midway and another at the top, this would most certainly be protection to all who intend to visit the site.”