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-   -   St. Thomas is dangerous (https://www.fodors.com/community/caribbean-islands/st-thomas-is-dangerous-962511/)

chris1 Jan 12th, 2013 01:03 PM

St. Thomas is dangerous
 
My husband was held up at gunpoint by a couple young kids near Coki Beach, actually on Point Pleasant. In broad day light. Hotel security responded in about 15 min, the police took about 25 min. Neither took the incident seriously. The cop spoke only to the security officer and completely ignored my husband. They seemed to be irritated that we were wasting their time. {OK, so they pulled a gun on you, you're OK, I'm sure they weren't going to shoot you. Go on your way. This is the way it is around here.) They refused to provide copies of their "reports" . Coki Beach is crawling with strung out locals. St. Thomas (at least the East End) is completely run down. It is not a safe place. And the government is doing nothing to change it. I feel sorry for the people who own property here, this place is a war zone. Half the buildings are not even occupied. Entire hotels/complexes are boarded up. If you come here, travel in groups and watch your back. However, I wouldn't bother.

floatpilot Jan 14th, 2013 08:13 AM

St. Thomas has always made me a bit nervous and most of my experience there was ten years ago.

The BVI is completely the opposite. Tortola is getting a bit busy, but Virgin Gorda is still the kind of place where you don't lock your house and you leave the keys in your car.

Its a bit more difficult to get to VG but its definitely worth the effort.

Bassguy66 Jan 14th, 2013 11:08 AM

I'm very sorry to hear of your experience, but this happens every day in most US cities.....should we stay away from them as well?

Sunfish2017 Jan 14th, 2013 11:32 AM

It's never happened to me in a North American city ...

Thanks Chris1. I was thinking of a couple of days there ... guess i'll keep those extra days on JVD instead.

Jimmie Jan 14th, 2013 12:20 PM

I don't really agree with the characterization of east end St. Thomas as a run down war zone -- but I do agree that there are much better places to visit on the island than the Coki Beach area. I'm very sorry to hear about your scary experience there.

KVR Jan 14th, 2013 06:24 PM

St. Thomas has been a questionable destination for years. We finally went in 2005 and had a nice time. Too bad about Coki Beach as we found some of the best snorkling there. We saw several locals sitting along the fence line smoking weed, but they weren't bothering anyone.

The cruise ships haven't found it too bad to stop bringing passengers there. I've been searching cruises for this year and almost every route includes it. I can say it was not our favorite Island and we have no desire to go back, but we might have no choice due to the cruises we are looking at.

diann24 Jan 14th, 2013 07:13 PM

A few years ago a Carnival cruise passenger was caught in crossfire on or around the Coki Beach area. She was killed. Ships did stop there for awhile, not sure how long, but obvioulsy it was not enough to stop the ships from going there. I know we have been on many cruises and all stop in St. Thomas. I really like it there myself, it is a shame. I have not found the people there to be as friendly or warm as other islands.

Odin Jan 15th, 2013 01:11 AM

There is crime all over the Caribbean but some of it never makes headlines in the US because it happens to non US citizens.

doug_stallings Jan 15th, 2013 08:42 AM

I'll only add a couple of things here. I've just had an email exchange with our writer who lives in St. Thomas. She made a couple of useful observations that I'd like to share.

First, the police in St. Thomas won't give out their reports. You have to go to the police station and pay a fee to get a copy (and you will need a copy to file with your insurance). I didn't know that, so that's useful information for anyone to have.

Second, she made the following comments about Coki Beach in particular: "Coki Beach has lots of local families there. We were there two months ago for Reef Jam, and it's laid back. I did not smell pot in the air as I did several years ago. I wouldn’t call all young west Indians hanging out ‘strung out’."

Third, regarding the East End, she writes: "The East End isn’t run down. In fact, the Red Hook area is thriving with many shops and restaurants. I just recommended staying there last night to a friend .... In fact, many people go restaurant/bar hopping on foot in Red Hook at night and it’s safe. I haven’t heard of a problem of crime."

And finally, regarding boarded up properties: "I can’t think of entire hotel/complexes that are boarded up. Not one. There are houses that haven’t been rebuilt after hurricanes and you’ll see these here and there as you drive around, but they are not the majority."

I know there are crime issues in St. Thomas, but we have to keep things in perspective and be both realistic about our expectations and accurate in our descriptions. There's no reason anyone should avoid St. Thomas unless they don't like that kind of built-up island. The OP is understandably upset about this incident, but that doesn't mean we should indict all residents of St. Thomas.

I've been to St. Thomas several times, and I personally don't feel that crime there is any worse than in many places in the Caribbean, but there is definitely crime (though I would argue still much less than in most big U.S. resort areas), and it can't be ignored.

The shooting at Coki Beach in July 2010 kept ship exursions out of that area of St. Thomas for a few weeks until the island instituted a clean-up of the area, and then the excursions returned and continue to this day. I've heard of no further violent incidents. No ships cancelled their calls in St. Thomas, however.

eastenderusvi Jan 15th, 2013 05:39 PM

I would like to add that the OP states the incident happened at Point Pleasant, which is not really near Coki Point. They may have been looking over at the old Renaissance, which is closed. And I am sorry for their experience, but it is not the typical one for visitors.

One other small comment, on her Coki Beach review, chris1 wrote about locals who wouldn't look her in the eye. She indicated they are "arrogant." This is a fairly common behavior in the Caribbean, the roots are difficult to explain. It is a cultural difference but not arrogance.

1969corvette Feb 20th, 2013 07:53 AM

I stayed near the Governor's mansion, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, for a few days, the end of January 2013, before spending 30 days in a villa on St. John (East End).

I did not feel safe walking around, after dark, on the side streets. Most locals told me to use common sense, which I did. However, common sense never made me feel safe.

Paying for taxi fares was also an issue. The driver quotes one price, then ask for more at your destination. It cost my wife and I, $24, for a very short drive from the airport to the Governor's Mansion. We only had two "carry ons".

St. John felt safer, however, the mosquitoes were plentiful and terrible. My villa was high on the hill, near Haul-over Bay. We used multiple cans of Off (DEET), but that didn't seem to deter the little buggers. It was so bad, I wouldn't visit St. John again. This was my first visit.

The mosquitoes were worst inside the house, then out by the pool. St. John is beautiful, but buggy.

PhillyBob1 Jul 16th, 2013 11:34 AM

I lived for two years on St John and St Thomas. I'm a chef and moved to St John first. I had been there before and had a job set up (a story for another time)and new quite a few ex pats and locals...I was put up in a condo at Gallows Point. Personally, I had no problems with crime. After a few months I opted out of my job and moved over to St Thomas...I was the chef a The Mark St Thomas, a beautiful old house now a B&B up in the hills just above 99 steps overlooking the harbor. I was living in a condo at Cowpet Bay and got to work. I immeadiatly did not like the vibe of the island. I hired locals and expats to work the restaurant to be fair about hiring. I met many locals, professionals,tradesmen,suppliers ect and went about my business which was thriving. One night after work at about midnight, I was headed to a friends house near Magens Bay in my jeep..I came to a switchback, downshifted into second gear and some lunatic jumped from the shadows and jumped in the shotgun seat and put a knife to my throat. I tried to stay calm but almost pissed myself. I quietly asked what he wanted (dumb question) and he said money and credit cards..I could clearly see his features...I gave him a billfold with about $30, and told him it was all I had and didn't carry credit cards...All the while driving per his instructions to his neighborhood near a shopping center and movie theater in the hills above Red Hook...I pulled over (he still had the knife to my throat,he jumped out nicking me and ran off...Low and behold, he didn't make me shut off the car or take my keys...I took off after him (he was fast as hell...my intention was to run him down...But I thought clearly about this a restrained myself. I would have been arrested and put in the most horrible jail for holding which is no place for a nice,caucasion Jewish boy to be with hardend criminals. Here's the point..I was rocked to my core. The next morning I made a police report, met with detectives and scanned mug shot books. I found him right away. The detectives told me just to head home or to work and they would be in touch...They never got in touch with me. I hired a local lawyer with connections and lo and behold, the guy that robbed me at knifepoint was a 2nd cousin of one of the detectives..There was nothing they could or would do.My lawyer said that if I kept it up and forced the issue for an arrest, I could never live there safely. I stayed at the job for another couple of months. During this time the Governor of the Islands was in for a visit with his family and handlers. His photographer was robbed by it seems the same person and ID'd him just like I did...Then the police contacted me and asked me to come in to help the investigation. I refused and told them to go to hell..I finally decided to head back to the states..This type of crime with or without the police angle I learned, is rampant in St Thomas as well as many other islands.Or as we lovingly referred to it as "Harlem with palm trees" no racial significance, just how crime is there.While I was there I heard even some of our guest's tales of walking just 2-3 blocks off the beaten paths and being accosted and nothing was ever done about it.I'd suggest anyone going to this area, fly into St Thomas because you have to, but leave quickly for St John or the BVI's, just use common sense and have a great trip!

eastenderusvi Jul 16th, 2013 06:40 PM

Bob: I am sorry but your story does not make sense on many levels. The Mark has been gone for a great number of years- over 20. There is no movie theater in the hills above Red Hook. I have to think you had a bad experience and it caused problems with your memory.

PhillyBob1 Jul 16th, 2013 10:13 PM

You are correct "eastenderusvi". I forgot to mention I lived in St Thomas in 90'-91'. But the rest of the story is how I remember it..Maybe the movie theater and public housing section is not in the hills above Red Hook...but they are/were close by..I went to the theater to see a few films there.While there I lived in a condo at Cowpet Bay, and another condo at Mahogony Run..Both were virtualy crime free.While at the Mark St Thomas we got good press right away and were very busy. I had a lot of local business people up to the house for dinner and drinks,hired local musicians to entertain and all was well.Many people that knew from my time as chef at Gallows Point (Ellingtons)came to dine with us.The only reason I left besides having a knife put to my throat was I did not get on well with the owner/operator who was from the USA but lived at his uncle's hotel/casino in San Juan. One of the most wonderful things about island life for me was the barter system. We would have a lot of the day boat charter companies up for drinks and we would go out for a day sail gratis when space was available..I was not trying to demean all St Thomians, just the lowlife criminals that run rampant.I knew quite a few other chefs/owners that actually hired local "thugs" for protection, just like the mob in US cities..But all in all it was a special time in my life that I wouldn't change for anything. All the best to you "eastenderusvi...:-)

skibum2beachbum Jul 17th, 2013 09:48 AM

It's amazing the amount of crime that happens on STT versus STJ. I've lived on STJ almost a year now and have never witnessed any type of violence. I am a 32y/o female and walk home from work by myself almost every night. It's a different world on the other side of the channel. I only go to STT for Kmart and the airport.

eastenderusvi Jul 17th, 2013 11:55 AM

I'm not sure how dredging up a negative experience from 20 years ago helps anyone. I'm not saying you didn't have one, I'm saying it isn't relevant. Many people who move to St Thomas are gone in 6 months to a year and frequently keep telling everyone how bad it was. It is a very different culture. And skibum, it is difficult to compare an island with a population of less than 5000 to one with 60,000+. I promise that PhillyBob1 could tell you stories about how idyllic St John was 20 years ago.;-)

skibum2beachbum Jul 18th, 2013 07:51 AM

Just saying...I'm glad I landed here, not there.

NEtrippers Jul 29th, 2013 12:12 PM

We were planning on staying at Miller Manor in February for a night until we ferry over to Tortola the next day. This is in Charlotte Amalie..is this safer?? Also we may need a night stay on the end of our trip...any suggestions for a reasonable priced and safe place to stay???

PhillyBob1 Jul 29th, 2013 03:12 PM

I'd say just about about any hotel on St Thomas is safe to stay for the one night before headed to Tortola. You might want to check out hotels in the same area as where your boat to Tortola is leaving the next day. Just stay with the crowds when going in the town or going to unknown places up in them there hills!

eastenderusvi Jul 29th, 2013 05:45 PM

If you want to stay in town, I would look at http://www.crystalpalaceusvi.com/. If you want to be closer to the airport http://www.islandbeachcomber.net/history.html.

Kfontaine561 Jan 17th, 2014 01:20 PM

Wow, I am considering setting up a business In St. Thomas but these posts make me nervous now being a woman traveling there. I would have to be there for about a week, taking taxis, visiting several resorts, business people, etc. I live in South Florida and we certainly are not without crime but it doesn't happen this blatantly. I have someone who lives there already who would run the business but of course would have to travel back & forth from time to time. Anyone else doing this or have done this? Suggestions?
Thanks!

brenandg Jan 17th, 2014 04:40 PM

I have friends who have lived there for 6 years now. They are currently in the Mahogany Run area. I would not take this thread to heart too much. I would not want to be on the side streets too much as anywhere in "the city" at night. I was a little leary on one taxi ride. I think you will be fine if you exercise caution.I would not have any qualms living there at all or doing business.

eastenderusvi Jan 19th, 2014 06:09 AM

kfontaine561: I would suggest that you visit vimovingcenter.com if you are considering setting up a business on St Thomas. Not from the aspect of crime, although certainly, there are alarmists on that board. Doing business in the USVI is very different from South Florida. Many people live in the VI and do all sorts of activities...

jfd213 Jan 22nd, 2014 07:30 AM

The first time I went to ST was 30 years ago. Even then the car rental agency told us to be careful of the crime and specific places we should avoid. I had a great time though. I returned about 15 years later and it was like another place. We felt unsafe the entire time there. This is like Jamaica now, don't go unless you are staying in a gated hotel complex and don't venture out unless on a guided tour. do not rent a house or condo. Its very ghetto. So different from the very close US territory Puerto Rico where there is petty crime but the population is very family oriented and great with visitors. Go there if you want to be safe and in a US territory. You can safely drive walk and eat all over this much bigger island. Just use your common sense. But ST is like Detroit on the Caribbean. Google ST USVI crime. I'm not saying anything unusual.

eastenderusvi Jan 22nd, 2014 11:59 AM

jfd: I don't know where you were on St Thomas that you thought was "ghetto". "I'm not saying anything unusual" so that makes it correct?

P.S. When you are in PR, the police have machine guns.

brenandg Jan 22nd, 2014 04:05 PM

jfd's post is ridiculous! And, he/she is basing this info on 15 years ago? I stand by my original comment!

amer_can Jan 22nd, 2014 05:15 PM

Personally I have felt less safe every year I have gone to STT. 30 times in 40 years and the last time was 2011. To get from RedHook to town you go by some areas that I would not want to walk in and from RedHook to the RC church likewise. I love the island but not the perceived hostility that you can feel on the buses, streets (even in town) and parking lots near the KMart Mall. Eastender you live there and have a different take but off islanders often see things differently. Coki is just an example of things gone awry in paradise.

Odin Jan 23rd, 2014 02:49 AM

<i>This is like Jamaica now, don't go unless you are staying in a gated hotel complex and don't venture out unless on a guided tour.</i>
I don't agree with this, at least, it's not like this in Negril. It might be in other parts.

lachase Apr 14th, 2014 03:44 PM

We went to Coki beach last fall and had a great time.It was in daylight where we enjoyed snorkeling. I don't think I would venture out at night when a lot of drinking and partying would be going on. We stayed on St. Thomas for a week and never felt unsafe. We are more early birds who love to enjoy the water and beaches and turn in early. Maybe it makes a difference if you are running around at night when perhaps more mischief goes on. I did encounter some particular store clerks (mostly female) who acted arrogant, but I try to be down to earth and friendly to everyone and mostly when I was friendly, I got a friendly response in return from the island residents we encountered. We tried to "go native" so to speak, eat local foods, shop local stores, and just "fit in", feel a part of the island as much as we could. Maybe attitude and expectations make a difference in your experience. Maybe it is a good idea to dress down and not appear flashy tempt would be thieves. Maybe it is to your benefit to greet people you meet in a friendly way, set an example of expecting to be treated well,and hopefully you will be. I personally am looking forward to visiting again. The beaches are beautiful and I think there is risk everywhere in the world these days. It takes working together to change all our attitudes and expectations. We shouldn't let fear keep us from enjoying our life adventures. To say we must stay behind gated bars and only travel on tours instead of venturing out, is only imprisoning ourselves.

diann24 Apr 15th, 2014 05:07 AM

I don't want to on "vacation" feeling like that I would rather stay home if that was the case. I am glad you enjoyed yourselves and took away from your vacation mostly positive moments.

I am wondering if that island in particular does not like being part of a US territory and resent US people going there? I think PR might as well for various reasons. Just a thought--who really knows.

lauranthalsa Apr 25th, 2014 09:19 AM

My younger sister and I just got back from St Thomas about a week ago. We spent a week there and are both under 30. We didn't have any problems at all. We always felt safe, even at Coki's beach. We didn't like Coki's beach because of the sand flies, but other wise it was fine. We went didn't really go out at night, we stayed at our hotel resort and indulged in livations there, so I can't speak for night time.

We spent quite a bit of time in Charlotte Amalie and never had an issue. The locals we're extremely kind and helpful. No where is going to perfectly safe, we can look to the news and see that even small towns are not.

I feel like as though some of the previous posts are borderline fear mongering.

nanabee May 22nd, 2014 09:59 AM

http://virginislandsdailynews.com/ne...hest-1.1434291

>>The territory (USVI) recorded 59 homicides, including six vehicular homicides, during the course of the year, amounting to an annual rate of about 56 homicides per 100,000 in population.

The territory averaged 42 homicides per 100,000 residents from 2004 to 2009. Including figures from 2010, 2011 and 2012, that average has now risen to more than 45 per 100,000 residents during the last three years.

This makes the Virgin Islands' homicide rate about 10 times higher than the U.S. average of 4.7 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011, the most recent year of data published by the FBI.

Few places in the mainland United States see more than 10 homicides per 100,000 in population, and even fewer - in fact, only two - topped a rate of 20 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011, according to the FBI data. Those were the Detroit metropolitan area, with a rate of 20.3, and the New Orleans metro area, with a rate of 23.7.

More places in Puerto Rico come closer to the V.I. homicide rate. Puerto Rico's metropolitan areas, such as Fajardo, Ponce and San Juan, saw homicide rates higher than 30 per 100,000 people in 2011, but the highest, in Fajardo, was 37.1. The overall rate for Puerto Rico in 2011 was 30.6 homicides per 100,000 people.

No state in the mainland comes close to either territory's rate. The highest rates recorded in 2011 were in Washington, D.C., at 17.5 homicides per 100,000 people, and in Louisiana, with a rate of 11.2, according to the FBI data.>>

Something to consider when saying St. Thomas' residents and tourist are safe and have no crime problems (especially homicides) when in fact it seems crime/homicides are a serious problem for many even if one isn't a victim.

nanabee May 22nd, 2014 10:01 AM

Having said that I still travel to Mexico (where drug cartels and murder rates are some of the world's highest)!! (I do stay away from Tijuana though and other places where drug cartels are working).

suze May 22nd, 2014 11:52 AM

<travel to Mexico (where drug cartels and murder rates are some of the world's highest)!!>

nanabee, that is simply NOT a true statement. At least not in relation to tourist/visitors to the country. Please don't post stuff like that about Mexico and feed into a false stereotype about safety there.

nanabee May 22nd, 2014 05:24 PM

Certain areas of Mexico have serious problems with the Mexican Mafia groups - one such area is Tijuana. There are extremely high number of homicides due to drug cartels and it is not all that safe to travel to TJ imho.

We've had cases of Americans going to TJ who have gotten caught in the crossfires and have been killed. One was a young Mex-American teen visiting his family who was killed on the street.

Last night on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain he felt it was a serious enough problem for Mexicans living with the drug cartels to highlight the problems on his show. He did mention Michoacan, Mexico City, and some other areas as problematic.

I would never not go to Mexico because of fears, but I would consider which areas I will go to.

While in Cabo a few years ago, a young Mexican kid (at Verizon) said he left Monterrey after he was stopped at a stop light and witnessed a car in front of him pull out a gun and shoot the driver in the car next to him. He felt it was drug related. He said it was bad enough for him to move and leave his family.

suze May 23rd, 2014 08:52 AM

bingo!

Most visitors planning a trip to Mexico do not spend it in the border towns. Exactly my point and objection to your generalized comment above.

Tijuana and Monterrey are both bad in this regard, I agree, but they are not places tourists would be heading in the first place.

Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum, Merida, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, etc. etc. do not have and have not had any significant issues regarding tourist safety.

icedcoffee Jun 10th, 2014 11:33 PM

PhillyBob-You say that you were the chef at The Mark St. Thomas from 1990-91, and by your description, i have zero recollection of you. I was the General Manager from 1989-1991, and our chef was a flamboyant Italian from New York, not a Jewish boy from the states. Who are you?

PhillyBob1 Jun 28th, 2014 10:39 PM

I don't remember the exact months that I was at The Mark. I moved to St John in the spring of 90'..for a year,,then over to St Thomas first to Agave Terrace then to the Mark..I met Bill, the new owner/leaser who lived in Puerto Rico but worked mostly with Mark..who was the gm..We/I had a great opening and great but short run but I had issues with the owner and I left..Mark C and I are still friends..

PhillyBob1 Jun 28th, 2014 10:42 PM

Oh..I forgot icedcoffee..As far as I know, it was a gay owned and operated B&B for quite a while which eventually wented bankrupt..was vacant for a while till Bill from PR took it over. It was open for guests for a couple of months but the restaurant didn't open again till I got there..

PhillyBob1 Jun 29th, 2014 01:58 PM

Hey icedcoffee..My mistake in the year I was there..Just spoke to the old GM and he told me I came aboard in late 92'through 93". Were you there when the gay couple owned and ran it..I heard it was a fun place..Take care..Bob


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