Party cruises not to blame!
With dozens of party cruises already scheduled for this year’s Crop Over season, promoters have joined scores of Barbadians pleading with authorities to take the unprecedented spate of violence more seriously.
The promoters have unanimously agreed that the problem is not as a result of the parties, but is a manifestation of the growing violent culture taking over the country.
The discussion followed last weekend’s fatal shooting of security guard Dave Archer while at a Sand 2 Sea promotional cruise on the MV Dream Chaser.
In recent times, cruise boats officials have introduced changes in security protocols including banning glass bottles and instituting extensive searching of patrons including the removal of footwear before entry. Officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force are also present at the docks before vessels depart and when they return.
Reacting to the most recent incident, Shakeel Greaves, promoter of popular summer cruise, Beards and Bikinis argued that boat owners and promoters have been taking reasonable steps to respond to safety concerns.
“It’s a problem with the country moreso than the party cruises,” he declared.
“It’s a problem the country needs to confront altogether. I hear people blaming cruises and saying there are not going on cruises anymore, but to be honest, somebody was shot while in Sheraton and people have been shot in town. It is more something that we have to do as a country rather than simply going after the party cruises.”
Promoter of the popular Waves Cooler Cruise Ken Mason described the problem as “a reflection of society”.
“We have to look at things a bit differently. Conflict resolution is a thing of the past and people nowadays are just quick to run for the gun. What can be done in the communities to prevent them from having these guns that are ending up on the streets?” asked Mason.
“That is where the conversation should be headed instead of dealing with the promoters. All we can do is to bring ten more guards or 20 more guards; it does not negate the fact that the gun was already there. It’s just a matter of ensuring the guns are off the streets as a whole. It must be a collaborative effort between the community, the police and the coast guards to ensure the presence is there.”
While suggesting more support from the police and coast guard, Mason said the onus is also on boat owners to better screen promoters who request the use of their vessels for parties. He in fact identified three categories of cruises: ‘boujee’, ‘ghetto’/urban cruises and “those in between”.
While admitting he frequents “all different types” of cruises, Mason admitted the urban or ghetto cruises were often singled out as trouble cruises.
Another promoter who requested anonymity revealed some have started restricting registration to persons known to themselves and their committee members.
The source, a long time entertainment entrepreneur also revealed while hiring police as security was often preferable, promoters are often deterred by exorbitant prices.
“The average cost of a security guard is between $80 to $120 per guard for the night. The average cost of a police starts at $120. A constable starts at $120 but that is the lowest level of police and when you are employing police, you can’t just employ constables. You have to employ inspectors and superintendents as well,” said the source, adding the RBPF would often determine how many police would be required if they were employed to cover the event.
“They may recommend 15 constables, a station sergeant and an inspector. In addition to that, before you even sell a drink at your event, the police have to be paid. So as a party promoter, you tend to shy away from the police, because obviously it’s difficult and at the end of the day, it is a business too.
“I’m not saying that you want to play with people’s lives, but if it is difficult to acquire the services of the police, and you could understand why, the promoter would be at a disadvantage as opposed to someone who can afford. It’s still a struggle, because you can only have about 750 people on a boat,” the source argued.
On the other hand, promoter of Amped: The Cruise Russell Grant revealed for at least one pleasure boat, the RBPF served as official security. This, he said would continue to be his vessel of choice.
“I think it’s all about the crowd and as a promoter, I know the crowd that we will attract and I know the people… I think that a certain cruise might be considered a ‘bad man’ cruise unfortunately.
“The more popular the boat, the more problems it will have… it started out being the Buccaneer, then it became the Jolly Roger and now it’s the Dream Chaser.
“I just think the police presence makes a difference and many of these guys know who are the police, so they probably won’t go onto the boat with a gun. They know the possible repercussions if they shoot a police officer may be different. So I think the boats need to just hire more police,” said Grant.