Is Vieques safe for tourists?

Ever since the U.S. Navy left Vieques Island and Roosevelt Roads Naval Station on the main island of Puerto Rico, things have gone steadily downhill for that part of the U.S. commonwealth.  Things continue to deteriorate to the point where a fair question needs to be asked?  Is it safe for American tourists to visit Vieques Island?

The unfortunate answer is, probably not.  Last year the island had the highest per capita murder rate in the world.  While most of those murders were directly related to the drug trade a recent murder brings the danger home for everyone.  According to El Nuevo Dia an American born guest house owner was gunned down in his home during a home invasion and robbery.  Who else stays in his home and other properties he rents?  Tourists.

The most direct threat to tourists is in the form of petty theft.  Purses, handbags, wallets and other items one might leave on the beach while they swim, or in their room while they are out or in their car.  One visitor to the island related to me privately that he had been told by his rental car company on Vieques to, “leave the doors of the car unlocked, because the thieves will get in anyway and we don’t want them to break the windows.”

There is no question about the beauty and allure of Vieques Island, especially thanks to the decades of preservation and protection work done by the U.S. Navy during its operations there.  The only section clearly damaged by Navy presence was the actually 900 or so acres of the actual bombing range.  On the former ‘civilian side’ of the island problems persist with litter.  The departure of the Navy and its anti-drug operations and support left the door wide open for the most violent drug operations to take root and grow unchecked.

High unemployment, also due in part to the anti-Navy protests and operations over the years (not just after the bombing accident) also contributes to the overall problem along with the corruption in Puerto Rico government and a general attitude of apathy which silently drowns out the voices of those who wish to make things better.  Unemployment and poverty however, are not an excuse for petty crime, much less murder.

Vieques, like the rest of Puerto Rico must take concrete steps to improve its situation by first assuming responsibility for the state of its own affairs and then drawing up and executing plans on how to fix them.  Until then, I would not recommend Vieques to anyone, unless they were someone I really didn’t like.

More on garbage problems in Vieques.

Warnings for visitors of Vieques.

Local newspaper

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About worleyf

Semi-retired Media Relations guy, former radio and TV reporter and legislative aide. Middle of the road Libertarian (as if that actually existed) who reviews current news items and stories, and offers an alternative point of view.
This entry was posted in Crime, Drugs, Navy, Protests, Puerto Rico, Roosevelt Roads, Vieques and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Is Vieques safe for tourists?

  1. Jose bird says:

    The accident and death is very much regrettable and sad. That Vieques was the largest per capita murders in the world, nonsense and that is a misuse of statistics. Unfortunate things happen everywhere and this was one of them.
    Tourists need to use common sense like everywhere, lock up at night, do not carry $400 to the beach, leave the cell phone home ( use voice mail), owners light up your properties, install security cameras, use prudence and common sense.
    VIEQUES is safe as any other place if you make it safe


  2. D'Arla Brown says:

    I am an American living and working on Vieques since 2006. My children and grandchildren live here too. I see the island quite different than the “reporter” here. I am in love with it’s natural beauty and rich culture and will never ever leave here!


  3. the comments are not coming from someone who is even a resident or local. statistics are wrong. such a pity that this article is even allowed to be broadcast being as inflammatory as it is, but hopefully everyone knows they can’t trust all they read on the internet. As someone that has been visiting the island over 6 years and that knows many locals that resided in Vieques over 40 years there, this article is BS. This is one of the friendliest places I have ever been.


    • worleyf says:

      Angel, thanks for commenting. The problems Vieques and Puerto Rico face are real and the danger is as well. I hope the people of Vieques can work together to make things better.


  4. Nicole Ross says:

    I have lived in Vieques for over 7 years, from time to time someone gets a bad idea that crime pays. This sort of thing happens everywhere. Yes this is paradise, but it does not exempt us from our share of the crime. This current situation will also have its solution. There are plenty of police on island that are actively doing their jobs, to put a stop to this. There are many safe places to stay on this Island while visiting, and there are many safe and beautiful beaches. It is true that there is crime here, as there is anywhere in the world. We also have a justice system, and it does work. It is a must to be smart. The death that happened was very unfortunate, but there is no need for false advertisement of our island. There have already been some arrests made, and the police are constantly making Vieques a safe place. My advice to you, if you are traveling to Vieques, is yes it is ok. Be smart, stay in safe areas, listen to your instincts. Do some reasearch about the place that you are choosing to stay in. This island is an amazing place, and in all that I have seen, and witnessed, there is far more good than bad.


  5. viequestruths says:

    The fact of the matter is that everyone is scared shitless now because frank actually spoke of the truths as did the post on trip advisor. There have been no arrests made and you must be kidding yourself if you think anything will change. The police will show a presence for a few weeks by sitting in frony of Molina’s and then what. People seem to be too damn preoccupied with this not getting out because it will affe t tourism. News flash unless people stop bitching on Facebook and actually take a stand nothing will happen. The islands motto is “to keep it quite” how does anyone expect a sincere response to the decade long problem without proper exposure. Get your head out of the sand and take a close look around. Come together as a community and actually come up with some concrete solutions. The bad press might just turn out to be something positive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • worleyf says:

      Thank you! I asked for comments on the Vieques discussion group on Facebook and all I got was insults and accusations. The fact is the problem on Vieques and in the rest of Puerto Rico is that the situation really is bad. Other media in Puerto Rico are now sharing videos of a robbery on some American tourists while they were having dinner, but on the Metro site, I didn’t see a single comment so I posted one myself. “If you want change, you actually have to make a change” is my motto. No more blame game, let’s fix it


      • viequestruths says:

        Thats my point exactly, I have been privy to many conversations and no one seems to have a solution. All they are wanting is to hide what is going on and hope this blows over. Unfortunately we have seen this happen before with a higher police presence just to make the people feel safe when in fact nothing is truly being done. It is an epidemic both on the main island and in Vieques, as it is all over the world but the fact remains that Vieques is indeed such a small island and that makes it so much worse. This needs to be brought to a federal level , to someone who may in fact listen. My fear is that these people are unreachable or may not want to solve the problems of Puerto Rico as a whole. The main island as you know is in complete turmoil. And that is bringing it to vieques. There are no security checks at the airport or ferry terminals and that makes it an easy access for criminals to come and go. My post on trip advisor was the truth and they deemed it inappropriate! !! That makes me laugh because if the tuth is sensored all the public hears is lies. Dont get me wrong the island has much to offer, but that will all be over shadowed by the crime. Yesterday some tourists were at the beach and had there keys stolen while out snorkeling, also in the morning there was an attempted robbery , thankfully nothing was taken but the perp managed to fire off two shots at a resident. I am an advocate for Puerto Rico as a whole and have no shame taking this completely public. There will be repercussions, and that is why I choose to stay anonymous. I can handle the truth of what needs to happen , its the others I know can not. If there is anything I can help with please let me know. I stand behind your efforts to enhance the islands and would love your input on how to get this further out there.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. worleyf says:

    Well we have certainly stirred up the hornets nest, but I think that may be a good thing in the long run. You’ll be glad to know your post on Trip Advisor was blamed on me, but I too am astonished that Trip Advisor removed it. After my article, local TV and radio picked up the story and someone got Univision a video of the robbery of some tourists (they also blamed me for getting the video to Univision, but again I didn’t).

    The solutions I propose are not very politically correct, and many can’t actually work under U.S. law. The number one problem is the drug trafficking and while controversial, the only solution I have bee able to come up with after decades of following the issue is to legalize. That should reduce the violence and corruption and make it easier to tackle the other problems. I also support the death penalty and the right to keep and bear arms


  7. mary says:

    FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, 2014
    Vieques Island Safe for Travel Anytime! (No Worries Here)
         I have heard many times through the years of traveling to Vieques from friends and family, is Vieques safe? I have never wavered on my opinion and I value my life very much. I love life and I love Vieques it is in my soul to the very core of my being. Li Li and I have traveled to the Island since 2008 and never had one bit if trouble from anyone. Is there crime on the Island of Vieques? Yes of course but in turn name me a place that does not have crime? Islands with two people living on them don’t count! I grew up in a town of 7,500 people and there was crime then and still is that way from what I hear.     We have explored the whole Island from East to West and North to South never one issue but nice people or no people. Not one item ever stolen from us not one mean person to deal with. The tourist are all happy on the beaches that we meet and have spent a few days with some on other beaches during our vacation. How can you not enjoy Vieques and the beauty of paradise? Everyone we meet on the beach are just blown away from the gorgeous white sand beaches and crystal blue water. I love seeing visitors smiling from ear to ear and ready to come back next year for the same thing. Peace, beauty of nature, calm waves, great snorkeling, the lack of hotels on the beaches, the horses, roosters crowing for nothing, are just the beginning of a very long list of why Vieques is Paradise.     Vieques Island is safe for travelers not one tourist killed in the twenty plus years states a friend of mine from the Island. Yes there are crimes committed but mostly have to do with the locals, drugs, and lack of jobs on the Island. Please do not be worried about visiting Vieques just get on the plane and fly on down to Paradise! We hope to see you on a beautiful Vieques beach real soon!


  8. Pingback: Living in terror: Vieques and Puerto Rico | Conservative News Voice for Puerto Rico

  9. Richie Kessler says:

    I’ve lived half the year on Vieques for 10 years. Sure… anywhere there are people, there are issues and some crime. Murders, or shootings and stabbings are rare, and mostly occur between rival drug operations. So the murders are within the drug scene itself and does not involve tourists or non-drug clan folks. Recently, there was a murder of a Guest House owner. This is the first example of a murder out side of the drug scene, in a long, long time. It’s a small Island. So when there’s a ‘crime wave’… it’s usually only a matter of time until the perpetrators are apprehended. I believe that there have been recent arrests. Vieques is really a very Safe & Beautiful place. You really have it wrong about Vieques. Why don’t you visit and see for yourself ?


  10. JMK says:

    I just returned from Vieques in late August. While in my vacation home in broad daylight I was robbed at gunpoint. The island is a beautiful place but unfortunately it is not safe for tourists and I would urge all those wanting to travel there to use extreme caution should they decide to risk their lives and the lives if their families. I really hope that in the future things will change as I did have the opportunity to meet some really wonderful people who all rely on tourism to survive.


  11. Pingback: More bloodshed on Vieques Island | Conservative News and Views on Puerto Rico

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