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Wilchcombe worried about fall-out from visitor’s murder

  • Obie Wilchcombe.

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: May 14, 2013

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The fatal shooting of American visitor Kyle Bruner could have major implications for the country’s tourism product, according to Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who warned yesterday that The Bahamas is in for a “rough future” if the crime situation is not reversed.

"I think it's fair to say that we are meddling with disaster,” Wilchcombe told The Nassau Guardian.

“We are on course to destroy the reputation of our country if we don't find a way to cause for a cease and desist.

"If we don't find a way to get Bahamians to appreciate the [harm violence causes] we're going to have a rough future."

According to police, Bruner, 34, of Chicago, Illinois, was shot dead during an armed robbery around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Police said Bruner was trying to defend a female friend who was being robbed on Mackey Street near East Bay Street.

Wilchcombe said something must be done to arrest the crime situation in the country before it’s too late.

"I believe that we have to do something today as opposed to tomorrow,” he said.

“Just for instance, the Chicago Tribune has a front page story. They have a distribution of 415,000 but then there are about three million who go online to visit their site.

“The story was on the Associated Press [on Sunday] and if this story continues to gather traction then the truth is it will be all over the world.

"We've seen what has happened to other destinations. We saw what happened to Jamaica in the 70s and we've seen what happened to Aruba not too long ago.”

Wilchcombe said Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade met with officials from the U.S. Embassy on Sunday to discuss the murder.

“The embassy worked with The Bahamas very closely, but they also have responsibility for their citizens and I would be surprised if an advisory

isn't posted given this incident...We have to be concerned.”

In a statement yesterday, Acting Embassy Spokesperson Dana Marie Jea confirmed that the U.S. Embassy is maintaining close contact with the police force.

“The U.S. Embassy treats crime against U.S. citizens with the utmost seriousness as the safety and well-being of our citizens is our top priority,” the statement said.

“We appreciate the importance that the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas places on ensuring the safety of U.S. citizens and others visiting The Bahamas.”

Acting U.S. Charge d’Affaires John Armstrong told The Nassau Guardian in March that crime is a major issue here.

“I will be perfectly honest, Bahamian officials, average Bahamians, American diplomats and other diplomats have noticed that there’s a serious situation,” he said.

“The murder rate has recently dropped some and that’s a good sign, but with some other crimes, based on what the media said and Bahamian law officials, basically the trend has been in a different direction.”

He added that the U.S. Embassy has an obligation to warn its citizens on crime trends.

Wilchcombe said while the murder of a visitor will attract international attention, the murders of Bahamian citizens are just as troubling.

“We are growing a reputation of not being a peaceful destination. We are hurting ourselves tremendously,” Wilchcombe said.

“We can not go to sleep. There must be an all out effort to end the scourge.”

Wilchcombe said the ministry is now concentrating on damage control efforts.

“We have media experts who are monitoring the impact around the world and we have to think about whether we have to put ads in these places to assure people that it is still better in The Bahamas.”

He added that the country needs to have a higher level of police presence in New Providence.

He also called on the church to play a greater part in the fight against crime.

“We must all come together,” Wilchcombe said.

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