Armed Robbery at Rental Villa; Tourists Alerted to Crime in Paradise

Gunman waited for guests to drive down the driveway of Orchid Villa, above, before approaching and demanding all of their possessions.

The recent armed robbery of two tourists outside of their rental villa in Klein Bay highlights the issue of escalating crime on a once peaceful island and the need to alert visitors to potentially dangerous situations.

The tourists were returning to their villa, Orchid Villa, in Klein Bay, from dinner between 9:30 and 10 p.m. on Saturday night, November 5 when they noticed a car parked on the street, according to Curtis Penn, assistant manager of Caribbean Villas and Resorts which manages the rental property.

Tourists Robbed in Villa Driveway
“They backed down the driveway and one masked gunman approached them and demanded all of their belongings,” said Penn. “The gunman took their bags, jewelry including earrings and wedding bands, wallets, passports, electronic cameras – all of their personal effects on them and in their car.”

The perpetrator took all of the couple’s belongings and escaped in a vehicle that was parked on Klein Bay Road, Penn added.

“The couple were regular visitors to the island and were due to depart the following day after a two-week visit,” said Penn. “The guests didn’t have any money, so we gave them the funds to travel with.”

The tourists said that they would return to the island “sometime,” Penn continued.

“They were pleased with the V.I. Police Department’s response and said that they would return to St. John sometime in the future but it will probably take a few years for them to get over this,” said Penn.

Caribbean Villas and Resorts, which manages about 60 villas and 10 condo units on St. John, is cooperating with the V.I.P.D. and alerting other guests in the area of the armed robbery, the assistant manager added.

Guests in Area Alerted
“This was the first robbery that occurred at the Orchid Villa address, but we did call other people who are staying in the neighborhood, which is a very popular area, and told them about the situation,” said Penn.

The rental property management company does alert tourists to increased crime on island, Penn continued.

“We have literature in all of our packets where we let guests know to be more careful and recommend things like to leave lights on, use the safes, lock doors at night and look for suspicious activity and notify police if anyone is in the area,” said Penn. “We don’t want to scare people but they need to be aware.”

St. John “Carefree” No Longer
“St. John is not the carefree, laid-back place that it was 10 to 15 years ago,” Penn added. “We hope that this type of activity stops before it hurts all of us and ruins the island.”

In another recent incident, long-time visitors who have vacationed on St. John for more than a decade were robbed at their rental villa on Gift Hill in broad daylight while they were home upstairs.

The guests were robbed of all their cash and later found out from the property manager that the same villa had been broken into on various prior occasions.

Numerous VIPD officials did not return St. John Tradewinds phone calls requesting further information regarding the tourists robbed at gunpoint.

Rental Agents Advise Guests
More villa rental companies are now recognizing that there is a need to advise guests that crime does exist on St. John – just like in other places in the world – and visitors need to lock their doors and take proper safety precautions.

VIVA! Villas Inc., which currently manages 17 properties on St. John and markets and brokers 55 additional island properties, educates both guests and staff on safety, according to Karin Schlesinger, general manager.

“We tell all of our guests prior to arrival that they need to treat their visit to St. John as any other destination in the world today,” said Schlesinger. VIVA! strongly recommends locking valuables in safes within the villas and insists that guests lock all doors, both of which are discussed in guest contracts which must be signed prior to arrival, she added.

Fortunately, VIVA! Villas Inc. has not experienced a break-in at any of its managed properties in recent years, according to the company’s general manager.

“We consider ourselves blessed that we have not had that experience,” said Schlesinger. The company urges guests to utilize common sense when it comes to safety, she added.

“We do expect and want our guests to have happy vacations so we stress that they use common sense when it comes to safety,” Schlesinger said.

Book-it V.I., a marketing company that also manages eight properties on the island, informs all guests prior to check in about safety procedures, according to Bill Dove, Book-it V.I. co-owner.

Crime Even in Paradise
“We tell everyone during check-in procedures that although we are in paradise they need to lock their doors – there are crimes anywhere in the U.S., even in paradise,” said Dove. While crime is a rarity, it does happen, according to Dove.

“We’ve only had one property that had a break-in, which was last winter, but luckily guests weren’t there,” said Dove. “Although uncommon, it does happen.” Dove said burglaries on the island usually occur in one specific area.

“It is always a pocket, we have had outbreaks before in villas on the island, but they seem to be pocket sprees with someone breaking into villas in one area at one time,” said Dove.

Safety Steps Important
Book-it V.I. has been on island since 1996 and equips all of its rental villas with safes and emergency numbers. “On the first page of our book, there are all of the emergency numbers and numbers to both police stations,” said Dove. “The first page talks guests specifically through safety steps and tells them how to give out directions to the house.”

“I also tell them to call me so I know what is going on at all times,” he added.

Seaview Vacation Homes rents out 15 different villas on St. John, maintaining a policy of telling all guests to keep their doors locked and keeping emergency information and phone numbers readily available, according to Mark Shekleton, co-owner.

“Our policy is to lock the doors and secure the property when you leave,” said Shekleton. “St. John is a safe place but there is a chance of break-ins here like anywhere else.”