By Shermain Bique-Charles
Vendors operating on Little Ffryes Beach are making a passionate plea for more security to help protect what they say is their only livelihood.
The latest call comes on the heels of an incident on Monday involving a local man and a tourist.
According to eye witnesses, the man indecently flashed a female vacationer who was on the beach with her husband.
“The man was bathing in the water and the lady was sitting on the beach chair. Her husband was somewhere around. The man was in the direct view of the woman. He flashed his private part, asking her if she ever had a black thing like that before,” a local vendor told Observer.
The beach seller said when the lady’s husband saw what was happening, he charged towards the offender and a fight ensued.
“The man eventually escaped with a few bruises to his face. By the time the police came in he was gone but they said they knew him and would find him,” she explained.
But the vendor, who has been operating on the scenic west coast beach for many years, said incidents like these can keep tourists away, affecting sellers’ ability to make a “much needed dollar”.
“Covid-19 has already affected us. We come out here to try to get a little money from the few tourists who come here. To treat them this way is taking money from our mouths,” she said.
Police spokesman Inspector Frankie Thomas told Observer that busier beaches are indeed given priory by patrolling officers.
But Thomas said officers keep a close eye on most of the beaches in Antigua and Barbuda, especially since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
“As part of our security plan, beaches are patrolled on a regular basis by the police. There are some beaches given priority, especially those that are busier than others with more people,” he said.
Thomas added that the police will continue to do their best to ensure crime is stamped out in all aspects of society, including offences that take place at tourist sites.
In the meantime, Tourism Minister Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez told Observer that any reports of harassment will not be tolerated by his ministry.
He said residents must understand the importance visitors play to the country’s economy.
Fernandez said his ministry will continue to work with the police to ensure the protection of tourists and locals alike.
“These isolated incidents should never be looked at as a deterrent. Antigua and Barbuda remains one of the most beautiful and safest destinations in the region and in the world,” he added.