Three major cruise lines have started posting quarterly crime statistics on their own web sites.
The underreporting of cruise ship crimes had been the subject of a congressional hearing and a recent Team 6 investigation, "Missing at Sea.”
In May NBC 6 reported on the disappearance of Jason Rappe. During a Caribbean cruise in November he went overboard. By law the U.S. Coast Guard must post on its web site cruise ship crimes and missing persons. Frappe’s disappearance was not posted and his case is not the only one because of a gap in the law.
"Only cases that are reported to the FBI and then closed by the FBI have to be disclosed on that database," said Jim Walker, a maritime attorney.
A new congressional committee report finds that since 2011 cruise lines have reported 959 alleged crimes to the FBI but the Coast Guard has publicly reported only 31. Crimes against children are not reported.
"Close to 18 percent of victims of sexual assault on cruise ships are children," said Ross Klein, a Canadian professor who independently keeps track of these cruise ship crimes and missing persons.
After mounting pressure from Congress, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines are now voluntarily posting crime stats. From January 2012 to the end of June 2013 Royal Caribbean reported 16 thefts of over $10,000, five assaults with serious injury, 10 rapes and 11 sexual assaults. Norwegian Cruise Line reports one theft over $10,000, four serious assaults, one rape and four sexual assaults.
As of 6 p.m. Thursday, Carnival had not posted its stats yet, but spokesperson Roger Frizzell stated in an email: "I believe this is a positive step for our industry to be proactive in sharing these numbers. To my knowledge, no other industry does this today. Separately, I believe it showcases that cruising is safe, especially when you consider we have some 10 million passengers each year cruising with us. I think the crime stats on board for our four North American-based cruise lines would be an average of 41 alleged crimes per year.”
Frizzell added, “I also wanted to emphasize that we are doing this voluntarily to remove all doubt about the relatively low level of crime on cruise ships especially when compared with comparable land-based crimes. It is important to highlight that what is being posted are allegations of crime. The majority of these are never substantiated as actual crimes after the initial investigation."
The cruise lines are also posting statistics on missing persons.
Patty Davidman, a travel agent in Aventura for 25 years, does not think this will have a huge impact on demand for cruises. She says passengers seem more concerned with illnesses like the Norwalk virus which affect more people.