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Holdup at Vacation Home Emblematic of Larger Issue

Jan. 19, 2009 — Last week's armed robbery at a vacation villa in Bethany was another incident in an ongoing problem that continues to plague St. John's tourism industry.
"Word gets around from people working on the houses about what's in the house," said Kathy McLaughlin, president of the St. John Accommodations Council.
Villa managers hire from a lengthy list of outside contractors that includes landscapers, pool cleaners and maintenance workers, and the people hired don't always obey the law. If a person working at a vacation villa doesn't come back himself to burglarize or rob it, he often tells his friends what's in the house, McLaughlin said.
She had several stories to tell about who robs and burglarizes vacation villas. In one case, someone came through the neighborhood selling magazines. Shortly thereafter, a rash of burglaries occurred.
A man dressed all in black and carrying a gun entered Sapphire Breeze villa at 10:50 p.m. Jan. 13, according to Police Department spokeswoman Melody Rames.
"He was wearing a black ski mask and hat with his nose and mouth covered," she said.
The vacationing family — two adults and two children — were in the villa at the time.
"Those criminals have no morality," said Crime Stoppers organizer Bonny Corbeil. "The fear that kind of experience has on children is so intense."
The gunman got away with $178, and no one was injured. There is no evidence to connect this armed robbery to the Jan. 5 murder of Juan Ayala in Pastory, Rames said.
On Thursday police arrested Eunice Patris, 21, in connection with another vacation-villa burglary at La Vista Villa. Police charged her with second-degree burglary, accusing Patris of taking a handbag containing $800 from Villa LaVista on Dec. 30.
"There was a positive identification by the victim," Rames said.
Patris, who Rames said is homeless, was held on $35,000 bail. Police believe Patris entered the villa through a sliding door that was closed but unlocked.
"Nine times out of 10, the guests leave the door unlocked," McLaughlin said.
In some cases, she said, burglars break in through sliding-glass doors that are not secured with a rod. Without the rod, they're easy to open even when locked.
In another instance, McLaughlin said, the guests left the door to the outside shower unlocked. The burglar went over the shower wall and into the house. Burglars have also entered unlocked downstairs units in two-story houses while the guests were on the upper floor. Many times a rash of villa robberies occur when someone incarcerated on a villa robbery or burglary conviction gets out of jail, she said.
While she tries not to panic her guests, McLaughlin said her rundown on safety to arriving guests includes encouraging them to use the safe, keeping valuables out of sight, closing the curtains when they leave the house and locking the doors.
"I tell them this is paradise, but we still have criminals," she said.
Lisa Durgin, who owns Vacation Vistas villa management company, said she was keeping statistics on the number of crimes at the island's vacation villas. But the number dropped off and so did her record keeping.
"But it was far less in 2008 than in previous years," she said, citing anecdotal evidence.
Police ask that anyone with information about the Sapphire Breeze robbery call Detective Kent Hodge at 693-8880, ext. 5213, or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).
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Jan. 19, 2009 -- Last week's armed robbery at a vacation villa in Bethany was another incident in an ongoing problem that continues to plague St. John's tourism industry.
"Word gets around from people working on the houses about what's in the house," said Kathy McLaughlin, president of the St. John Accommodations Council.
Villa managers hire from a lengthy list of outside contractors that includes landscapers, pool cleaners and maintenance workers, and the people hired don't always obey the law. If a person working at a vacation villa doesn't come back himself to burglarize or rob it, he often tells his friends what's in the house, McLaughlin said.
She had several stories to tell about who robs and burglarizes vacation villas. In one case, someone came through the neighborhood selling magazines. Shortly thereafter, a rash of burglaries occurred.
A man dressed all in black and carrying a gun entered Sapphire Breeze villa at 10:50 p.m. Jan. 13, according to Police Department spokeswoman Melody Rames.
"He was wearing a black ski mask and hat with his nose and mouth covered," she said.
The vacationing family -- two adults and two children -- were in the villa at the time.
"Those criminals have no morality," said Crime Stoppers organizer Bonny Corbeil. "The fear that kind of experience has on children is so intense."
The gunman got away with $178, and no one was injured. There is no evidence to connect this armed robbery to the Jan. 5 murder of Juan Ayala in Pastory, Rames said.
On Thursday police arrested Eunice Patris, 21, in connection with another vacation-villa burglary at La Vista Villa. Police charged her with second-degree burglary, accusing Patris of taking a handbag containing $800 from Villa LaVista on Dec. 30.
"There was a positive identification by the victim," Rames said.
Patris, who Rames said is homeless, was held on $35,000 bail. Police believe Patris entered the villa through a sliding door that was closed but unlocked.
"Nine times out of 10, the guests leave the door unlocked," McLaughlin said.
In some cases, she said, burglars break in through sliding-glass doors that are not secured with a rod. Without the rod, they're easy to open even when locked.
In another instance, McLaughlin said, the guests left the door to the outside shower unlocked. The burglar went over the shower wall and into the house. Burglars have also entered unlocked downstairs units in two-story houses while the guests were on the upper floor. Many times a rash of villa robberies occur when someone incarcerated on a villa robbery or burglary conviction gets out of jail, she said.
While she tries not to panic her guests, McLaughlin said her rundown on safety to arriving guests includes encouraging them to use the safe, keeping valuables out of sight, closing the curtains when they leave the house and locking the doors.
"I tell them this is paradise, but we still have criminals," she said.
Lisa Durgin, who owns Vacation Vistas villa management company, said she was keeping statistics on the number of crimes at the island's vacation villas. But the number dropped off and so did her record keeping.
"But it was far less in 2008 than in previous years," she said, citing anecdotal evidence.
Police ask that anyone with information about the Sapphire Breeze robbery call Detective Kent Hodge at 693-8880, ext. 5213, or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.