The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to do an interview on this subject, but in a statement said, “ Federal prosecutions are guided by considerations of fairness and sound evidence. The prosecution of a case is undertaken only after the most careful review and analysis of the evidence and applicable law.”
Another Port Canaveral police department report described how an Orlando man who was accused of exposing his genitalia to at least three girls under the age of 16.
That man was never charged by the FBI, even though Port Canaveral police reports indicate there was video of the incident. An FBI spokesperson said that there was not enough video evidence to substantiate the case.
Dozens of other incidents documented in Port Canaveral police reports are not being prosecuted by federal authorities because they are either too minor or not even crimes under federal law.
For example thefts under $10,000 at sea are not taken on by the FBI, but they are the types of cases Hellebrand and Archer are looking to investigate and prosecute.
The nation’s leading cruise victims’ advocate said such a prosecution could be a watershed moment in the effort to combat crime on cruise ships.
“I think any effort for any law enforcement office to take action would be appropriate,” said Kendall Carver, the founder of International Cruise Victims.
Carver has been fighting to toughen cruise safety and security laws for nearly a decade, after his daughter went missing while on a cruise.
He said whether the ship is in port or at sea, crimes aboard ships are generally not being prosecuted.
A big problem is when and where the ship reports the crime, which often leaves the jurisdiction in the hands of the country where the ship is flagged.
“They are mostly small little countries that literally take no action when a crime occurs,” said Carver.
Last August, the Bahamian Royal police were tasked with handling the child molestation caught on tape on the Disney Dream because DCL did not report it while docked at Port Canaveral.
The Disney Dream is flagged in the Bahamas, so that country can assert jurisdiction even when the ship is in an American port, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. But so can federal and state or local authorities – again, depending on the circumstances.
Although it was too late to make an arrest by the time it was informed about the incident, the Port Canaveral police department could have filed a report for information regarding the incident.
After Local 6 brought this to Hellebrand’s attention, he said the days of not writing reports when officers are called to the ship are over.
“Any incident that happens on a cruise ship whether it’s criminal or not criminal there will be a written report. If we find there are patterns, we can address them quickly,” said Hellebrand.
Victims are allowed by law to notify law enforcement prior to seeking help from ship security.
The FBI encourages cruise ship passengers leaving Port Canaveral to contact the Tampa field office toll-free at 1-866-838-1153 if they are the victim of a crime. The Port Canaveral public safety emergency line is 321-783-7375.
The FBI also recommends that cruise passengers take along the phone numbers of the American embassies for the nations that the cruise will visit.