Sunday, September 07, 2008

Congress Pressured On Cruise Ship Crimes

Laurie Dishman, a 37-year-old food-services manager from Sacramento, Calif., said it was time to face her fears head-on, so she took a therapeutic trip to the Port of Miami last weekend. It was the first time she'd gone near big ships since 2006, when she was raped on a cruise by one of the ship's janitors. Back then, she was appalled when the crew responded by telling her that she needed to control her drinking. So last Sunday, at one of the busiest ports in the nation, she handed out more than 300 pamphlets to people as they began their vacations, warning them of danger. "There are no laws out there," Ms. Dishman said in an interview. "All kinds of things can happen on this floating city in the middle of the ocean, and there's no security. There's no protection. You think you have American rights when you board a ship, but you don't."The industry is fighting back, saying that Americans are safer on cruise ships than they are on land. Ms. Dishman, however, is confident that her message will lead to a new federal law. When Congress returns from its summer recess tomorrow, she and other crime victims will be lobbying for a plan that would force cruise industry officials to change the way they do business. The legislation would force cruise ships to maintain logs that record all deaths, missing individuals, alleged crimes and passenger complaints of theft, sexual harassment and assault. That information would be made available to the FBI and the Coast Guard, and the public would have access to it on the Internet.

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