Say What? Sand Theft in Jamaican Beaches?

The year is 2008. Imagine you’re sipping a fancy cocktail while tanning on one of Jamaica’s beautiful beaches. Ah! For those few moments, life is simply perfect. This was the dream a couple of developers were hoping to sell to tourists worldwide, except their beach got stolen. You heard that right. Here’s what went down.

In July 2008, Jamaica’s police received a robbery complaint like no other. Hundreds of tonnes of white sand were stolen from the country’s Coral Spring beach in Trelawny, where a resort was being planned. However, despite a three-month-long investigation by the cops, they remained baffled. Approximately 500 truckloads worth of sand was stolen, and there were no suspects.

Mark Shields, the Deputy Commissioner for Crime at the Jamaica Constabulary Force, told the BBC, “It’s a very complex investigation because it involves so many aspects. You’ve got the receivers of the stolen sand, or what we believe to be the sand. The trucks themselves, the organisers and, of course, there is some suspicion that some police were in collusion with the movers of the sand.”

The culprits were suspected to be from the tourism industry itself. Some believe that it was to prevent the opening of a new resort which would hamper the business of nearby hotels, while others think that it was sold to the rivals to help refurbish their own beaches.

While the issue might seem petty compared to the country’s more serious crimes for another white powder — cocaine, it had raked up political controversy. The then Prime Minister, Bruce Goldberg had taken a special interest and had ordered a report. The Opposition, however, claimed a coverup.

While the crime might seem laughable, the issue is far more severe. The loss of beaches — due to sand theft destroys the ecosystem. It facilitates soil salination, killing the vegetation nearby. In this specific case, it could affect the saltpans, mangroves and limestone forests.

While the police continued to get their faces kicked with sand by the culprits, the case remains unsolved. The 400-metre beach is now reduced to a bare strip of nothing. The locals have been blamed, who use sand for the construction of houses. Still, the scale of the robbery indicates the sure involvement of bigger businesses.

The real loss, however, is to the resort developers who can no longer sell tourists their ideal vacation. What can we say though, life can be a beach.

Written by Siri Rajanahally for MTTN

Edited by Shuba Murthy for MTTN

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