Murder of Two British Men in Sarasota Isn't the Best Tourism Ad for Florida

Categories: Crime
birtmurder.jpg
James Cooper and James Kouzaris were found dead in a public housing project near Sarasota.
Residents of "Knifecrime Island" might become increasingly wary of traveling to the "Gunshine State." The brutal murder of two British tourists in Sarasota has shocked the United Kingdom, and now the country's media is stirring the idea that maybe Florida isn't such a safe place to visit.

For a state that relies heavily on tourism, and at a time when the dollar is weak against other currencies, this isn't a good thing. But many of the problems the British press mentions are the same issues that at times make Florida a less-than-nice place to live and, oddly, that politicians don't seem to be addressing.

James M. Cooper, 25, and James Thomas Kouzaris, 24, both from the UK, were found dead early Saturday morning in the impoverished Sarasota neighborhood of Newtown. (As a side note: Originally, British media reported the murders happened in Miami.) How they ended up in Newtown remains something of a mystery. The men's families deny they went there to buy drugs, and no drugs were found in their bodies, while some reports suggest the two might have been victims of a robbery scam. Either they entered a car they thought was a taxi, driven by someone with the intention to rob them, or they accepted a ride from someone who had ill intentions.

But police know who killed the pair. A 16-year-old boy has been arrested. Sarasota Police have shot down British media reports that the murder was part of a gang initiation, but there are reports the boy had been released from prison just ten hours earlier after being jailed for firing a gun at a car.

Whatever the case, the incident isn't likely to increase tourism in Florida.

Hugh Hunter, a British vice consul in Florida for almost 10 years, went on the BBC this morning to warn Britons of the dangers of the state. While he reminds viewers it's quite rare that tourists actually end up dead, it's not uncommon in Florida to be driving in a good neighborhood and then suddenly, after making a wrong turn, end up in an impoverished area.

Anyone who has driven around Miami-Dade knows that. Think, for example, how quickly Coconut Grove transitions from a tourist-friendly neighborhood to a destitute area.

Telegraph writer Andrew M. Brown takes the connection a step further and blames income inequality in Florida.

"This appalling story serves as a reminder to British people, more than a million of whom go on holiday to Florida each year, of the way in which American society differs to ours," he writes. "Especially in the southern states, the U.S. is still a very divided, not to say segregated, society. People are starkly separated by wealth and class, and by race.

"There's a tacit acceptance there that a chunk of society exists in a different world, riddled with crime, wretched and without prospects of escape. I doubt if many of us in Britain would be comfortable with that degree of social segregation."

This is all more or less true, and while Florida politicians continue to pursue tax cuts for the wealthy while making cuts to social services, it's unlikely the vast income inequality and disparity in crime between neighborhoods in Florida will end. We can't pretend any longer that such problems don't affect Florida's biggest economic engine: tourism.

As long as Florida is not a nice place to live for even the poorest, it won't be the safest to visit for even the wealthiest.

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49 comments
roger
roger

We spend our holidays in Sarasota since 1991 and nothing wrong happened to us. It's a really safe and quiet place. As tourist we are fully satisfied of our choice and we still love this sunny place. That is, we do not forget that  there's no place where security can be insured at 100%. Roger - Paris France

Nicole
Nicole

This could happen anywhere it's not just florida. There is bad neighborhoods anywhere and everywhere you go,you just have to have the common sense to avoid them.

Julian Munoz
Julian Munoz

Are you people forgetting what Miami went through in the 90's? Remember tourist being killed what seemed like every other week in 1993. I think it was 7 separate murders in one year. That was a real international slap to the face. People feared Miami was done, no more tourist would dare come. The early 90's were still high crime times, we were just out of the really violent 80's.But Miami survived. Miami came out of the 90's brighter thane ever. It was still an international headline for months. I'm sure Sarasota and Florida will make it through this shameful episode. I wouldn't blame the tourist or the city of Sarasota. Just make sure this kid gets what he deserves.

FloridaSucks
FloridaSucks

I'm amazed at the people blaming the tourists for being in a bad neighbourhood when they shouldn't have been. Obviously you've never been to a foreign city and accidentally wandered into the wrong area. It was 3am and a Saturday night, they were on holiday. No prizes for guessing they were probably drunk. It's classic just-world fallacy, blame the victim and call them stupid so that you can feel safer in the world because you would never be that dumb.

Pizzaholic
Pizzaholic

I lived in Downtown Sarasota for almost 15 years (moved away 5 years ago). I'm not surprised that after drinking on Main Street,that these two guys would walk to what they thought their next destination would be, such as an all night restaurant. It would be the responsible thing to do (rather than driving after drinking). Late night eateries are not common in the downtown core so if they were walking to the IHOP on 12th Street and US 301 that would take about 20 minutes to get there (Main Street to 301). I'm also not surprised if they ventured on side streets for a shortcut that they could quickly became disoriented and end up in a bad neighborhood. The streets North and South are numbered, but east and west they are named, it can be confusing. I've gotten turned around on those side streets myself walking home from peoples houses before. Without addressing the underlying causes of poverty or trying explain the senselessness of this crime, I can say that when I first moved to Sarasota, people warned me not to venture North of Fruitville Road at night,when partying on Main Street. The best advice when visiting areas you dont know is to be aware of your surroundings, and ask locals for advice before striking out.

Manny
Manny

What a croc, there are negihborhoods in Paris and London that you do not want to walk alone at night. People get mugged and worse.

Brsse
Brsse

Florida is a bad with alot of crime not a day goes by you will read of a child being murdered or raped and abused the state has alot of problem,

Matthew Earl
Matthew Earl

Well, these two were found dead in an impoverished part of Sarasota. Now, why would any tourist step foot in a dangerous part of town? Go ahead UK, blame Florida for all its poverty and crime issues. No one said this state was perfect except for you idiots glamorizing Florida as this wonderful getaway attraction you see on TV and ads. The fact is, Florida is one dangerous place and its full of criminals. Now, as for them blaming Miami, that is probably the only city they (British) know of in Florida. Go figure.

markybel
markybel

If two black men in their 20s were shot in a white neighborhood it would be a called and prosecuted as a hate crime. Sharpton and Jesse would be up in arms and the media would talk about it for weeks incessantly. In Boston a black Harvard professor is arrested for refusing to provide ID to the police and the president has a beer summit in the White House so we can all just get along, no one hurt, no one killed, just the bruised ego of an elitist black Harvard professor.

Two young, unarmed white men are killed in a black neighborhood and Kyle twists it around to justify it because the poor murderer didn't have enough opportunities.

The 16-y.o. murderer had every opportunity. I've seen pictures of him and he looks well-fed and quite healthy. From the time he was born he gets food stamps, free lunch at school, free medical care and subsidized housing. All at tax payers expense. He costs around $10,000 a year to educate ($120,000 through high school) in comfortable air-conditioned classrooms with well-paid teachers. I bet he didn't attack and murder the tourists for a loaf of bread, to get that broken trigger finger set by a doctor, or to fund his studies. He probably killed them to get money for that $500 phone, $200 pair of jeans, or some new bling.

That you can turn a couple of blocks and be in a lower-income neighborhood tells you how well integrated our cities are, not like in other countries where the poor are on the outskirts with few municipal services. Here such areas have paved streets, twice-weekly garbage pick-up, sewers, sanitation, hot and cold running water in the homes, street lighting, access to public transportation, free busing to school.

If anything went wrong here is that a thug with a criminal record was turned lose to commit murder.

Rtb_100
Rtb_100

if you tax the rich at 100% do you really believ it would make a difference for the underclass? you'd be giving them more money to make bad choices with

Hugh Downs
Hugh Downs

I remember this happened to Ernest Borgnine.

#Handmade #Soap
#Handmade #Soap

has shocked the United Kingdom and us here in Brazil and all over the world

Cam
Cam

I disagree slightly with Telegraph wirter Andrew M Brown with reference to the disparity between rich and poor in the United States versus the United Kingdom. I am writing from London and though there is a greater emphasis in the UK for social welfare programmes and a collobaroative approach to socioeconomic divides as a whole, there are definitely 'no go' areas here too. A stone's through away from Westminster is Lambeth where 60% of the population live in socail housing estates. There are few shops, bars, pubs etc. and if you're a tourist at night casually strolling along the River Tmaes you could easily find your way into this neighbourhood. I saw someone trying to break into a flat in daylight for crying out loud! I think its unfair for the British media to paint a picture of America as a failed society because we here in Britain aren't that far behind!

TimKug
TimKug

they simply didnt have a better contact to buy weed from. got scammed .. got dooped. America is a land of free .. you can be poor and live in an impoverished area or in a wealthier neigborhood. Either way there is not municipal order to be rich or poor it is strictly up to the people. Unlike in Britain where people are born into one of three classes in which they remain for the rest of their lives no matter what they do. in the US you can become anything .. it is stricly up to you. These unfortunate tourist were perhaps misled by Hollywood garbage movies insinuating it is easy and safe to buy drugs in the US. Sad.

Crzuncop
Crzuncop

My uncle, an 85 year old retired US Navy Commander with dementia, was murdered in his hi-rise condo while his wife (also with dementia) wandered around for two days until their caregiver arrived. Ten years later, my nephew at age 19 was murdered by street thugs that wanted his motor scooter. On each occasion, the criminals were minorities from a nearby island nation. The victims were all white, well-to-do, and upstanding and loving people. WTF...why is everyone afraid to say that most street thugs in Florida are people of color - minorities, drug pushers and immigrants from that certain island nation that is about 80 miles off the coast. Murders do not deserve life in prison (where they enjoy free meals, drugs and all the sex they can handle). They need to be PUT TO SLEEP like we would do a rabid animal. PERIOD!

Stevebarrows
Stevebarrows

This story is all over the UK headlines (I first picked up on it in "The Guardian"), and went searching for local Florida coverage - of course, Brits may still figure that Florida's a safer bet than Mexico...

jonnnny
jonnnny

Really! C'mon ppl 2 Brits going into Negro town at 3;30 in the morning? You think the 2 were sight seeing! Easy targets to be mugged! and shot!

Gsuarez
Gsuarez

What a load of liberal bullshit! Whicj coincidentally is the sole cause of this crap in the first place. It's definitely not taxes which, I can bet, this 16 year old nor his parent ever paid. Why don't you ask some real questions like what judge let him out? What kind of parent allows a 16 year-old felon out at 3AM with an illegal weapon? What are projects and how are they formed? FYG buildings do not make a ghetto, people do! I guess by "income disparity" the writers of this garbage are just telling taxpayers that they aren't paying enough! As far as "income" is concerned perhaps those who've envisioned the great section 8 and welfare society can enlighten us as to what would be considered a decent wage for an uneducated 16 year-old who'se probably already fathered 2 kids, with a rap sheet a mile long. Should he be renumerated the same as a liberal arts professor or as a whiny-assed hack writer who knows squat about reality? At any rate it must be great for a while living like him. Just wake up in the morning, never have to learn anything and act like an animal your whole life. If anything bad happens it's not your fault. You're not responsible. At least not according to an enlightened liberal. You know the type. They're not prejudice because they patronize you like a retarded child.

JOELOVEDO
JOELOVEDO

Maybe they was Gays.in America people kill for love or money and this case I don't know who know what happen to them some time we think people are innocent, many time they're NOT. you never know,god bless their family and friends please don't travel to USA go to Panama City, or Dominican Republic lot OF sexy girl there. Crime is very very low rate, is only gay people who like to travel to USA.

Sob_story
Sob_story

what a load of shit.

being poor is not an excuse to go out and shoot two people in cold blood.

K Wasescha Clifford
K Wasescha Clifford

Income disparity in the US is only slightly worse than Great Britain, which has the highest level of income disparity in Europe. Overall, the crime rate, as measured by Gallup, measuring whether crime had impacted your life, is lower in the US than Great Britain. The violence which occurred in Sarasota is senseless and deplorable, however, the reporter should research the facts before writing an article about whether or not it's safe to visit Florida which is a beautiful place to visit.

edinanmn
edinanmn

Income disparity in the US is only slightly worse than Great Britain, which has the highest level of income disparity in Europe. Overall, the crime rate, as measured by Gallup, measuring whether crime had impacted your life, is lower in the US than Great Britain. The violence which occurred in Sarasota is senseless and deplorable, however, the reporter should research the facts before writing an article about whether or not it's safe to come to Florida for a vacation.

Guest
Guest

Amen!!!! So refreshing to see an article that actually tells the truth as it is.

enough already
enough already

If this guy is so poor, then how come he is able to buy bulllets as well as a sub-machine gun. Oh please, boo hoo hoo he is poor. Also, why is this such a mystery crime. The police should just get it out from the 16 year old one way or another.

Guest
Guest

FYI, a weak dollar against other currencies is a good thing for tourism and for US exports. A strong foreign currency buys more US goods and services.

CaliMel
CaliMel

I feel for the families of the victims here, but to say not to go to vacation in Florida is asinine!

Millions of tourists vacation in the "Sunshine State" every year. If you view this situation statistically, a very small percentage of all tourists are victims of crime in Florida, and fewer yet are murdered.

I lived in this state for nearly 15 years and the only crime ever committed against me was a hit & run and my insurance covered the repairs to my vehicle.

Melodramatic articles such as this serve only those who are not willing to discover for themselves the wonders of this beautiful state.

Artchef
Artchef

I lived in Miami beach for 13 years.I am originally from Milan Italy.The sad part is that alot of young people come in USA and think is Ok to go and buy drugs around town.I own restaurant and this is a such common question " hey where can i get some......".I still believe the should be harder punishment for drug seller and buyers!!!!

Mariataylor
Mariataylor

Who like my post dat i pt on this page . Tel me your name

Shakayla
Shakayla

I feel sad about the two british mens that was killed in sarasota . Wish you luck two british mens i will always bless on your graves.

Kcand5
Kcand5

The 16 year old should be publicly executed like they do in China. With a shotgun to the head. I'll bet that will slow down crime.

Lcole222
Lcole222

16 years old...he is still a Minor the parents should be charged with being stupid as well!

Nate
Nate

Im pretty sure that if i had 5 dollars to my name I still wouldnt kill someone (or 2 ppl for that matter). steal for food? perhaps, MURDER .... I no think so.

JG
JG

The problem is that tourists do not know whom to avoid.

MikeJason
MikeJason

It's pure racial related I'm sure. 16 year old black guy jealous and kills 2 educated and kind white guys.

Cam
Cam

I think you are speaking in a very one dimensional, shortsighted manner. The sentiment amongst several respondents here have included shock, disbelief, anger, and, at times, pure ignorance regarding socioeconomic issues and crime. We may never get the true story and I don't think people should Florida bash because of a very unusual incident which resulted in the murder and death of two British citizens in the USA. I do, however, think America has forgotten about the poor. The difference between rich and poor in America is disgusting and does not occur on that level in Western Europe where there is typically a greater social collective accountability for social issues like poverty and health. In the UK for example we have free access to healthcare which is universal to every UK resident and paid for by taxes. There is a greater emphasis on social housing (though this may change) and on programmes and social security benefits which assist the poor (sometimes for several years). I think in the states when you're poor you've often got nothing to loose. That, coupled with gun crime which is rife in America, is a recipe for events like this to occur. Things like this have happened in the UK, but they are extremely rare.

Matthew Earl
Matthew Earl

What do you expect? They're British media assholes!

agnos
agnos

Not sure where you get your crime figures from Kathleen but on murder alone, the US outstrips the UK at around 5 murders per 100,000 population, with the UK at 1.3. I would have thought that would have impacted on a lot of people. For Britain to have an equivalent or worse murder rate than America they'd need a murder toll of around 3,000 a year. They actually have around 750 - roughly 2 a day. Deaths by fireams in the UK last year were 52 for the whole population of 60 million - 12 of which were committed by one madman on a rampage. The rest were drug killings. Robberies where a weapon, or an imitation one, was used amounted to just 7. Hardly the crime ridden hellhole you imply then?

Gingerly
Gingerly

The author isn't claiming that income disparity is far greater in the U.S. than in Britain, but is merely including a quote about the issue from a British publication.

Further, a poll measuring the subjective impact that crime has had on the lives of the polled is not the same as a study actually measuring crime levels. Nor is such a poll relevant to your point.

anona
anona

Just because someone has the means of acquiring a weapon doesn't mean that they must also be able to afford decent things in life, nor that they haven't been subject to extra troubles due to their lower social-economic status. Poverty doesn't directly cause crime, but lacking a proper education, lacking a parent who is home because they are struggling to make ends meet, etc. all contribute to one's upbringing and definitely have an influence.

If society makes it hard for someone, especially a child, to gain access to a quality education and for their needs to be met, that person is probably going to have a different mindset than someone who never wanted. Society didn't take care of these poor children, rules aren't meant to protect them, so why should they play by the rules or follow social norms? Hopefully, most people aren't affected that way--but who are you to deny that some are?

It's a terrible thing that anyone murders. And murder is not excusable. But a shitty slot in life is probably going to bring out the worst in people, and no child is at fault for their socio-economic status.

Whofarted
Whofarted

The crime is not a mystery. The mystery is how they ended up in the projects.

Mrdumont3133
Mrdumont3133

These guys were not sellng drugs. They apparently were wlaking to an IHOP and took teh wrong road into the slums and were shot for no reason but meaness.

artchef
artchef

I forgot to say that I feel very sad and sorry the two men killed and their family

Colin
Colin

Hardly. The problem is just what the article said. Social stratification, and the corrupt and inefficient system that let the would-be killer out of jail, etc. I might be exaggerating some, but the entire state of Florida is a lawless wasteland.

KGA
KGA

WTF are you talking about how the hell do you know what these guys intensions were or what they were doing in that area. Everyone is playing down the the fact that they may have been trying to buy drugs but what the hell were they doing there at 3:00am ?? lookig for a IHOP yeah rt ! I'm British and lived in Fl for 15 yrs and even on my first visit would go wondering off in the midle of the night on foot to look for a friggin IHOP they were on the prowl for some party favourites a fell foul of a bad individual ..it wasnt fucking racial asswipe ..."Jealous" have you been living under a fucking rock?

Matthew Earl
Matthew Earl

And how exactly do you know they were black? Have any evidence or proof?

Matthew Earl
Matthew Earl

That explains the high amount of crime in Miami. When I lived down there, it seemed no one game a shit about the poor community but then they go about blaming a specific group of people and target them. Well, many down there do not have the slightest clue of what socioeconomic issues are. The gap between rich and poor in Miami is disgusting. The poor community down there does not even have a chance and we all know the rich get richer there. Miami is a city for the rich and if you are poor living there you are going to have a hard time living there. But the politicians have only made it worse down there by not putting any affordable housing or creating more jobs for the needy community. This huge "condo boom" has only polarized Miami's working class communities, and in return, you are going to see higher crime rates. Its one thing to blame and target a specific group of people until you know the reason behind it. That is why I cannot stand the blind sheep coming on here pointing fingers at a community. The idiots posting on this website seem to be the same idiots posting on the Miami Herald comment sections. Blind, ignorant, racist, bigoted, clueless, ill-informed, uneducated and classless people on here post things that they dont have the slightest clue about. It just amazes me.

CaliMel
CaliMel

Colin...what part of Florida have you been to to classify this state as lawless wasteland?

JG
JG

For a tourist it matters not *why* things are as they are. All that matters is that they *are* and behavior must conform to reality.

Brsse
Brsse

I go to Florida a dozen times a year and it has alot of issues I will be in jacksonville tuesday night I think to many old people and to many drugs and alot of child abuse no respect for humanity nor for the young

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