Anti-crime proposals off base

I hope all of Cayman’s politicians and senior policemen have read your superb editorial Prudent restraint toward crime (Friday, 30 September.)

Yes, it was a good thing for the Chamber of Commerce to ‘stand up and be heard’ on the issue of crime. But their 18 proposals are indeed a worrying over-reaction. You were right to warn against the danger of the cure being worse than the disease. We should not be willing to trample human rights in order to control a relatively few criminals.

Four of the Chamber’s 18 proposals are specifically anti-immigrant, and six more are in common use in other countries as a means of harassing immigrants. That is bad news.

Let’s be clear about one thing. Our crime problem will not be solved without the cooperation of all our immigrant communities. (The cooperation of all segments of our ethnic-Caymanian community too, of course – that goes without saying.)

We must not blame immigrants for all the crime in Cayman. We must not tolerate ethnic prejudice.

We need to mobilize all of Cayman’s ethnic groups in the ‘war’ against crime, and it is crazy to exclude any of them – as is being done now. God knows there is a mountain of mistrust to climb already without our building it higher. The resentment generated by decades of misguided immigration practices must be dissipated, before it is too late.

The words of a 1960s civil-rights protest song come back to me as I write this letter. Bob Dylan chanted: ‘Keep a clean nose. Watch the plain clothes. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.’

Jamaicans and Latinos in particular, don’t need to be reminded which way the wind blows.

ROLE MODELS

Cayman’s criminals are drawn from all of our ethnic communities – no exceptions. Some of the criminals are violent; others prefer corruption, greed and exploitation. It will not be much help to us in the long run if we restrict our attention to the violent ones alone. After all, once a criminal serves his time as a foot soldier, he graduates to management. Then, after a bit of judicious money-laundering, he goes legitimate, and in time comes to be regarded as just another successful businessman.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s not draw any moral distinction between low-class muggings and middle-class corruption. Any business or community leader who owes his rise to corrupt or criminal behaviour is a role model for thieves who haven’t yet made the grade.

That opinion is not going to sit well with every single reader of this letter. But it is true, and we all know it’s true. The only surprise is seeing it in print.

Here’s something else we all know. It is going to take a whole lot more than a six-month campaign to solve our crime problem. It will take two or three generations, at the very least. Why? Because we have to deal with two or three generations of criminals.

Right now we are worried about today’s criminals – young thugs in their 20s and 30s responsible for the violent crimes, and (usually) older individuals responsible for the corruption and exploitation.

Even if we can sort out all those crooks, we will in time have to face down tomorrow’s criminals – who today are aged 16 to 20 – and later those who are now aged 12 to 16, and then those now aged eight to 12 and, later still, those now aged four to eight.

LITERACY

For in our society there are some children aged four to eight, whose parents are today neglecting them to the point where they will become criminals just as soon as they are old enough. They are ill fed, ill disciplined and often ill loved. Those who are in school (these prospective criminals, I mean) are ill homeworked and illiterate.

Where are Cayman’s literacy and numeracy programs for either children or adults? Business firms are always grumbling about children entering the job market who can’t read, write or add up, and about employees who can’t sensibly be promoted beyond lower management levels. What are the firms doing about it?

A dozen or so years ago a Chamber of Commerce Education Committee prepared an adult-literacy campaign, which was cancelled at the last minute to leave the field clear for a promised Community College program. But the College backed out too. So nothing was done at all. The Committee’s plan for a pre-school program fell away at the same time, for lack of support.

Well, sooner or later we are going to have to get 100 per cent literacy in Cayman, and we ought to be starting right now. Instead, we are asked to look at some cockamamie local witness-protection program (#11 on the Chamber’s list).

Come on, people! There’s only room for one witness at a time in the Fosters Food Fair clown’s costume, and where else can they hide? Maybe we can ask Steve Manderson next time he’s out. You know?

Let’s get serious.

Gordon Barlow

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