Five George Town businesses were broken into between Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, and police said it appeared there were attempted break-ins at two others around the same time.
All of the businesses affected in the crime spree are located in central George Town either near the intersection of Shedden Road and North Sound Way, or along Industrial Way.
Police said the five businesses that were broken into were Markson’s Furniture, Cayman Free Press, Watler-Hislop, Ace Paint and Decor and Massive Equipment Rental and Sales.
Investigators also said there were attempts to break into Reliable Industries and the Jacques Scott warehouse, but that it appeared those efforts were unsuccessful.
Officers said the break-ins were likely to have happened in the early morning hours, and that at least four of the businesses were entered after the suspect or suspects broke through the glass of the door.
Watler-Hislop owner Brainard Watler said workmen arriving at around 6am noticed the glass pane in the business’s front door had been shattered. Mr. Watler said it appeared none of the merchandise in his hardware store was taken, but that some office drawers were open and had been ransacked.
Mr. Watler said he had an alarm system installed, but that it didn’t go off until the police arrived to investigate Thursday morning.
“It’s getting so hard to run a business around here,” he said.
Markson’s Furniture was also broken into through a glass door, but again, nothing was taken. Store owner Anna Rose Washburn said some cabinets were gone through and that it appeared the suspects had used a spray to cover up items they had touched to foil police identification methods.
Mrs. Washburn said she actually felt quite fortunate that she was able to re-open later Thursday morning.
“They could’ve slashed up all the furniture in the store, I could have really been in trouble,” she said.
The Cayman Free Press building was entered through a side door, which was also broken out. The entry was reported Thursday morning when CFP Editor Tammie Chisholm arrived at work and saw file cabinet drawers wide open or lying on the floor.
“I became alarmed when I realised the glass had been busted out of a side door,” Mrs. Chisholm said. ‘I called 911 immediately and told the dispatcher we had been broken into. She questioned whether the culprit could still be in the building. When I told her I didn’t know, she told me to get out and wait for the police. I did.’
Some money and electronic devices were taken from the Free Press offices, mainly employees’ personal belongings.
Ace Paint and Decor manager Alva Suckoo said both his store and neighboring Massive Equipment Rentals were broken into. Mr. Suckoo said it appeared whoever did it had been around the cash register, but it had been emptied when the store closed the night before.
“They broke through the glass door, but to our knowledge nothing was taken,” Mr. Suckoo said.
Massive Equipment managers had not returned calls for comment by press time.
Both Jacques Scott and Reliable Industries buildings sustained property damage but investigators said it appeared no one managed to get inside.
“It is possible the culprit, or culprits, were under the impression that security alarms would not go off due to the earlier power cut,” Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief Inspector Peter Kennett said. “However, almost all security systems have a back up system for power outage situations.”
A huge power outage hit Grand Cayman around 6.30pm Wednesday, and the power wasn’t fully restored for roughly two hours, according to officials with Caribbean Utilities Company.
Mr. Kennett said police do know a window was smashed at Massive Equipment around 4.30am, thanks to an alarm system at the business. It’s not certain if the suspects started their spree along Shedden Road and ended up in Industrial Park, or vice versa.
Anyone with information about the break-ins is asked to contact Detective Constable Charmane Dalhouse at 949-4222.
Trouble in GT
The break-ins follow a string of recent robberies and burglaries at George Town businesses in recent weeks.
On 1 August, a pet store employee was tied up in a chair by two robbery suspects who actually assisted a few customers before emptying the business’ cash register and fleeing.
One week later, on 8 August, a grocery store was robbed by a machete-wielding man and that same weekend a security guard was robbed behind the Hard Rock Cafe just after midnight Saturday.
A jewellery store on the George Town water front was burglarised on 7 August as well.
Mr. Kennett said police were looking into whether any of the cases were linked.
“It’s a little early to say for sure if we are looking for the same man or different men in each case,” he said. “We need to identify these offenders before someone gets seriously hurt.”
He also urged businesses to consider upgrading security measures and cash handling procedures in the wake of the recent heists.