Today’s Editorial for August 15: Crime not happening in a vacuum

The Cayman Free Press and six other George Town businesses were the victims of property damage and/or burglaries that occurred early Thursday.

We could easily write an editorial denouncing the criminals who committed these acts and whinging about our lost laptops, iPods, money, etc. but we’ll leave that to other publications.

The people who make their home in the Cayman Islands have known this moment has been coming for a long time.

Aside from the overnight burlgaries, George Town has seen at least three robberies at businesses this month and a burlgary along the waterfront at a jewellery store.

It’s becoming a rarity that the country doesn’t see some sort of criminal act, or horrendous car accident, or both, occur on the weekends.

We realise it’s very easy to blame the police for “not doing enough” to prevent crime, or blame “a culture of crime” that was imported from somewhere, and surely, there are at least some merits to these suggestions.

But there are larger issues that those who make these statements are missing, issues of neglect and issues of personal responsibility that this country must begin to address if it is to avoid the lawless path of many of its Caribbean neighbours.

1. Education – The current Minister of Education has made great strides in attempting to procure world class facilities for our children. But, in the end, those kids must be encouraged at home to make the best use of them. If they don’t, this country will be forced to bring more and more expatriates in to cover the gaps and keep its economy going. Without a proper, modern education in the information economy, our children’s futures will be hopeless. That hopelessness will sometimes manifest itself in burglaries and thefts, or worse.

2. Proper policing – The Caymanian public, as well as foreign residents, have lost confidence in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. Judging from some of the antics and lame testimony we’ve seen in court recently, we’re not surprised. Being a police officer must be a professional occupation, with proper pay and proper training. Our officers go through a 12-week training course before they’re put out on the street to serve a two year probation period. It’s not enough. The RCIPS also needs to pay officers more. When the starting salary is below $30,000 a year, you’re not going to attract the best recruits. Police departments around the world are having trouble recruiting, and most of them pay much better salaries than we do.

3. Role models – University presidents who allegedly use school-issued credit cards to buy $50,000 worth of jewellery, former government ministers who scream curse words at police officers; these would generally not be thought of as good role models for youngsters. But the kids are seeing what the grown-ups are getting away with and might think “why can’t I do it too?” Frankly, we’re not seeing too many reasons why they’re not entirely justified in having that opinion.

4. Personal responsibility – It starts at home. Parents who make excuses for their children’s wrong-doing. If you learn at home that you can get away with anything, why shouldn’t you believe you can do it outside the home as well? Constructive punishment is not an outdated ideal. The islands’ court system may want to take notice of this as well.

Caymanians, particularly of the older generation, may be appalled at what they’re seeing now in the islands. But it is the end result of a long slide in public education, policing standards, a lack of role models and the absence of personal responsibility that are, indirectly or directly, leading to the crime problem we’re seeing today.