Today’s Editorial January 08: Violence taking young Caymanians

The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.

Just as we had finished penning a positive editorial about the recent drop in the number of young drivers dying on Cayman Islands roads, we found ourselves reporting on the first homicide of 2009, less than three days into the New Year.

The victim was 17-year-old Jerome Russell. Another young man who was wounded in the shooting appears to have narrowly escaped death. He’s 22.

It is sad to note that within the past 12 months, there have now been eight people who have had their lives forcibly taken by killers in the Cayman Islands.

It is perhaps even more tragic to note that five of those people were young men between the ages of 17 and 23.

We do not in any way intend in this writing to downplay the impact that the death of Estella Scott-Roberts, 33, has had on the community over the last several months. However, we believe most who know Cayman will agree that the circumstances of her killing were something rarely, if ever, seen before on this island.

We also do not forget the brutal slayings of Frederic Bise and Martin Gareau. These men had families and were well-liked and respected within our community. The impact of their deaths were felt both here and abroad.

But what of these five young men? Josh Hooker, Brian Rankine, Aaron Berry, Mark Jefferson, and now young Jerome Russell are no longer with us.

Police investigating the crimes have said repeatedly that there appears to be nothing linking any of the killings to each other. But, in a more general sense, there may have been.

Three of them were killed in the vicinity of nightclubs during fights that occurred in the overnight hours. Some were, even by the admissions of their own families, troubled young men struggling to find their way.

We’re sure at least some of our readers can remember days of their youth being involved in activities we probably wouldn’t go near today. These are often laughed about later on and told as stories of youthful indiscretions.

But something is different today. Young people are getting into trouble they can’t get out of; becoming immersed in a culture that leads to criminality, without guidance, perhaps even without hope.

Cayman is no longer in the Southwell years, can no longer count on the boys leaving our shores and coming back seafaring men. We have stressed, time and time again, the importance of education in the information economy as the way forward in the future. But it’s clear that message has not reached everyone, at least not yet.

We don’t know what the answer is. But we do know it is not simply throwing young men into prison without hope of rehabilitation or a useful life in society. At last count there were more than 200 prisoners being housed at Northward Prison. Has that improved the crime situation in Cayman?

We believe this can change. But it’s going to take everyone who cares about these islands to do it, and that includes those who are not from here as well as those who are. Volunteer, help, teach, listen. Don’t give up on the youth, because if you do, you’ve given up on Cayman.