A West Bay park area that has become a trouble-spot for crime and litter will be closed between dusk and dawn each night for the immediate future.
Royal Cayman Islands Police last week announced the nighttime closure of Barkers between 6.30pm and 6am as a temporary measure to help alleviate problems residents have long complained about.
The issue suddenly became an island-wide concern following the 10 October abduction and murder of Cable and Wireless Communications Manager Estella Scott-Roberts. Mrs. Scott-Roberts’ body was found inside a burned out vehicle in Barkers after she was kidnapped from a parking lot along West Bay Road.
‘We’re very pleased with the nighttime closure,’ said West Bay Action Committee member Rob Bennett. ‘But I understand it’s just a temporary measure.’
Acting Police Commissioner James Smith told West Bay residents last month at a public meeting that maintaining a continual police cordon at the Barkers entrance near Villas Pappagallo would require exceptional circumstances ‘in the aftermath of a fairly serious series of events.’
On Monday evening, another woman was kidnapped and taken into the Barkers area by her alleged abductor. The 29-year-old escaped physical harm after she managed to get away from her kidnapper and run to nearby Pappagallo Restaurant for help.
No arrests have been made in the most recent abduction.
Three days later, the RCIPS began enforcing a nighttime curfew in the Barkers area of West Bay.
“This decision forms part of a crime prevention strategy in the area and has the full support of the landowners,” read a statement issued by the RCIPS.
‘It’s a temporary crime prevention strategy that we are employing until other measures…can be put in place,’ West Bay Police Station commander Angelique Howell said, adding that the decision to close the area at night will be ‘regularly reviewed.’
On Thursday, the dirt road into and out of Barkers was blocked by a single chain. The area is a heavily wooded section of the island bisected by many dykes.
Police have previously expressed concern about people using Barkers at night for outdoor ‘sessions,’ parties where alcohol and drugs are sometimes consumed. Officers hope the chain will prevent at least drivers from entering the area.
‘I think anybody that wants to go in there certainly will find a way in,’ long-time West Bay resident Loxley Banks said. ‘But there’s more sensitivity to what’s been going on up there.’
Mr. Bennett said he hopes the barrier can eventually be made a bit more robust and permanent. He said the West Bay Action Committee planned to write to some of the private land owners in the Barkers area, asking them to agree to make the nighttime road block permanent.
Police said land owners had responded ‘quickly and positively’ to the closure.
West Bay residents also indicated blocking the road into Barkers at night might cut down on some of the illegal dumping that occurs there.
‘That’s a crime too,’ Mr. Bennett said.
Not all residents in West Bay who attended February’s police meeting agreed that Barkers should be closed off at night. One man who attended the February meeting insisted: ‘No one’s going to close that road off to me.’
However, West Bay Action Committee members believed that both government and private landowners would accept the need to keep the area closed off at night.
‘It’s devaluing their properties, what’s going on there right now,’ Mr. Bennett said.