In the Caymanian Compass of Friday, 2 October, Commissioner of Police David Baines stated, ‘Burglaries tend to be associated with unemployment and people being laid off.’
The Cayman Contractors Association supports Mr. Baines’ statement. We believe that there is a direct relationship between layoffs and burglaries.
Until recently, this has not been a major problem, but since the economic downturn, crime has increased dramatically.
Many members of the public may not know that, until the early 1980s, burglary was almost non-existent in the Cayman Islands. Many of us never even bothered to lock the doors to our houses.
However, in the late 70s, Cayman had its first condo boom and hundreds of foreign workers were imported to make the boom possible. Unfortunately, when the boom tapered off in 1980, many contractors simply laid off their workers ‘until we get another job.’ Many workers remained in Cayman hoping more work would appear. When it did not, some, in desperation, resorted to burglary and Cayman experienced its first small crime wave.
The CCA believes that the present spate of crime is directly related to the present downturn and that layoffs in the construction industry are not a minor factor, but a major one. It is essential that Cayman’s contractors recognise the potential risk to the community when they lay off workers, but take no steps to repatriate them.
In addition to this problem is the fact that there are hundreds of Caymanians who hold permits for construction workers and do not employ them directly. The workers are told to find their own work and, as long as the worker delivers, say, $100 per week to the permit holder, the permit is kept open.
This practice has resulted in literally thousands of free agents seeking work on their own. The CCA has long opposed this practice. Finally the chickens are coming home to roost, as the industry has slowed considerably and, with so many free agents unable to find work, but still legally resident, some have resorted to crime.
The CCA met with Rolston Anglin, minister for Employment and Chief Immigration officer Ms Linda Evans on this matter in the last week. A meeting with Mr. Lonny Tibbetts, head of the DER, is in the works. Each is acutely aware of the potential dangers facing Cayman relative to this problem.
The CCA believes that the level of crime will only increase unless the situation is corrected. We urge all contractors, when they have run out of work, to cancel the permits of workers and to notify Immigration that they have done so. Although it is convenient for us as employers to have our out-of-work workers patiently waiting for future work, our first responsibility is to the community at large. We must cancel permits when the workers are no longer necessary.
Further, those Caymanians who hold permits for free agents must recognise that the free agent practice is unlawful and irresponsible. By holding such permits, they are putting the community in jeopardy.
Government can only do so much. It is our responsibility, as employers to assure that we do not inadvertently contribute to crime. The CCA urges all employers who hold permits for redundant construction workers to cancel them unless they have foreseeable work for them.
Cayman Contractors Association