The rise in violent crime is putting the future of tourism at stake, according to the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
‘CITA has never spent a lot of time on crime prevention,’ said association president Stephen Broadbelt. ‘Now, all of a sudden, crime’s gone from not even being on our list to the top of our list.’
Battered and bruised by global economic crises, members struggling to recover are deeply concerned that the fallout from the crime wave could wipe out the heart and soul of Cayman’s uniqueness.
‘The biggest competitive advantage we have over other islands in the region is the safe, crime-free reputation that we have,’ said Mr. Broadbelt.
He adds that everyone knows what’s been happening over the last six to 12 months and once that reputation is lost, it is lost forever.
‘Damage has already been done, particularly to those people who come here two or three times a year and are more likely to hear or see what’s going on.’
With Cayman’s image soiled and bragging rights as the safest place in the Caribbean hanging in the balance, the tourism association is calling on government to take action.
‘The private sector, especially the tourism sector, wants to see the lawmakers of the country review and improve the laws that they give police the power to do what they need to do to fix this problem,’ Mr. Broadbelt said.
Longer custodial sentences or other penalties for convicted criminals are a few of the things CITA members feel would curb crime.
Acknowledging that changing laws and legislation takes time, Mr. Broadbelt said for now prevention is the key, but cautions that from a tourism standpoint there are limitations.
He said he was strongly opposed to armed officers on the beach, which he believes would result in ruining a tourist’s vacation experience, but favoured officers on regular beach patrols.
According to police commissioner David Baines, it’s already happening.
‘Where possible, we have already been doing beach patrols’, he said. ‘The other bit that many people will not have seen is the beach patrols that are routinely done during the night time, because of the proximity to the condos.’
He says burglary patrol officers and condo security guards are currently working together and the guards now conduct early morning beach patrols themselves.
Mr. Broadbelt wants to see efforts continue but is aware the police face restrictions.
Mr. Baines backs that statement, saying ‘I can understand why tourism wants to have a smart looking police officer walking along the beach,’ adding the recent crime wave is not isolated to the Seven Mile Beach area and increased police presence is needed everywhere on the island.
Mr. Broadbelt said the Cayman Islands Tourism Association will continue to closely monitor the situation ‘and will continue to make as much noise as possible and highlight what is at stake.’