Gangs are real

 Although it may be considered upsetting or even alarming to some Cayman Islands residents, we at the Observer on Sunday are encouraged that Royal Cayman Islands Police officers have begun openly addressing the existence of gangs in this country.

Some in the community may consider this to be old news, but the depth and breadth of the problem is one we believe that, hitherto, has not been taken seriously here.

December’s shooting death – the sixth deadly shooting of 2009 – seems to have put an emphatic exclamation point on an issue that is likely to be with us for many years to come.

We would urge those who still have their heads in the sand about gangs to pull them out quickly. That includes some local lawmakers who, for too long it seems, have chosen the path of least resistance. That is, ignore the gang culture, and it will go away.

Our tourism product is very important to our continued success, and indeed our survival. But waiting around until gang problems spiral out of control will only serve to make this country less desirable to visitors. Ignorance is no longer an option.

We would also hope that the general public, if shootings and violent deaths in our streets become more commonplace, does not become desensitised to the issue.

No one should take the view that if the “15 people” responsible for Cayman’s gun crimes (as referenced by the police commissioner in today’s article) are left alone to shoot each other that this will end the violence.

History has shown in societies across the globe that there will always be those who replace the foot soldiers in gang wars. Hatred breeds only hatred. Meeting violence with violence, revenge with revenge, will solve nothing and it will heal nothing.

Cayman’s society is at a crossroads with regard to the gang and crime issue. We at the Observer believe there are those both inside and outside these Islands who are supporting the activities of the young men who are now shooting each other with alarming regularity.

We’re still small enough to eradicate this problem if the will of political groups and civil society is there to do something about it. It’s going to take time, and money; lots of money for prevention and a lot more money for education.

We would also bet such an effort is going to step on some toes and cause a certain amount of upset amongst the community. But if police are allowed to do what needs to be done and get the support they need from the higher-ups, Cayman will be better for it in the long run.