Today’s Editorial for February 9: Just the facts

The release of police
crime statistics for 2009 is expected to reveal that overall crime
actually dropped in the latter part of last year.

However, the release of these facts
may do little to calm fears in the Cayman Islands that high profile criminal
incidents, including murders and robberies, are on the rise and that
residents here are just not as safe anymore.

If the numbers are saying one thing
and public sentiment another, Cayman may indeed be experiencing what
Police Commissioner David Baines likes to call the problem
of perception. That is, the perception of crime is outweighing the reality
of what is occurring on the streets.

The commissioner has been somewhat
critical of late regarding media headlines that he alleges are making
the perception of crime in the community worse.

Mr. Baines may not have been in
Cayman long enough to know this, but there was a time when the Islands’
media – the Caymanian Compass in particular – were derided by the local
population, and sometimes the wider world, over the perception that they
covered up anything bad that happened here.

Now, it seems the Compass and other
media organisations are getting static from the same public that once accused
the Cayman Islands media of covering up the news.

Serious violent crime happens
throughout the world, and many, many other jurisdictions have far greater
problems with it than Cayman.

Yet criminal acts, particularly in
a community unaccustomed to those acts, are absolutely newsworthy and it
is the duty of independent news organisations to report those events in a way
that means something to people who read/see/hear them.

These are not scare tactics or
newspaper selling devices designed to ruin the Cayman Islands, as some have
suggested.

Rather, they represent what should
be the day-to-day labour of journalists in any free society; that is, bringing
people the news and information that matters to them.

We can’t help but wonder if those
who complain about alarmist media organisations are really concerned about
those organisations reporting a bit too much of what is actually happening
today in the Cayman Islands.

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Editors

    Thanks again for a very honest editorial.
    The facts are that there has always been two schools of thought in the Cayman Islands regarding the dissemination of unpleasant news and events in Cayman.

    The approach that was politically enforced over many years to suppress the news that was unflattering flourished in a time when the world-wide electronic media was not as developed as it is today and Cayman was rolling in the ‘dosh’ so the ‘powers that be’ were protecting the islands’ financial and economic interests by enforcing such an approach, or so they believed.

    Those days are long gone but that culture still remains deeply imbedded in the minds and beliefs of many of Cayman’s institutions and residents.

    As mentioned in your editorial,the approach and opinions of the current Commissioner of Police is, to me, particularly puzzling and disturbing and here are my reasons why.

    The COP has seen fit to find valuable time to personally take affront and answer commentaries written by a particular commentator in another publication who has long been an outstanding human rights campaigner in the Cayman Islands, whether we like most of what he has to say or not.

    Mr. Baines comes to Cayman out of the British police services where the European Human Rights statutes are fully in effect and is quite used to media scrutiny and criticism, the British tabloids being what they are and any public criticism in Cayman of his police force would be mild in comparison.

    Also, where as just one example, a very high-ranking Metropolitan Police officer has just been convicted and jailed for four years for misconduct in public office for crimes committed against a private citizen.

    With a Bill of Rights scheduled to be introduced in Cayman in about 2 years time, the actions of Mr. Baines calls into serious question his committment to by now, be preparing the RCIPS to become fully compliant with the European and British rights laws that this Bill of Rights will introduce to the Cayman Islands, by and large.

    If he finds time to chastise private citizens for their personal opinions that are legally protected, what time is he wasting in addressing the serious crime issues that Cayman is facing, in particular the 4 or 5 unsolved recent murder cases?

    There is also the corruption investigations of Operation Tempura and Cealt that the public is waiting on for their official results and which has cost the taxpayers $ 10 million of their hard earned money. Where are the results of the investigations that have been in his possesion for some months now ?

    I believe Mr. Baines owes the Caymanian public much more than his recent letter published would indicate and that the people of the Cayman Islands remain vigilant that the events regarding the abuse of their human rights do not continue to happen and to seek every legal avenue of redress when they do and to continue to hold the Commissioner of Police publicly accountable for the job he is being paid to do, even it means unflatering letters to the press.

    Ricardo Tatum

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