It was ‘just a burglary’

When you talk to people in Cayman about crime, many will tell you they’re really worried about “all the murders and all the robberies”.

But the crimes that are more common than any others over the past several years here are burglaries and thefts.

In fact, according to statistics reviewed as part of our ongoing crime series, an individual’s chances of falling victim to a burglary in 2010 were nearly 10 times higher than that person’s chances of being involved in a robbery; that’s even with a large increase in robberies and a significant drop in burglaries seen in 2010.

Perhaps because they are so common – almost two a day according to police reports over the past several years – burglaries don’t tend to get as much attention in the press as other, more shocking crimes like homicides, robberies or rapes. The press can sometimes make the generalisation about the crime that occurred, saying it was “just a burglary” and unworthy of much attention.

Tell that to Theresa.

“Since that happened, I only can sleep like three, four hours a night,” she said. “I’ve been waking up, every noise I hear I think somebody’s breaking into my house.”

The accountant and mother of a four-year-old had her small George Town house broken into on Friday, 1 April. She just moved a month before from West Bay to a neighbourhood she hoped would be safer than the one she was leaving.

It was one of two burglaries that occurred on Theresa’s street that day. Her neighbour’s house was also broken into. Both Theresa and her neighbour – we’ll call him Carlos – agreed to speak with the Caymanian Compass on the condition that their identities and those of their children would be shielded. So we’re not identifying the individuals or the street they live on.

They’re scared because the burglars came back the very next day and broke into another house on the same street.

It wasn’t just a burglary after all, it seems.

Carlos, a civil servant in the Cayman Islands government, had been driving around that morning listening to Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines talk about crime on a local radio station.

“And I just came home and find out my house was broken into,” he said.

Theresa was notified by her husband about the break-in at Carlos’s house and came home to find her own home in pieces.

The suspects had taken a plasma TV, a laptop, two cameras, some video games, jewellery and other things she hasn’t been able to locate since the burglars struck. She estimates about $5,000 worth of stuff was taken.

But that was the least of her concerns.

“They had gone into the clothes in the closet and the clothes in my drawer, my personal, intimate interior clothes,” Theresa said. “They had rubbed all over them, they had touched them.”

It was so disturbing to have someone rifling through her clothes that Theresa said she actually ended up throwing some of them away.

“I did throw away some of them, but I didn’t throw away some because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” she said.

Theresa, her husband and her four-year old son live in a one-bedroom home and aren’t rich. That made what happened on 1 April harder to bear. But she said the hardest thing has been dealing with her four-year old, who doesn’t quite understand why this happened.

“My baby had a psychological impact,” she said. “He mentioned to me that he would like to be a policeman when he grows up so he can go after the people who broke into our house. To be honest; being a mother, its made me think about our children in this country….especially those that come from honest, hardworking families. They are struggling as hard as they can to bring food to our tables every day.

“I had to sit down and explain to him point-by-point. I had to say ‘this is what happened, this is why the house looks like this, this is why we are missing our items’. Then he mentioned to me that I can go and take a rest and then he will look after me, and then the following day he was going to rest and I can look after him. That means he’s worried.”

So is Theresa.

The next day, late at night on Saturday, the family heard someone else breaking into a vacant house near theirs. Apparently, nothing was taken. The suspects just came in to use the bathroom.

In his house, where he lives with his wife and three children – all the kids are younger than 10 – Carlos said he lost about $3,500 dollars from what the burglars had taken.

“I had to spend a lot of time explaining to [the kids] why we don’t have a [Nintendo] Wii game system anymore,” he said. “Now, I can’t afford to buy it…it’s too expensive.”

Carlos is actually trying to save up some money to buy a bigger house for his growing family. He said his wife is now asking him whether they can move out.

“But I hear about all the robberies and burglaries….where do you go?” he asked.

He’s now sleeping with a machete next his bed as well as a flashlight.

“My oldest [child], he offered not to sleep at night to take care of the house…and I told him no you need to go to school,” Carlos said. “He has won the student of the month certificate…he’s one of the good kids.”

Carlos’s oldest boy said he’s scared to sleep at night: “I have lots of nightmares; I wake up three or two [in the morning] sometimes.”

Neither Carlos’ nor Theresa’s family was sure about what they were going to do in the wake of the break-ins. Theresa said she truly understands why people in Cayman are so concerned about crimes occurring.

“Any type of crime, for me, is crime. It doesn’t matter if it hurts more, it doesn’t matter if there’s a weapon used…crime is crime,” she said. “The police or the government institution or the entities that handle crime, have to put a stop on crime. They can do; being such a small island it’s something they can do.

“We cannot afford to lose that because of a bunch of people who don’t want to do anything, just lazy people…just to want to rob someone else’s property. If it doesn’t happen sooner or later, somebody’s going to get damaged and as a citizen, we have to take the law into our own hands.”

Carlos said he believes the problem revolves around educating kids properly and bringing them up. He uses his own children as an example.

“People are saying here that….mostly the society in Cayman thinks that you need a lot of money to educate your kids,” he said. “Look where I live, I live in a one bedroom with three kids…we can’t afford luxury. We have one car.”

He proceeds to pull out a ream of ‘student of the month’ awards his two oldest children have won over the past year or so.

“This is what I get from my kids…they are in the same school as everyone else and I don’t have the money. This idea that your kids need money to do these kinds of things, that’s bulls**t man.”

According to RCIPS stats, there were 556 burglaries reported in 2010. That’s actually the lowest number of reports the police service has seen in the past five years.

Just burglaries.

Click here to read our Compass Point Crime feature