The man who formerly had oversight of all law enforcement agencies in the Cayman Islands is now attempting to wage a much smaller-scale fight against crime on his own property.
Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Chairman and former Chief Secretary of the Cayman Islands government George McCarthy recently wrote to the country’s Central Planning Authority stating his belief that burglars had attempted five times within the past two years to break in at his George Town home. The location of the home is not being released by the Caymanian Compass for security reasons.
Mr. McCarthy said he believed the incidents were merely ‘crimes of opportunity’, and hoped his home was not being targeted because of his previous position within the government.
“The thought has occurred to my mind, but I would not want to believe that any of those factors are contributing to the invasion of my privacy,” he said.
“The records of the Royal Cayman Islands Police will attest to three occasions, the damage to the exterior of the house was quite extensive and resulted in significant cost to rectify,” Mr. McCarthy wrote to the planning board. “Fortunately, the burglars did not gain access to the interior of our home.”
The former chief secretary sought to correct the situation by increasing the chain link fence around part of his property from 4 to 5 feet and putting another foot of barbed wire on top of the fence – raising the total fence height to 6 feet.
According to planning authority minutes, Mr. McCarthy did this without planning approval.
He then submitted an application for the 6-foot fence around the back of the property to protect his home, but was denied the ability to do so by the planning authority board.
In its decision, made last month, the planning authority did give Mr. McCarthy permission ‘after the fact’ to have a 5-foot chain link fence. However, it did not agree to allow him the extra foot of barbed wire on top.
“The authority is of the view that a barbed wire fence in a residential area does not provide for a visual appearance that is compatible with residential development,” the board stated in its decision on the application.
Also, members commented that a barbed wire fence in a residential area “creates a perception that there may be a problem with crime in the Cayman Islands” and that this was not consistent with the goals and strategies of the country’s 1997 Development Plan.
Mr. McCarthy, in his letter to the planning board, apologised for “engaging in an act that has been deemed to be in contravention of the Planning Law” but also set out the reasons why he was seeking to put up a 6-foot barbed wire fence.
In the first break-in attempt, which happened in September 2009, an alarm went off when would-be burglars sought to force their way into the door, Mr. McCarthy said. The second and third occurrences didn’t involve an actual burglary attempt, but rather suspicious vehicles parked across the street from the home.
“As soon as attempts were made to approach these vehicles to inquire as to the reason for being parked where they were, the vehicles drove away immediately,” Mr. McCarthy wrote.
In May of this year, someone rang the doorbell of the house at 2.30am. Mr. McCarthy stated he opened the door and heard footsteps moving away. He eventually spotted the individual who rang the doorbell getting into a car which then drove away.
“Following this experience, I took the decision not to place on record another complaint with the RCIP[S] as to do so would not have achieved any meaningful result,” he wrote. “This is not to suggest that I would have expected the RCIP[S] to ignore my report of a trespass unto our property, but having knowledge of the myriad of complaints of theft and break-ins that had by then become the norm within our community, I took the view that this would be one more complaint added to the list of matters to be dealt with by the RCIP[S] and which would remain unresolved.”
The last incident also occurred sometime in May, as Mr. McCarthy was about to leave his home for a meeting. Again, he answered the door and heard footsteps rapidly moving away.
“I then rushed to the side of the house at which point I could see two individuals on the immediate opposite side of the fence with their faces being partially masked,” he wrote, adding it was obvious the two masked suspects had just scaled the then-4 foot chain link fence at the back of the home. Mr. McCarthy said he decided to raise the fence another foot and install an additional foot of barbed wire on top of it.
According to the planning authority minutes, a similar application – this time for an 8-foot fence with barbed wire on top – had been made by another resident who had her home burglarised. The authority agreed to a 5-foot fence with no barbed wire on top in that case.
Regarding Mr. McCarthy’s claims in the letter, the planning board stated, “The content of the applicant’s letter did not satisfy the authority that a barbed wire fence is appropriate in a residential area.”
Since increasing the height of his fence and getting a German Shepherd, Mr. McCarthy said things have calmed down. He also said increased police patrols in the area have helped make the community feel safer.
“I have to give credit to the planning board, the way they have worked with me on this,” he said. “The [5-foot fence] is not an eyesore to the community.”
However, the former chief secretary points out that he now has to keep external house lights on all night, which has impacted his light bill, in addition to repairs caused by the previous break-in attempts.
“It’s quite an unfortunate set of circumstances,” he said.