Mark Hennings is beyond outrage. When thieves pulled up to his Crewe Road Cayman Contractors store late Sunday night, making at least three trips to clear out 32 air-conditioning units, a dozen people saw them.
No one called the police. No one called him at home. No one intervened. Now, at least $20,000 out of pocket, he can only splutter at the lack of law enforcement interest in the problem. He has been burgled at least three times, each worse than the last. As far as he can tell, little has been done.
Mr. Hennings has owned Cayman Contractors for 18 years, and been in the metal and contracting business for 20 years. His story is only the latest, but indicates that thieves are bolder, better equipped and confident.
“Apparently, they have no fear of the police. They were here for an hour and loaded their vehicle at least three times. It wasn’t a big vehicle, but the stuff would have filled half of a 20-foot container.”
In the aftermath of the event, he said, three people had reported to him that two of the thieves were perched in the rear of the small truck, holding the stolen units, while at least one more occupied the cab.
“They probably started about 10pm,” Mr. Hennings said, “and left about 1am.” The culprits took 32 air-conditioning systems during the course of the 16 June caper. Mr. Hennings valued the equipment between $18,000 and $20,000.
He thought it unlikely they would turn the haul into scrap because “they can sell it for a good price. They will try to flog this stuff. The mini-split [air-conditioning unit], for example, is a good piece of equipment. It retails for about $400, and they can sell it for $200, maybe $300”.
While Mr. Hennings wondered about the police, he was less critical of law enforcement than of lawmakers.
“I don’t know where the police were. They are supposed to provide law and order, and I’m a little surprised that in an island this small, the crime has not been solved. I don’t blame them, really, though. They are pressed to look after a lot.
“Legislation,” however, “doesn’t exist,” he said with palpable frustration. “Even those little gold shops where they buy anything you bring in to them, have pieces of paper, receipts. It’s a little different, but there are some sort of forms.”
Mr. Hennings is not alone in his concerns for legislation, the need for which has become a groundswell among contractors and traders. Calls for “a paper trail” of vouchers, receipts, bills of lading, transport slips, even the mandatory use of chequebooks to avoid untraceable cash payments have been suggested.
He was unable to say why no one who had witnessed the crime-in-progress had notified police, saying only “people mind their own business, you know. They don’t want to get involved or risk anything”.
The thieves themselves, he said, are no strangers, but “young Caymanian men who have failed out of school, never worked in their lives, second-generation Caymanians who have never wanted to work.
“They are not Jamaicans,” he said, insisting on countering opinion determined to shift blame. “Jamaicans come here to work and to work hard. It’s not them.”