Readers should not disregard or diminish the importance of today’s front-page story regarding the recurring incidents at Coe Wood Public Beach in Bodden Town. As a country, we will do so at our own peril.
This matter goes to the very heart of what is currently the gravest threat to our overall tourism product, as well as posing a danger to what has been one of the Cayman Islands’ signature selling points for individuals seeking to buy property – the peace, tranquillity and safety of these islands. Next to our natural beauty, the security of Grand Cayman is our most valuable asset, and we must constantly maintain it, lest it be diminished.
Cayman’s world-famous Seven Mile Beach is often the first choice for visitors who come to our shores, but repeat visitors who are more familiar with the islands know Coe Wood Beach well. Those seeking an authentic Caymanian experience frequently head “out east” to visit the Grape Tree Cafe beachside restaurant, check out the blow holes and pitch a blanket on Coe Wood or any one of a number of smaller beaches in the general area for a quiet afternoon away from the hustle-and-bustle of the West Bay Road corridor.
The fact that visitors and residents have been able to enjoy their leisure time anywhere on Grand Cayman without fear or having to be cordoned off in an “all-inclusive” resort, has always been one of our country’s greatest attractions.
However, when hoodlums, drug dealers, users, and other unsavoury individuals congregate with impunity on a public beach, the vast majority of decent people – be they tourists or local residents – will go elsewhere.
Thus, a corrosive and predictable pattern is set into motion: Property values decrease, lawlessness increases, and neighbourhoods begin to deteriorate. The downward spiral begins.
It doesn’t take serious violent incidents of crime to lead to such a situation. If families perceive a location to be dangerous and deteriorating, they will fear it – and avoid it.
Judging from what we’ve seen in recent weeks, Coe Wood Beach, particularly at night, is not safe.
Cabinet Minister Osbourne Bodden’s suggestion that private security guards police the area is preposterous and, we believe, purposely so. Why would a small island ever need to hire private security guards for a public location? Shouldn’t a police force of more than 400 officers have the capability – and, more importantly, the will – to patrol regularly and effectively one of Grand Cayman’s major public beaches?
The police must elevate Coe Wood Public Beach to the status of a priority. The Caymanian people, the good citizens of Bodden Town and our on-island guests deserve it – and The Compass demands it.