The Cayman Islands can fight a rising tide of violent crime with a combination of the “big stick and the olive branch,” according to the man behind one of Jamaica’s more successful crime-fighting schemes.
William Shagoury, the keynote speaker at a Crime Prevention Seminar in Grand Cayman last week, said the Cayman Islands needed to deal swiftly and strongly with its gang and gun problems before it escalated any further.
A coordinated community effort involving youth leaders, social workers and business chiefs as well as police, is needed to deal with the issue, he told an audience of senior police officers and business leaders at the Westin on Thursday.
Mr. Shagoury, who heads the Clarendon Crime Prevention Committee, said his organization has been able to reduce violent crime from an alarming rate of three murders a week to around five or six per year.
He said the results were achieved through a zero-tolerance approach from police and courts to violent crime, with offenders caught quickly and jailed for long periods.
But he said this was combined with community schemes creating entrepreneurial opportunities for young men, such as chicken farming and fishing, and helping them to succeed.
He said the template of bringing together community figureheads from different walks of life is one that Cayman could replicate to cut wasted dollars and help identify and stamp out crime before it reached another level.
He accepted that Jamaica’s situation is very different from that in Cayman.
“We have a lot more problems and a lot less funds,” he said.
And he believes a combined community effort could almost eradicate violent crime in the Cayman Islands.
“When the people decide they have had enough, that is when you are going to be able to deal with this kind of crime.”
Speaking of a recent spree of armed robberies, he said gun crime has the potential to have a devastating economic impact.
He said people need to recognize that they are the ones who suffer and not wait for government or police to sort it out.
He said initiatives like gun amnesties are rarely successful and insisted the onus is on the public to tell the police what they know.
“My personal opinion is that the people in the community know who has the firearms. If they feel their livelihood is being threatened they will start turning in those people.
“People have to buy in to this. They have to understand the economic impact of serious crimes.”
He said Jamaica is suffering in comparison with Barbados and Trinidad because it has not focused enough attention on education after independence in the 1960s.
The consequences, he said, are an illiterate section of the population, “children having children” and poverty that fuels gang crime.
The causes of crime usually stem from lack of education and drug abuse, he said.
“It is not just a problem for the police. There are a lot of people working in different areas with a lot of knowledge. You need to bring them together to share information and come up with solutions.”