Fear of crime undermining life in Cayman

In today’s newspaper (Page 9), there’s a story about last week’s Cayman Compass online poll, which asked respondents how much the increase in crime on Grand
Cayman had affected the way they live.

Started in 2005, the Compass online poll has never been a scientific survey, and no doubt there’s a large margin of error. However, we have found that the poll does track public opinion fairly well, especially in the tenor of the comments left by respondents.

The results of last week’s poll caught even our critical eye, in that crime has apparently affected the way such a large percentage of Grand Cayman residents live their daily lives. Even more revealing than the objective numbers was the palpable fear conveyed in the language of so many respondents.

Many respondents spoke about the precautions they are now taking – locking doors, installing alarm systems and additional lighting, getting dogs and just being more aware of their surroundings. Respondents also reported several other ways they’re trying to avoid becoming victims of crime, including not wearing valuable jewelry out at nights, avoiding certain places, using credit and debit cards instead of cash, and not picking up hitchhikers.

All of that is probably good advice these days, and it’s the way people in big cities live in many places of the world. However, it’s not the way we’re accustomed to living in the Cayman Islands.

Even more disturbing than the comments about the precautions people are taking were the descriptions of how crime was affecting the way residents think and live their lives.

People are now suspicious of anyone they don’t know, and parents are teaching children to “trust no one.” Several respondents talked about being afraid to leave their homes at night, giving up evening walks and staying locked in their homes with the windows shut tight.

But what came through most was the fear many now feel living on Grand Cayman and how it is diminishing their quality of life.

The Cayman Islands relies on its financial services and tourism industries for its economic well-being. Crime can affect both industries, particularly tourism. One huge differentiator Cayman has enjoyed over its regional competition has always been its low levels of crime. If that differentiator erodes or disappears, then the Cayman Islands will face hardship like it has never known.

For weeks now, employment issues have dominated the radio talk shows, online forums and the debate in the Legislative Assembly. We suggest that everyone read the story that appears on Page 9 and ask themselves if, as a matter of urgency, the main topic of discourse needs to change.

To borrow one of Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush’s favorite metaphors, making the unemployment issue the most important topic of conversation is like fighting fire ants while being trampled by elephants.

By many measures, crime may be the biggest elephant the Cayman Islands is currently facing.

1 COMMENT

  1. I sincerely believe that it is too late to do anything about the fear of crime undermining the way we live any more. Every one living here will need to accept that Cayman has changed; and not for the better. I can remember just five to ten years ago I would walk the beach at nights for exercise until one night I was terrified to come upon a man sitting at the waters edge chanting to the moon. I decided then to do early morning walks only to suddenly come upon a car parked on a beach road at 5:30 am with one man sitting inside and two others leaning up outside. For fear I just kept walking and was too afraid to return to my car. People are even afraid to shop at nights because there is no security in the car park. My life and many of my friends have changed to the tune of never going any where to a social event or dinner unless there are at least five to ten persons including male back up, and making sure that everyone leaves at the same time. It is very sad that this has happened to my island, and there is nothing to be done, and never believe that all is well and you are forever safe going out at nights alone. No it is not, don’t do it.

  2. Good article. Ever since Ivan, our Condo Complex on 7 Mile continues to experience break in’s even as recently as this summer. A large group of renters had their ipods, computers and other items stolen while they slept. It doesn’t look good on our Complex or the Island. Its too bad we have to secure all our windows and doors each night or risk a break in. This never used to be an issue or happen pre Ivan!

  3. Excellent Article. We should all know by now that Cayman is no longer the safe haven it used to be. A lot of people like to blame it on expats and imported labor, if that makes you sleep better at night more power to you but the jails are not filled with foreigners. One big issue I see is that the bad seeds here are not afraid of the law, and most people do not believe that the RCIPS are in a position to protect them, hell what is an unarmed cop going to do in the face of an armed robbery. There’s even be incidents of cops getting over powered by someone wielding a rock. I don’t think it’s to late to get ahead of this but in order to do it Cayman needs a police department that is a force to be reckoned with. Even home alarms don’t do much when it takes the RCIPS two to three hours to get to the scene of the crime and we all know what they will do if they catch someone in the act, it has been proven to be fact that the policy of the RCIPS is not to fight crime but to investigate the crime after the fact. Right now the only force in Cayman to be reckoned with is the criminal element that’s slowing taking control. They are better organized and better armed then the RCIPS. So in a nutshell what we have is a population of people who are not allowed to protect themselves and a policy force that not equipped to do it. This is also why most people are not willing to turn in the people that they know are committing these crimes.

  4. Great editorial…

    but when since has conditions not changed in Grand Cayman, that these and other precautions should not have been taken years ago…crime in Cayman is nothing new.

    If people refuse to accept the reality of life and that reality then comes along and slaps them in the face, who can they blame but themselves.

    Most crimes committed are crimes of opportunity…take away the opportunity and the crime does not take place.

    There is one inconsistency in this article and that is trying to seperate the issues of crime and unemployment.

    They are not necessarily, at all times linked but no one in their right mind can totally seperate the two either.

    Granted, the point of the editorial is addressing crime and its impact on Caymanian society.

    Maybe Caycompass could turn its brilliant editorial skills into an article addressing the impact of unemployment on crime ?

    Now that would be one for your readers to savour.

  5. When I arrived to this island, back in 2008, I immediately noticed that crime was starting to peak, as per the news reports. The Cayman Islands did and continues to incur in the same catastrophic mistake Mexico City did in the late 80s: ‘oh well… it’s just petty crime, nothing terrible’ was said back then. By the mid 90’s we were facing kidnappings, even of really poor people, violent crimes against people and property, rapes and murders included, all over the place, etc. Things have significantly improved, but have never become the same.

    People are ultimately defenceless against crime. Private gun possession would be catastrophic, indeed, and the USA statistics, in despite of being twisted back and forth by the pro-gun lobby there, do not lie. But there is other self-defence non-lethal protective weaponry whose purchase and ownership by law abiding citizens could be studied and authorized.

    Petty crime (not that petty nowadays, clearly) is a gateway to more violent and pervasive crime. It is time for the adequate governmental bodies to analyse the works of Zimbardo and the Broken Windows paradigm, and establish a tougher approach to crime prevention and control, before it is too late. And, perhaps, also to allow individuals to own the necessary devices to practice non-lethal deterrence and defensive actions for the protection of their personas and properties.

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