Getting serious about Cayman’s serious crime

“Armed robberies plague popular tourist venues” — The headline could have been ripped from the pages of the Jamaica Gleaner, Nassau Guardian or Trinidad Express.

But it’s not. It’s from Monday’s edition of the Cayman Compass, and that is what is truly shocking.

Our story details a recent string of brazen, violent crimes targeting businesses and people in downtown George Town and along the Seven Mile Beach strip, in addition to the bevy of break-ins and burglaries occurring with frightening regularity across Grand Cayman.

Here are but two chilling examples that occurred last week:

Last Monday just before 11 p.m., two masked armed robbers walked into Da Fish Shack on North Church Street, robbed a customer of cash and a cellphone, stole a cellphone from an employee, and absconded with the bar’s cash register.

Last Thursday at about 11:30 p.m., (again) two masked gunmen barged into a local business, this time Coconut Joe’s on West Bay Road. They threatened and robbed customers and staff of cash and possessions.
Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam called on the government to combat the increasing number of aggressive crimes against people and property, saying, “A line in the sand must be drawn. Everyone in the system has to do their part if we are to defeat the scourge of criminal element that is growing today.”

Mr. Moxam is correct – to a point. We would add, however, that when those gunmen strolled cavalierly – handguns brandished and cowardly faces shielded from cameras and witnesses – into those two popular establishments, any “line in the sand” that could be drawn was crossed right then and there.

To anyone whose livelihood depends on Cayman’s ability to lure tourists and foreign professionals – and that, indeed, is everyone in this country – the fact that those gunmen, along with the perpetrators of many other recent crimes, remain at large and roaming freely, should be both frightening and unacceptable.

Once Cayman loses its reputation for being a safe place to live and visit, it will be nearly impossible to re-establish it, ever.

There is no justification for authorities not to address Cayman’s serious crime problem in a serious way, and right now. The heads of our country’s criminal justice system must work effectively, efficiently and, most importantly, in a coordinated manner. There must be commonality of purpose – and resolve.

All four pillars of the criminal justice system must cooperate and coordinate their efforts. In fact, here are four “musts”:

  1. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service must step up its visible presence within the community – particularly in areas heavily frequented by residents and tourists after dark – and focus its efforts on violent crimes, those that involve guns, physical harm and threats to the populace and its possessions.
  2. The Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General’s Chambers must prosecute violent offenders aggressively and expeditiously.
  3. The judiciary must ensure that cases are handled quickly and that convicted defendants receive sentences appropriate to the severity of their crimes.
  4. Prison officials must be prepared to cope with an influx of inmates resulting from this “tough-on-crime” approach. Given the level of crime in this community, we may need to construct more Northwards.

Whatever resources, support or legislative changes that the four entities can justify in order to do their job effectively, they should receive immediately. Those resources, should, however, be linked directly to demonstrable results.

In the long term, of course, being “tough” is not enough. To get to the root of Cayman’s crime problem will require a far more complex and sustained effort, involving, for example, education, employment, social services and rehabilitation.

Immediately, however, we must demonstrate zero tolerance for the crimes (and criminals) that are currently creating the headlines. To date, the response to the growing cancer of crime in Cayman has been soft and sociological, largely rhetorical, and certainly ineffective. That must change, beginning now.

1 COMMENT

  1. Are we sure now that police hands are not tied behind their backs; because the majority of police I know are very vigilant in their no nonsense approach.
    There are many police officers with good ideas how to combat these crimes, but we have to hear them out. What is happening is not good so my two bits would be that we revisit the way we have been doing things and come up with a strategy, including the police; that will nip these crimes in the bud. This time of year if we recall it always happens. So what are we going to do, sleep and expect the police to be sitting on door steps with a flashlight and a baton?. Give them the encouragement and fire power they need. Then let them know ye have their backs.

  2. According to Wikipedia the Cayman Islands has 56k population, 102 sq.miles and 343 sworn RCIPS members. Do the math. How many sworn members per 1 sq.mile? One would think that with 3 sworn members per 1 sq.mile or 1 per every 163 people the so called illusive criminals, (don’t forget that everybody knows who they are), could be easily and effortlessly eliminated with eyes closed. Why aren’t they? That is the real question. Everything else is just an empty talk.

  3. Twyla hit it right on the nose. Unless the police are considered a force to be reckoned with these guys are going to do as the please. Right now they have no fear of the police or law abiding citizens. I am sure that in their mind Cayman is by nature a meek and easy target. Even if there are more patrols on the street what are they to do if confronted with an armed robber say freeze or I’ll shine my flashlight in your face. They need to be equipped to stop these guys in their tracks. The days of wait until the crime has been committed and then investigate it needs to be put to bed and replaced with the serious possibility that you will be put down if you commit these types of crimes. Freeze or I will shoot is the answer and if they are bad enough to shoot back then no trial should be necessary.

  4. All these circles in sand talks, unarmed businesses/residents arguments, slow or non-existing police response complaints are just that they are- empty talking. You won’t be allowed to arm yourself tomorrow. RCIPS won’t change tomorrow or ever. I am puzzled why RCIPS members are so inept. Are they really that incompetent or they are just playing being dumb game?

    There appears to be a well established and probably smooth way of storing and transporting stolen goods out of the Grand Cayman. There is no market for stolen goods on this island. This calls for an organized operation which can’t exist without someone in power closing their eyes on it and being part of it.

    When Mr.Miller says Everybody knows, nobody acts; when catch and release game seem to be played here on a regular basis; when criminals that were taken with red hands go free for a lack of evidence; when criminals escape after robbing banks in a broad day light in the busiest district with only 1 or 2 escape roads, one with an average IQ finds it at least interesting.

    Another point, that sounds crazy even to me, who benefits from the atmosphere of fear on this island? There is something else going on, on a bigger scale.

    Few mighty men could easily pinch this crime bud to prevent it from blossoming. But they don’t and won’t. The question is why?

  5. In this age of instant news communication, crime stories can go viral like Aruba and the Natalee Holloway murder. That nightmare story stuck to Aruba for years and one would be nave to think the crime in Cayman goes unnoticed by prospective visitors. It has always surprised me that the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t been more vocal about crime in Cayman.

  6. It seems Cayman is going to let this growing crime trend continue unabated. Eventually it will become so severe action may be taken, unfortunately it seems that will not occur anytime soon. I, like some other investors I know, are going to hold off further investment in Cayman until I am assured Cayman will be safe for residents, visitors, and tourists alike

  7. Yes Michael, that is one of the reasons I moved here over 30 years ago.

    But all is not lost because it is a handful of people in Grand Cayman who are doing this.

    I have said before what needs to happen pronto:

    1. A serious reward for information leading to a conviction. 100,000 would be my suggestion.

    2. Immunity for anyone who injures or kills a criminal while they are committing a crime.

    3. Right to bear arms for limited number of individuals and / or trained security guards.

    4. Really tough sentences for all involved. Including those who knowingly harbor or conceal them.

  8. Unfortunately, L. Bell is right. Police agencies in the States have quadruple the population and half the officers. So why are we still having crime? Because the RCIPS is so unorganized and inefficient that they can’t keep up. Staff isn’t organized properly to have enough officers on the road. Too many special units that spend millions on incidents that never occur. Too many Proactive units that only focus on road blocks and don’t respond to emergencies. Burglary teams that just take cold reports. With all of these specialized teams it doesn’t leave enough officers on the road and available to catch the criminals in act. All it takes is re-organization in the department and start sending officers out to actually patrol.

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