Last week’s reports of several armed robberies in downtown George Town and along the southern end of the Seven Mile Beach strip garnered the Cayman Islands some unwanted publicity on TripAdvisor, one of the world’s premier travel websites.
However, there were just as many comments on the site noting that the Cayman Islands is among the safest tourism destinations in the world.
The website comments, more than 40 of them posted since Oct. 12, were in response to a question from a traveler in Lynchburg, Virginia, asking the opinion of forum members whether it was safe to walk from the Westin hotel to Aqua restaurant late at night.
“While not alarmed by these recent crimes that have taken place in busy main tourist areas, I am distressed and concerned,” one commenter from Rhode Island, USA, noted.
“I wouldn’t worry about it in the least,” said one commenter from the Boston, Massachusetts area.
“I don’t see how walking alone at midnight is showing any type of common sense,” another TripAdvisor poster from New York, USA wrote. “My daughter moved to the island when she left college a couple of years ago. Of course there is crime, but compared to many other places (even Disney), it just is not that prevalent.”
A number of local press reports about the robberies, including some from the www.caycompass.com website, were contained in a few of the TripAdvisor posts.
Four robberies, including three in high-profile tourism areas on Grand Cayman, occurred between Sunday and Thursday of last week.
Two of the robberies involved popular restaurants, one on the George Town waterfront, another along the southern end of the Seven Mile Beach area. Coconut Joe’s, across the street from the Comfort Suites and Marriott Beach Resort, is one of the longest-serving eateries in the area.
Several bar patrons at Coconut Joe’s had their wallets taken by the robbers on Oct. 16, who also hit up the place for the cash from the restaurant’s register. At least one customer was robbed in the other incident, which occurred at Da Fish Shack downtown on Oct. 13.
Meanwhile, about a dozen daylight burglaries were reported last week from West Bay to Bodden Town last week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., with most occurring in homes while residents were out at work. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said there did not appear to be any connection in the break-ins.
There was also an attempted robbery on Shedden Road around 2 a.m. Sunday, when a man armed with a machete approached three people at what police described as a “social event” and tried to rob one of them. Police were called and arrested a 27-year-old George Town man on suspicion of attempted robbery. The man who was the intended victim suffered a heart attack shortly afterward and was taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital and then to Health City.
The first half of 2014 had seen a slightly downward trend in robberies and burglaries, but there has been a spike in those types of crimes in recent months.
Tourism Minister and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell acknowledged earlier this year that crime, particularly the rare event of crimes perpetrated against tourists, is on government’s radar.
“No visitor wants to spend their vacation in a country where they frequently have to look over their shoulder, can’t wear their jewelry for fear of it getting stolen, or where they don’t feel it is safe for themselves or their family to venture out in the evening,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
“From an industry perspective, we are pleased that when vacationing in the Cayman Islands, visitors generally are not affected by those types of concerns.” Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam said last week that the government response to criminal incidents such as those reported last week had been somewhat lacking.
“Where is the outrage and call for action from our elected government in order to apply pressure and hold persons accountable on behalf of the citizens, particularly when these issues impact every district?
“Unfortunately, we have reached the point where a visible police presence is mandatory in order to potentially deter criminal activity,” Mr. Moxam said.
“While there have been some public meetings organized by the police in the districts, the overall crime prevention strategies and police [tactics that] are being pursued remain unclear to the Chamber Council and the membership.
“There appears to be general acceptance by some persons that this level of crime is the ‘new normal’ and as a country it appears that we are becoming desensitized to the reported increase in crime.”