Some time ago, Compass publisher David R. Legge, along with co-author John McCormack, wrote a book titled, “Self-Made in America.” The first words of the book were:
“Denial. Ask any psychologist what the major obstacle to recovery is, and the likely answer will be denial. It’s fundamental. Until you admit there is a problem, you can’t begin to solve it.”
The Cayman Islands remains in denial about many issues, including the problem of crime. Our homes and businesses are becoming less secure, our courts are jammed beyond capacity, and our prisons are overflowing (the majority being Caymanian offenders). Yet, the routine response from many in our community is that almost all of Cayman’s crime has been “imported” from other countries, and that Cayman is the safest place in the Caribbean.
The first part of that statement is pure fiction, the second part is likely true (thank Heaven).
Accordingly, we regard as supremely troubling the two recent high-profile crimes that occurred at Alfresco restaurant in West Bay and a private residence in North Side. The armed robbery at one end of the island, and the home invasion at the other (both involving tourists) are emblematic of the high-profile (meaning public) criminal activity sweeping across the island.
Let us be clear: The crime issue, at root, is not now, and never was, a police issue. It is a social issue. Some people use the occasion of crime as an opportunity to castigate the police. Such a response is totally misplaced. Police come in to mop up the mess — after it has been made. Opprobrium, first and foremost, ought to be directed at the people who commit crimes, not those who are called in to solve them.
Nevertheless, it is a duty that police must perform with efficiency, integrity and professionalism.
By any of those standards, the response from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to the home invasion in North Side was, to borrow a phrase from the police, an “abject failure.”
It is simply inexcusable for an officer to receive a phone call from a victim reporting a crime, and then essentially to hang up on them without providing assistance, alerting other officers or even recording that the phone call was received.
Police Commissioner David Baines took proper action when he personally apologized to the homeowner, who seemed to accept it and who, other than the delay in the start of the investigation, appears to be satisfied with the police response.
What Commissioner Baines must do is ensure that the non-responsive officer is disciplined appropriately. But that is not enough. Going from there, he must identify every single “underperformer” (or worse) in the police service and weed them out. A bad cop is as bad as a bad teacher. Everyone knows who they are, and they have got to be removed — not moved laterally or “retrained.”
In 2014, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean argued strongly for more police officers and resources to be dedicated to their districts. Mr. Miller requested adding $1.3 million to the police budget, in part to pay for six officers to cover North Side and East End.
We seldom agree with Mr. Miller, but in this case, he’s right. Our lawmakers must provide whatever resources and manpower are needed to police the eastern districts. They are an integral part of this country and are centers for tourism. Their importance will only increase as they grow in population and commerce.
Generally speaking, the visible response from our police and Governor Helen Kilpatrick has not nearly been equal to the seriousness of the problem or the direness of the consequences.
Cayman’s reputation for safety is far more fragile than our coral reefs — and far more important to the economic health of our country.