EDITORIAL – The problem with crime in Cayman

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.

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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.

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  1. And the police need to be ready for the spread of international terrorism which will certainly follow the growth of crime and the criminal underworld. The crime wave has got to be stopped, by reenforcing the police and empowering the police, not by hobbling and shaming them. Caymanians won’t be exempted by ISIS, the next airliner bombed could be in the Caribbean.

  2. As beautiful and welcoming as Cayman is, it simply is not Mayberry and this is not the 1950’s. We all need to understand that even in an idillic place like Cayman, in this century we must all be aware of our surroundings and be personally responsible for out possessions. Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife are no longer patroling the streets to protect us, our loved ones and our property.

    It amazes me how many times I see shoppers in the grocery or other large stores who leave their purses in shopping carts to chase after a wondering child, or to pick out an item 25 or 30 feet away. It would take an instant for someone to snatch her purse or wallet or cell phone. Once the deed is done, the victim, would wonder who would do this to me?

    Unfortunately, we all need to be ever vigilant, whether at home our on the beach. You are responsible for yourself and your family first. Take care, take caution and remember there are always people who want what you have…. no matter where you are in the world. Sorry, but that is just a fact of our world today so take the time to be vigilant. help yourself, help the police and help our wonderful island to be as safe as it can realistially be.

    • Rodney:
      I agree.
      But how exactly is one supposed to be vigilant or defend oneself if one is having dinner in an outdoor setting and three armed, masked thugs storm onto the premises demanding you hand over your possessions?
      The only way I can imagine is not to be there in the first place.

      And THAT my friend is the problem. We’re not talking about purses being snatched from supermarket trolleys but boys who think they are big men because they hide behind masks and big guns.
      Boys whose mamma won’t tell on them.

  3. It is the culture of silence that is making the job of the police impossible. Crimes happen, people know who did it because suddenly some jobless layabout has money to spend or a cell phone or TV to sell. But no one says a word.

    The concept of holding up a restaurant while it is doing business and robbing the customers as well belongs in Honduras or Columbia not Cayman.

    It doesn’t take long for a bad name to spread and people to go elsewhere. For many years Pensacola, Florida has had a flood of wild spring breakers having just too much fun. After last year the city past some tough new laws prohibiting, among other things, alcohol on the beach.
    I am not defending public drunkenness but word got around that Pensacola wasn’t a fun place anymore.
    This spring break it is almost empty. Business is down 90%.

    Just what happens to Grand Cayman if our tourist business also drops 90% because of a reputation as an unsafe place to visit?

    • Good question. The time to take precautions is before something happens and an over reaction occurs such in Pensacola. Thoughtful planning for public security should be done before a crisis occurs. Governemnt should act rapidly to plan realistic controls for the safety of residents and visitors. Government should then rapidly act to implement those plans making sure there are ways to fine tune them if necessary before unanticipated consequences occur.

  4. A fish rots from the head down.

    Job Duties of a Police Dispatcher (from a random internet search) involves gathering relevant information, including:
    The exact location of the incident
    The nature of the call and the urgency of the call
    The parties involved in the incident, including their names, ages, build and appearance, and clothing
    If the incident is happening now, or if the caller is reporting an incident that happened prior to the call
    The presence of any weapons or firearms
    The presence of any injuries
    As the caller relays the information, police dispatchers transcribe the information into a computer system that records all of the data.

    Are there written instructions for a police dispatcher in RCIPS?
    Another question. Is the person in question on a paid leave while being investigated? What is there to investigate? The lack of training and written instructions on how to do a job?

  5. Unfortunately the damage has already been done. Many people I speak to about visiting the island have no intention of going.
    They have done their homework and are aware of what’s been happening. There is way too much crime in every area now to ever feel safe. Those who have enjoyed their Cayman vacations in the past have seen and heard enough. In addition, they can travel somewhere else where the prices to stay are much more reasonable.
    And CUBA is coming.

  6. Mr Editor
    I think you have nailed a few truths in this piece. Sadly, the underperformance that you identify is endemic throughout the Islands public offices, take any Government department and you will find people that simply don’t do their job, safe in the knowledge that they cannot be disciplined or fired. This is seen most at public facing front office level, but is actually indicative of bad management, those that are supposed to train and then monitor performance. It is interesting that there are two moves to investigate or censure the RCIP at the moment, sadly, one represents a serious front office failure to activate a police response, and the other represents an attempt to throw blame at the RCIP for failure to save people at sea, when the blame lies elsewhere.
    At the same time, and in one of those petitions, there is a suggestion that part of the solution is to appoint a Caymanian to the senior police post, yes, of course that is desirable, but you have to have the right person, look at the last attempt to do this! That brings us back to the general problem throughout the civil service, jobs for life, bad management, and lax performance levels do not lead to a natural band of people trained and competing for advancement. So, part of the solution is to cull those that cannot, and those that can’t be bothered to, do the job they are paid for. The funds then exist for their replacement by those that can, thats what the MLA’s should be debating, not a “no confidence” vote!

  7. The Compass said: “…Going from there, he must identify every single “underperformer” (or worse) in the police service and weed them out….”

    How long has the COP been on the job? Let’s not be in denial. The COP has been and abject failure in regards to the above. If he hasn’t accomplished the above by now, why would there be an expectation he could do it in his final year of service?

  8. I welcome the reminder that almost all crimes committed here in Cayman are perpetrated by Caymanians. As an ex-pat, I get really upset with the constant mantra that outsiders are to blame for all of Cayman’s problems. Anyone recall the FOI data from early 2015 about the number of residents with criminal convictions? 20% of the total population had a criminal record. According to the latest statistics, 57% of the population is Caymanian. As those on work permits have to show a clean police record to enter the island, therefore, it must be assumed that almost all of the 20% with those convictions are Caymanian. That makes around 35% of Caymanians have a criminal conviction, making the local population one of the most criminalised in the world.
    It’s about time the denial ended and the good people of Cayman decided to clean up this mess by no longer tolerating this anti-social behaviour, taking illegal activities seriously, respecting the laws and the police, and speaking up rather than keeping quiet and hoping to get a share of the ill-gotten gains. Lawlessness, violence and corruption seem to go hand in hand with laziness, incompetence and an entitlement attitude. Wake up everyone, and please, do something to stop this continuing to escalate before Cayman becomes more like some of the other destinations where people are afraid to leave the cruise ships.

    • @Susan Weeks
      A very good point about how criminalized the population of this country is. Total crimes per capita number might have potential visitors jaws dropped.
      @Norman Linton
      Totally agree. What is the point of living in so called paradise if you can’t have a dinner on your front porch?
      Honestly, I see no solutions. This country population is too small for anything to work. May be few generations down the road people’s mentality will change, but I doubt it.

  9. The problem with crime in Cayman .
    I think that there are too many elements of this issue for one to be blamed for.
    I think we need to look at what causes crime , we have corruption , then poverty , then we have incompetence , then we have denial .
    When we have all of these things factored in to the problem , then who can we blame ?

    When we have many people sharing these elements of the problem we all have to come together and clean it up .

    Please correct if I am wrong , didn’t we have a major problem like this many years ago , and the Governor brought in a special British task force that didn’t have to answer to the Cayman Islands Police department, and the mess was cleaned up . Why can’t we do this again ?