A dozen burglaries in six months may not sound like a crime spree. But on sleepy Cayman Brac, the statistic is causing alarm, affecting the economy and impacting people’s way of life.
Two detectives have been seconded from Grand Cayman to investigate the series of break-ins, more than double the number recorded in the same period last year.
The Kirk Freeport jewelry store in Stake Bay, victim of an overnight burglary on July 5, closed down last week, largely a consequence of the crime, with the loss of three jobs.
Meanwhile long term residents who have seen their own or neighbors’ homes targeted by burglars are lamenting the loss of the Brac’s status as one of the last communities on Earth where locals feel free to leave doors and windows unlocked.
When senior officers from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service visited the Brac last month, they were met with a crowd of around 50 concerned citizens.
“Crime is relative and numbers are relative, but on the Brac 12 burglaries is a lot,” Acting Commissioner Anthony Ennis acknowledged, saying the two detectives have been assigned as part of a crackdown on burglaries on the island.
Some residents indicated they believe crime was being imported from Grand Cayman, others at the meeting attributed rising crime to substance abuse among youth on the Brac. Many who had been on the island for several years said they were concerned that the Brac was no longer the safe haven it once was.
The closed Alexander Hotel, the Tibbetts Enterprises building materials store and The Kirk Freeport jewelry store are among the businesses that have been burgled.
Gerry Kirkconnell, who runs Kirk Freeport’s chain of stores from Grand Cayman, told the Cayman Compass more than $20,000 worth of merchandise had been lost in the burglary. He said it was the second time the store on the Brac had been hit, and he had taken the decision to close it. He said it was not a profit making store and was kept open until now largely to help support the island’s economy.
“The island has such a small population, someone must know who was responsible,” he said.
Kerry Tibbetts said an elderly relative had been the victim of a theft on the Brac. She said she had seen the woman take cash and had reported it to the police, but had seen no action and heard no update since.
Other residents at last month’s meeting at the Seamen’s Center raised similar concerns about a lack of updates from the police when crimes were reported.
Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said “victim care,” including keeping victims updated on their cases, was an area that police were working to improve across the service.
Residents also raised issues around underage drinking and called for more resources to deal with the issue.
“Youth substance abuse and crime prevention is an area where we want to partner more closely with parents, schools and the community, and we will be looking for ways to do this,” said Inspector Wendy Parchment, area commander for the Sister Islands.
Several residents at the meeting urged Brackers to do more to support police and report crime.
Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, also present at the meeting, said 12 burglaries for the first half of the year is unacceptable. He added, “When the police need support they need to get it. Reducing crime requires three elements: the government, the police and the community.”