A series of thefts from tourists on Cayman Islands beaches has been labeled an “affront” to one of the “core pillars” of the Cayman Islands economy.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said crimes against tourists risked harming the islands’ reputation as a safe and welcoming destination for holidaymakers. He said everyone in the Cayman Islands suffered when tourists were targeted because it harmed the islands’ image.
He was speaking after police reported a series of thefts over the last 10 days from swimmers at some of the island’s most popular beaches, including Governors Beach, Public Beach, Cemetery Beach and Smith Cove.
In some cases, beachgoers have reported being approached by people who advised them about snorkeling spots offshore, before stealing from them.
Mr. Kirkconnell acknowledged the reports of petty theft and opportunistic crime were concerning for a destination that promotes itself as the safest in the region.
He said, “Stealing personal items from people on the beach strikes at one of the core pillars of the Cayman Islands economy and cannot be tolerated. The Ministry of Tourism strongly condemns such thoughtless criminal acts which harm the good reputation of the Cayman Islands and undermine the efforts of thousands [of] people who are working hard on a daily basis to support our islands’ standing as a safe and welcoming vacation destination.”
He congratulated the police on making speedy arrests in two of the recent cases and said his ministry was working with neighborhood officers and businesses to strengthen partnerships and help prevent crime.
In one case, a security guard at the Westin hotel spotted a man and woman rifling through property on the beach in front of the hotel and apprehended them until the police arrived. In another case, a man was caught stuffing someone’s bag into his own bag.
And this weekend on Seven Mile Beach, off Boggy Sand Road, a paddleboarder spotted someone searching their bags while they were out on the water. They took pictures of the would-be thief with a GoPro camera and have handed them over to the police.
Nothing was stolen on that occasion, according to Morne Botes, who owns several holiday rental properties in the area. He said two of his guests were targeted on the beach the previous weekend and had their phones stolen. He said the thief had approached two girls while they were paddleboarding and then chatted with their father on the beach, making restaurant recommendations.
“It seemed like a good example of CaymanKind until they realized he had stolen their phones,” he said. Mr. Botes is part of a group setting up a neighborhood watch in the Boggy Sand area.
He said: “It seems like they are targeting people while they are in the water paddleboarding because they know they can’t get back to shore very quickly.”
He believes there needs to be more warnings for tourists not to leave valuables on the beach, potentially including signage and lockers in some locations to allow swimmers to safeguard their belongings when they go in the ocean.
One reader wrote to the Compass claiming he was approached on Cemetery Beach by a man who advised him to “swim out further” because there was lots of “pretty coral” to see.
He said he was suspicious of the man and ignored his advice. He later saw him chatting with another couple and then stealing from their bag after they went in the water. He said he chased the man and retrieved their keys before the would-be thief escaped on a bike.
Police are advising beachgoers to leave their valuables out of sight in locked vehicles, to leave someone on the beach to protect their belongings, or to swim with a waterproof pouch for valuables.
Jim Mauer, manager of the Westin, said the incident on the hotel’s beach was being treated as a one-off. He said his security team had acted swiftly and caught the thieves in the act before they had a chance to steal from anyone.
“We don’t see this as a big issue for us,” Mr. Mauer said. “This is the first time this year we have had an incident like this and we pride ourselves on making sure our guests are safe and secure.”