Dealing with crime

| 12/10/2009

Forty years ago I was working in Nassau for RoyWest (now Coutts) and watching my bosses help prepare Cayman to take Nassau’s place as the leading Caribbean tax-haven. What a success it has been.

All the air-conditioned offices and cars, all the diverse nationalities, all the native Caymanians with First World education… all those and more are evidence of how well the bankers’ plans worked out.

Ah well, all good things come to an end. Whether Cayman’s good times are over just yet is not certain; but at the very least they are on hold. Our prosperity is under serious attack. We have no prepared defence in place, and we may have too many enemies to cope with.

The world’s high-tax governments are apparently trying to close down our tax-haven. The swine-flu scare might badly hurt our tourism numbers. Longtime government financial mismanagement and imprudence will hit everybody’s pockets for several years to come, whatever band-aid may be applied in the short-term.

Our latest enemy is a surge of street crime and burglary. It caught our authorities off guard. As with the attack on our tax-haven, we had no prepared defence in place. The surge shouldn’t have been a total surprise. After all, disrespect for the rule of law has been common for decades. It’s taken the small-brain delinquents this long to catch on to how profitable it can be, that’s all.

Crony-corruption is not new. It has allowed Cayman to become an important link in the drugs traffic between South and North America. Tolerance of licensed criminality is part of the heritage that society passes on to its youngsters as they grow into adults. It’s where they get their disrespect of authority.

Here’s a thing to bear in mind when judging young muggers and burglars: most of them would rather not be working the streets. They aren’t desperate for money any more than the householders are who steal from their helpers, or the companies are who steal from their migrant workers, or the office workers are who steal time from their bosses by running personal businesses while on the bosses’ payroll. It’s just that the muggers and burglars have limited opportunities to do their work in comfort.

(Naturally I don’t mean ALL householders are thieves, or ALL companies, or ALL office workers. If I had meant ALL, I would have said ALL. Those hyper-sensitive souls out there who keep trying to catch me out in this sort of thing: give me a break.)

Cayman’s various criminal activities are a complex problem, and any solution must take the complexity into account. Actually, there are plenty of ideas on how to solve the problem. Hire more policemen, and arm them; make prison less comfortable; make sentences longer; allow the Police to be more brutal; allow householders to own guns and use them against burglars; scrap all human rights. Yeah, well.

There are plenty of explanations for the latest surge in crime, too. Bad parenting; disrespect for authority; poor education; modern music; foreign cultural influences; illegal immigrants; the decline of Christianity; a shortage of youth facilities. And so on.

Identifying the causes must come first. Only when that has been done will it make sense to devise a long-term solution. All the public explanations mentioned above are indeed factors, but they don’t tell the whole story.

The essential root cause of the current bout of lawlessness is the longstanding disrespect for the rule of law in Cayman. This disrespect has grown with the Islands’ population and wealth. It has never been limited to young tearaways, and did not originate with them. It may have inspired them, however.

When a householder short-pays his or her migrant helper or gardener and gets away with it, that illustrates to the children of the household (and all their friends) that “the law” protects the strong and not the weak. When the householder arranges for the migrant to be deported for asking too persistently for the back wages, it reinforces the message. Muggers and burglars often don’t move in the same social circles as deportation officials, but they understand the principle involved.

Disrespect for the law exists at all high levels of our society as well as at the lowest levels. Some members of the latter go out and mug strangers for a living; some members of the former stay in their offices and mug their sponsors for a more comfortable lifestyle. The principle’s the same, isn’t it? So come on. Let’s not pretend that our rebellious youth invented crime in Cayman. Let their elders set a better example for them.

Also, let’s not hold it against our youth for being bored. Here’s an idea for our new rulers to consider: give all school-leavers a thousand bucks and a backpack, and ship them off to Europe for a year. The experience would prove to them that they could cope with life even where their birthright entitlement didn’t count.

When they came back – those who did come back – they would compete on truly equal terms with expats for local jobs. No glass ceilings for them. They would have found and dealt with enough challenges to last them a lifetime, without shooting anybody.

You can’t beat that for a deal.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Your argument is spot on Gordon, but apart from the backpack and 1000 bucks do you have any more viable solutions??

    How about each company doing business here with 5 or more work permits educate a Caymanian child (not achild of Cayman) who must make and maintain a 3.0 GPA or above.

    How about this young person returning to work during the summers for this same business for nominal salary if any at all.

    How about this business employing this Caymanian upon their return and mentoring them to fill a position held by one of their permit holders?  

    Not exactly a new idea but it would be a breath of fresh air if it was implemented.

    Until companies have more "skin in the game" with respect to investment in Caymanian human capital, Caymanians will be always be sidelined; Case in point is the difficulty of law graduates not being able to find articling positions among local firms.

    • Anonymous says:

      "who must make and maintain a 3.0 GPA or above" 

      I would agree with you, but you also must realize that is less than 10% of children in school (high school and community college).

      "nominal salary if any at all"
      Again I would agree with you, but how many people have offered to work for free (or nearly free) at their place of choice and been turned away?  Very few if any ever I would suspect.

      The real solution is two fold.  First you must take away the entitlement mentality (yes it does exist for some, but not all Caymanians).  Second, once the first is accomplished, the business must make it a part of the work contract.  However, that business must use what the expat says about the potential employee, and it should not be guaranteed. 

      What would be more useful is to give a "bonus" to those expats that train a Caymanian to take their place.  Afterall, if a formal education takes 4 years of not working (no income), and a cost to government of lets say $20,000 CI, why not offer the expat $10,000 CI (half the cost of the education) if they successfully train a Caymanian to take their post.  Seems logical to me and helpful to the Caymanian (they are not trained) and to the expat (they have a bonus and have done a good deed).  Thoughts?


  2. Curious George says:

    Great article, and a must read!  You are absolutely right about it being boiled down to disrespect.

    Let me give you two examples, that most would just overlook, but boil down to exactly what you are talking about.

    First Example: I see cars parked on sidewalks all the time, with no respect for the people who use the sidewalk. What happens when you park your car on the sidewalk and a wheelchair needs to get by?  They just have to go the street and pray no one hits them.

    Second Example:  I have seen (with my own two eyes) people deciding that any small corner in downtown GT is a toilet.  I have seen this and it disgusts me that people have no respect for themselves or anyone else.  This hasn’t just happened once or twice, but several times.

    Small disrespect will cause very LARGE social issues. 

    • Eye 4 Eye says:

      If some moronic a-hole choses to block a marked and mandated pedestrian right of way, the pedestrian has the right to attempt to move the vehicle. 

      My suggestion – try pushing it off the sidewalk with a key – walk up and down until successful.  If not – perhaps the worthless little ignoramous who put it there will get the message. 

      Now onto the selfish prix who think rain, or the inability to read justifies using a handicap parking space. 

      And the Zero-IQ residents at Lakeview Villas ("Located at the base of Cayman’s highest peak) on the bypass who cannot read the no-right-turn signs coming into their complex from the north or the same exiting to head south.  Are they really that thick?  I cannot wait to see the day one – or with luck, more – are t-boned by a semi.  Is a couple of minutes out of your way worth your (and maybe someone else’s) life?  Actually, yes, a few less dumb-a$$es on the road would help us all!!!


  3. Anonymous says:

    Must not agree with Gordon,  grrr, even if it he seems to be right, grrr, must reply, grr, but cannot find way, grr, of calling this racist, grrr, maybe I will just do what I usually do, grrr, call him a racist anti-Caymanian anyway, grrr, and hope my fellow posters jump on the bandwagon.

  4. noname says:

    Go deh! Gordon as normal you know what is going down crime is almost hereditary and a right of passage for certain classes of our society who never get punish, not to mention prison for sinister criminal acts. Yet they like to see when the lesser people are routinely incarcerated for long periods of time to make the public have this false sense of security. Only to be shocked to reality when outrageous crimes are committed. To top it off when our Magnificent Police Service who suffers from the same systematic and endemic problem are powerless to act

  5. Anonymous says:

    There are four reasons for our crime wave.  One is external, namely the recession.  The others we must take responsibility for laziness and greed of the young here and the terrible education they received.

    Crime is a choice not a result of circumstances.  Let us make no more apologies for these scum.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Spot on Gordon but I suspect it may be misread or someone or something will be found to place the blame.

  7. Anonymous2 says:

    Gordon you are so off base it’s unbelievable.  It’s greed to blame.  Parents aren’t home to take care of their children because they need to work to make ends meet. Wouldn’t need helpers if parents could stay home and take care of their children. 

    Now the real reason besides the reason above.  You talk about disrespect for the law so here is why: the police are corrupt and the politicians are behaving like children in a playground, etc etc.  Also, how many parents are speeding and slow down when they see the police? The police lets them off with a warning cause that me friend , brethern whatever term they wish to use.  And yes, I consider that corruption just like turning a blind eye to people playing numbers or buying and selling them yourselves.

    • o.c.m. says:

      You may wish to reread Gordon’s argument a second time.  It attributes crime to the very same reasons that you do.