Monday, February 14, 2011

Intolerable Criminality (violence in Cayman)

The three muggings of tourists reported last week stirred one or two of our MLAs into action, or at least the rhetoric of action. The Police were embarrassed, because it is their responsibility to protect our community from street criminals. Private tourism-service providers were disappointed, as were merchants and householders.

“Something must be done!” We all cried. Well, something always needs to be done, doesn’t it? Recommendations are flying left, right and centre. TV cameras at street corners, fingerprintings and ID cards for migrants working in the private sector, biometric IDs for overseas visitors, assassination squads, armed vigilantes, helicopters, more policemen, tougher policemen... We have a grandly named National Security Council to make recommendations for the long-term. Better schooling, better parenting, better policing, bigger prisons, tougher prisons... Anybody could write the NSC’s report between the first and second coffee of the day.

The NSC is a bit of a joke, so far – just politicians and their chums. Nobody outside the magic circle knows what they do when they meet, if they do meet. Will its members have the guts to recommend decriminalising the local consumption of recreational drugs? That will show how useful (or useless) the NCS is. Will they have the wit to devise a detailed strategy to improve the quality of parenting, especially among native Caymanians? The prevalence of home-grown young thugs is a predictable consequence of bad parenting.

In a rich and tiny place like ours there has never been a shortage of money to pay for parental training. Even in this current economic decline, government has more money than it knows what to do with; the waste of Public Revenue is as irresponsible as ever. The problem has always been that politicians and voters have preferred government’s revenues to be spent on subsidies and bureaucratic boondoggles like Cayman Airways, the Turtle Farm and the Department of Tourism. In effect, those ventures have been judged to be more important than pre-empting the growth of those home-grown thugs. Say wha’? How could any sane person make such a cockamamie choice?

Yet even now, in light of all the muggings and burglaries, the choice would probably be confirmed. If a referendum were held on whether to re-allocate the money spent on those subsidies and boondoggles, I doubt the vote would favour re-allocation. McKeeva deplores the incidence of street-crime as “intolerable”, but does he really mean it? I don’t think he does. I think it’s political rhetoric. He is a canny politician, and he is confident that his constituents would never vote to allow Cayman Airways and the other boondoggles to go to the wall. They would rather tolerate the crimes.

Some people do think local crime-levels are intolerable – both violent crimes and non-violent crimes such as corruption and theft. But most of us are immigrants who would happily throw CAL & the DOT under the bus, in exchange for crime-prevention measures. We have a different order of priorities. We also tend not to give non-violent crimes the free pass that native Caymanians give them. To us, corruption is equally unacceptable. We know that the culture of bloodline entitlement is a perversion, and that corruption in small things leads inevitably to corruption in large things.

Let’s face it: criminal violence is a tough way to make a living. Most muggers would far rather steal money from the comfort of air-conditioned offices, if they could choose. Who wouldn’t? Mugging and burglary are risky activities; you can get killed doing that. Corrupt individuals are excellent role models for street criminals. It doesn’t make sense for us to distinguish between the two.