Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Locking the doors and windows (crime in Cayman)

When Cayman’s criminal gangs first began to get out of hand, we began locking all the doors and ground-floor windows when we left the house, and at night. Later, we locked them when we were home upstairs. Later still, we locked the upstairs windows, too, at night. We promised ourselves that if burglar-bars ever became necessary it would be time to leave Cayman. We couldn’t see ourselves living behind barred windows. What kind of life would that be?

And yet, now, today, here we are living behind barred windows and double-locked doors. We got used to it. But what will we have to do next, to protect ourselves and our property? No cutlasses or kitchen-knives, I think. We’re not skilled in their use. The average home-invader, fresh from his gang’s self-defence training, would take five seconds to disarm me of my weapon – and would be all the more angry for my disrespect. There is no advantage in making an invader angry. It doesn’t seem to do any good anywhere else in the world.

(When I started on my travels with Linda in the Near and Middle East as a young man, I used to carry a knife in a sheath on my belt, thinking it might be a disincentive to prospective muggers. A fellow traveller told me that in the areas I was headed for a knife was more of a provocation, and that if my skills in a knife-fight were inferior to a challenger’s I could end up dead. That made sense. Thereafter, my protection was a rolled umbrella with a rough-edged point. Umbrellas aren’t threatening, and they’re useful walking-sticks. And, I did once brandish it while chasing a mugger who had snatched Linda’s handbag; I didn’t catch him, but he dropped the bag!)

There is an ongoing debate in Cayman over whether residents should be licensed to keep guns at home. Or maybe just citizens. Or citizens with clean Police records. Or citizens vouched for by our local politicians. Oh, but whoa! That’s how political gangs begin, isn’t it? Huh. I would trust myself to choose wisely, and those of my friends wise enough to trust me; but nobody else. Some gun- advocates want four-dollars-an-hour security-guards to be armed, in order to discourage robberies of shops and banks. If that ever comes into law, the very least the guards should do is hold up their employers for more money. Four dollars an hour is less than a Minimum Wage would be if we had a Minimum Wage.

What about policemen? Some policemen are armed already, though we don’t see them waving pistols around in public. Given the frequency with which police officers are involved in traffic accidents, they might be less dangerous with guns than with cars, or cellphones. That woman police officer who drove straight through the Elgin Avenue roundabout the other week, presumably while texting – would she have been any more dangerous if she’d been loading her gun while driving? Surely not.

As for armed householders – well, unless we’re going to be walking around the house with loaded guns stuck in our waistbands (and the workplace, and the supermarket, and the restaurant), and sleeping with them under our pillows, what protection will they provide? All a bad man has to do is point his gun at you through your barred window and say, “Open the door by the count of three or I’ll kill you. One, two, three.” Once inside he steals your guns and ammo and sits with you while his colleague takes your debit-card down to the ATM.

Of course that would only happen once or twice, before all the expats put their families onto planes to somewhere else. Maybe the victim’s neighbours would form a vigilante posse and search every place the invader might be hiding. But how many of them would be seen off by other armed householders? Many many, that’s how many. Ridiculous.