According to the annual crime statistics (the Report) of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS), there were 34,093 emergency calls or “incidents” related to suspected criminal activity in the Cayman Islands in 2021. Of these desperate calls for help, only 10.8 per cent were formally recorded as crimes. This 10.8 per cent recorded figure, however, may just be the goal of what cynics might call “mere semantics” to create an illusion of “safety” that tourists would buy into, while Cayman residents experience growing fear in their everyday activities. Instead of allowing these semantics to be used, members of the public should demand accountability at the top and request immediate action to address root causes, not just “sudden mass arrests” that result in more people being housed in prison, a bill that the general public must pay as well.
Getting through the semantics: “incidents” versus “recorded crime”
Before discussing the accountability of the top brass, it is important for members of the public to understand how the RCIPS categorises incidents versus recorded crimes.
Based on the Report, “an incident can be any occurrence in a single event, including unconfirmed crimes, suspicious activity, medical emergencies, search and rescue, alarm calls and others.” “These incidents can be recorded from the public calling 911, non-emergency calls to police stations, in person reports by the public to officers or at police stations and officer-initiated reporting during their tour of duty.”
Only those incidents for which evidence is provided, investigations and court cases are concluded are “recorded crimes.”
When residents are subtly directed to focus their attention on “recorded crimes,” it creates a false sense of security for what it is actually a growing and frightening, criminal enterprise, most of which is centered in two areas of the Cayman Islands.
George Town and West Bay, hotbeds for crime
The evidence of the centralisation of criminal incidents in the Report is that 19,201 incidents occurred in George Town, while 5,879 took place in West Bay and 4,354 happened in Bodden Town. Because the figures for the other districts are so small in comparison to West Bay and George Town, these two districts are Cayman’s statistical hotbeds for crime.
Gun crime a major concern
Of all of the crimes, firearms offences are a growing concern, almost doubling between 2020 and 2021.
As to how these guns are falling into the hands of young people in the Cayman Islands, only those who facilitate the import of guns and distribute them know the answer. Armed with such knowledge, the authorities could intervene and curb illegal gun importation.
If no steps are taken, then subsequent statistical reports will seem like a copy and paste of the current Report, which reflects that guns are used in most cases for murder, attempted murder, robbery, drugs offences, public order or other weapon related offences, the majority of which are either gang related or connected to illegal gambling.
What the police are doing
The Report gives the impression that, in relation to gang related gun crime, the RCIPS have been doing a reasonable job. Comments attributed in the Report to Commissioner of Police, Derek Byrne, also support this.
According to Byrne the “RCIPS responded quickly by making a number of significant arrests and disrupting and dismantling the groups involved in organised criminal activity primarily in the George Town and West Bay districts, through proactive patrols and intelligence-led policing, and 6 illegal firearms were seized.”
While some residents view these words as “a declaration of war” against crime, other some residents deem the words to “being tantamount to a brush-off ” as the root causes of crime are not being aggressively targeted.
The other issue that the police are facing is the somewhat dwindling relationship between the police and members of some communities.
For example, one resident in a low income area told Loop News that “the police are having a hard time within the communities encouraging witnesses to come forward to identify criminals… this is happening because the criminals somehow find out that the witness made the report, placing the witness and his or her family in danger… as a result, sometimes shooters go unidentified for a while or forever.”
If the relationship between the police and the relevant communities is not repaired, then more violent crimes will continue to go unsolved, putting the internal and national security of the country in jeopardy.
Accountability starts at the top
As to who is ultimately responsible for the police and internal security, one only needs to look at the constitution of the Cayman Islands.
Section 55 of the constitution (quoted in the Bernie Bush case and the Dubai Expo scandal) make it clear that the Governor shall be responsible for the conduct of any business of the Government with respect to internal security, including the police. The Governor is also the Chair of the Police Service Commission and has the power to make appointments to offices in the Police Force and to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices. Where the Police Service Commission wishes to give advice to the Governor, the constitution says that the Governor may act otherwise than in accordance with that advice if he determines that compliance with that advice would prejudice Her Majesty’s service.
Now that members of the public know who is responsible under the constitution, it is important that the responsible person is held accountable. If excuses are made, then it will only suggest that Cayman is heading in a direction where the provisions of the constitution are only upheld on some occasions but not others.