Coast patrols likely later

With no air patrols, no interceptor boats, no radar and only a single 48-foot craft to watch the Cayman coastline, police are struggling to fight gun and drug smuggling.

‘The criminals know this, and so they take advantage,’ said Police Commissioner Buel Braggs yesterday.

‘We are looking forward to beefing up the services, getting the right equipment, but this is all in the making, all in discussion,’ he said,

The commissioner feared, however, that little would happen before the 11 May elections.

On Tuesday evening, the office of Governor Bruce Dinwiddie detailed a four-point program for combating Cayman’s recent upsurge in crime.

‘I can confirm that the Cayman Islands Government is continuing to give full support to the RCIPS to ensure that they are resourced to deal comprehensively and aggressively with this threat,’ the governor wrote.

‘We are looking at all options to protect the peace and harmony of our Islands.’

The recommendations encompass overseas recruitment of both a Detective Chief Inspector with expertise in drug-related and violent crime, and other, similarly experienced officers.

They also mandate fast-tracking the creation of a local forensics laboratory and improving border controls to stem the flow of drugs and guns.

‘I am confident that, with the continuing full support of the Government and the community, the RCIPS, in cooperation with other law-enforcement agencies, will put a stop to the recent violence, and remove the scourge of guns and drugs from our society,’ the statement said.

Commissioner Braggs said the Government had been supportive of police efforts, but indicated that it was difficult to halt smuggling without considerable new resources.

‘There are hundreds of places, anywhere you can go as a person, where canoes come in,’ he said.

Guns and drugs usually arrive in the same shipments, and can be of significant size.

”In some cases we have seen 1,500 pounds, 2,000 pounds of marijuana. It comes in 35-foot, 38-foot Jamaican-built canoes, and with the open coastline we have, these things can creep in at all hours.’

Most of the contraband arrives from Jamaica and Honduras, he said, but declined to identify the smugglers.

‘It’s a real mix, and it’s not just foreigners,’ he said. ‘There are Caymanians involved, although most of the boat runs are made by foreigners, who discharge their cargo and get back [to sea] quickly.’

Only a handful of people were involved in the trade, and only a handful of illegal guns were on the island.

‘It’s a small group of criminals who have these weapons, and in very limited amounts.’

He indicated that the arms were mostly concealed in private homes, and said police had conducted a number of searches recently.

‘There are probably a couple of hundred legal guns in Cayman,’ the commissioner said, owned by members of gun clubs and farmers, who use them to eliminate pests and vermin.

Increased coastal patrols were vital to combating the trade, although the commissioner was unable to say what form the patrols would take.

‘The discussions are going on whether, with the insecure borders, we have a coast guard or an increase in patrols and vessels. That’s all being decided at the moment, but there won’t be results until after an elected government is formed again,’ he said.

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