Police budget boosted

The Royal Cayman Islands Police will get almost $50 million extra during the next four years to revamp the marine service, launch air surveillance, boost recruitment and training, build new police stations and purchase 70 new vehicles, it was announced on Thursday.

The extra money represents a 50 per cent increase from the regular annual $23.6 million RCIP budget, bringing to $143.4 million the total police allocation through 2009.

‘The government has given an undertaking to the police to give the required facilities, the human resources and expertise, and the necessary equipment to carry out the new mandate of zero tolerance,’ Chief Secretary George McCarthy said yesterday.

‘The government is sending a very clear message that [it] is prepared to do everything practical to restore order to Cayman society and is ready to join with neighbours, police and others to a commitment to a peace-living and God-fearing society.’

Mr. McCarthy spoke on at a press conference announcing a unified effort among elected officials, the highest levels of government and the civil service, and the police to crack down on recent increases in violent crime.

Appearing alongside Mr. McCarthy were Governor Bruce Dinwiddy, Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson, Acting Attorney-General Cheryll Richards, Acting Commissioner of Police Rudolph Dixon, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and ministers Anthony Eden, Alden McLaughlin, and Charles Clifford.

Cabinet Minister Arden McLean had a previous commitment and could not attend.

‘The fact of the entire Cabinet being here underlines the commitment of the full government and shows the concern about recent rises in crime,’ the governor said.

Calling the increases a ‘wake-up call that all is not well,’ Mr. McCarthy detailed budget allocations that, he said, would enable ‘the urgent and drastic actions required to return society to a state of orderliness and peace.’

He said the marine division of the RCIP’s Drugs Task Force would be rebuilt into a Cayman coast guard service, starting with the $1.62 million purchase of 65-foot patrol boat that would double the efforts of the Cayman Protector, DTF’s sole vessel.

Another $1.65 million would acquire two smaller interceptor vessels, surveillance equipment for all three boats and pay for all recurrent expenditure.

‘They must be adequately secured because we don’t want the deviant-minded community to get access to them,’ Mr, McCarthy said, announcing allocation of another $5 million to build a dedicated marine base and $800,000 to maintain it every year.

Marine police have long called for dedicated, secure berthing for the Cayman Protector, which is forced to dock at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club among the fleet of private boats.

Suggesting that beefed-up marine patrols in Grand Cayman were likely to drive smugglers to the Sister Islands, Mr. McCarthy said another patrol boat and another two interceptors would be acquired in the long term, creating a full coast-guard service within three years.

However, he said, the initial patrol boat would arrive during this financial year, which started 1 July. The second boat would arrive in the next financial year.

Mr. McCarthy budgeted $2 million, and $350,000 in maintenance costs, for a twin-engine aircraft to enter service in the next 15 months, patrolling the seas and coasts around all three Cayman Islands.

A new fleet of police vehicles would cost $1.6 million; additional training and recruitment would draw an immediate injection of $200,000, and another $400,000 per year going forward.

An ambitious plan to expand police stations and staffing in the eastern districts was already under way, Mr. McCarthy said.

A permanent station was almost completed in East End, while another in North Side had been briefly delayed because of termite infestation.

Three officers would staff the new stations 24 hours per day.

A new, $3 million central-command facility would be built in Bodden Town, Cayman’s fastest-growing district, and a satellite station would be created in Seven Mile Beach.

Neither Mr. McCarthy nor Mr. Jefferson would predict where the money would be found, although they suggested a mix of revenue-raising measures and budget cuts would be explored.

Mr McCarthy said, however, that the fiscal stress would not be permanent.

‘We are hoping this will be regarded as a deviation from normal. We are a peaceful community,’ he said.

Speaking on behalf of the elected government, Mr. Tibbetts offered his support to police and top officials in the strongest terms, saying that whatever police required in financial, physical or political terms would be available.

‘This briefing is bittersweet,’ he said. ‘We have a clear and ongoing problem with crime and, unfortunately, we often wait until something is wrong before making it right.

‘This government will not bury its head in the sand and look the other way. We fully support the RCIP and we are going to deal with thing head on. It’s a very, very serious matter and the Cabinet will not shirk its responsibility. Whatever needs to be done will be done,’ he said.

The Cabinet would examine other initiatives to aid the fight on crime, including legislative amendments and strict enforcement of immigration statutes.

Meetings began immediately as. Mr Tibbetts huddled yesterday afternoon with the governor, chief secretary and police behind closed doors.

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