Tuesday night police promised to create six neighbourhood watch committees during the next three months to help communities fight growing crime.
‘That’s a target we will set. We will be accountable to you for six [committees] in the next three months,’ said Acting Commissioner of Police Rudolph Dixon.
Mr. Dixon chaired a seven-member panel at the Prospect Primary School Hall, committing himself to improved police services and reduced levels of crime by 1 October. The meeting was the first of several slated district meetings between police and communities.
‘There are a lot of factors covering the increase in crime and with the resources the government is offering, we can reduce crime to below the levels that we had previously,’ Mr. Dixon said. ‘We can not only attack the immediate problem, but some of the causes.’
Mr. Dixon said neighbourhoods are crucial in the battle against crime. Police can not be everywhere and people are going to have to participate in their own defence.
‘You must feel safe in your communities. I want to introduce an enhanced neighbourhood watch into communities, which are going to have to take a more active role. Our community relations department will help assist in setting up the programme, and the community will be the eyes and ears of the police.’
The panel, which included Acting Assistant Commissioner Derek Haines and officers from the Drugs Task Force, the Joint Intelligence Unit and the Community Relations Department, fielded questions from a gathering of about 20 residents who described a range of concerns from speeding traffic to firearms, burglaries and the RCIP’s public image.
Mr. Dixon said the National Roads Authority would build speed bumps on roads throughout the island, and said sections of Savannah, West Bay, and Old Prospect Road had been targeted initially.
The force had recruited several new officers, largely redressing the previous shortfall. Most of the new personnel came from the UK, he said, while future efforts would focus on regional recruitment, although Caribbean candidates presented sensitivities.
‘Some of the police forces in the region are struggling with problems of corruption and we would not want to import that,’ he said.
‘You have to look at the composition of the community. You don’t want any one nationality to be predominant. [Previously] we haven’t looked so closely at the Caribbean, but we have to start to do so.’
Mr. Haines sought to reassure the gathering that while crime had grown, Cayman’s criminal element remained a tiny segment of the population, many of whom were known to police.
‘There is obviously fear of some of the crime that’s come along,’ he said.
‘We are having a lot of success combating crime. Unfortunately, we have a lot of recidivists. When a crime is committed, we immediately look to see who recently got out of Northward [Prison].’
He said 20 burglaries of the recent spate of 22 burglaries in 24 hours had been solved, and that one of the perpetrators had been involved in 17 prior burglaries.
‘The head of Criminal Intelligence is tasked with targeting the people we think are committing these crimes,’ he said.
Responding to a question about private weapons for self-defence and the possibility of arming police, Mr. Dixon said he would not allow any move that might feed violence.
‘I am not going to let the public have weapons to protect themselves,’ he said. ‘We are not going to go down that vigilante-type road. What happens is that you get an increase in crime, and [weapons] are then used by criminals in their crimes.’
Armed police means that criminals would seek to match official firepower, he said.
‘We have a firepower response team, which has been very, very effective,’ he said.
‘I ask that you give the police and the public your support to bring peace back. We are a small country and only a small, minute percentage of the population is conducting themselves in a criminal style,’ Mr Dixon said.
‘We can make Grand Cayman safe again, and that is what we’ll do,’ he said, ‘We will take back our country one community at a time.’