Combating drug abuse in West Bay was the hot topic at Monday evening’s well attended community police meeting in the district.
Those who attended agreed it had been a very productive and important meeting, held at the Church of God Chapel, Town Hall Road Monday evening.
The fact that nine members of the RCIPS attended was a good measure of the respect the force was paying the community, said one attendee.
Henry Ormon of the new West Bay Action Committee Council explained that it had formed to work with the police in the district. ‘West Bay has too many years got the name of septic on this island,’ he said.
They are asking the Government for two fulltime sniffer and attack dogs for the district to try to curb the drug problem. ‘It’s a sorrowful situation,’ he said. The council has signed on over 30 members since its inception in the last 10 weeks.
Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said the police have been pleading for people to come forward to help and they will work with the group as a 50/50 relationship.
One attendee asked where the drugs are coming from, because the drug users themselves don’t go off island.
‘In every other family there’s a hurt because of drugs,’ she noted.
Commissioner Kernohan said the drug situation begs the question where the parents are in all of this.
Crime Investigation Department Superintendent Ken Hall said the police have evidence that small boats are coming in from Jamaica with drugs. Just last week drugs were found and three arrested, he said.
The areas the boats come into vary from Barkers and North West Point in West Bay to Breakers and East End.
He explained that people in Cayman depart on a plane to Jamaica. They come back here with the drugs on a boat, return to Jamaica by boat and fly back here on board the plane.
Commissioner Kernohan said while border protection is a very important issue, it also carries quite a hefty wage bill. However, this area has taken a step forward from the last district community police meeting in November. ‘We now have well laid plans for our marine unit,’ he said.
Currently the unit has one large and one small boat, but this is to be expanded on, he said. The Finance Committee passed a substantial amount of money to protect the borders of all three islands, he said.
In the last few months the marine unit has been expanded back up to 16 people and they are looking at establishing a marine base and creating a far more integrated system.
To protect borders is possible, but to secure borders is something at another level. This amounts to zero drugs getting in here.
‘Although we’re fairly well resourced we have to use resources flexibly as a small force,’ he said.
Recently lots of people have been recruited back into the Drugs Task Force to see it back to a viability that preceded Mr. Kernohan’s arrival here seven months ago, he said.
Mr. Kernohan voiced his disappointment for police inaction in response to a local bar owner who said that he had made a call to the police one night for help because of a machete threat but the police hung up on him. He would get a police response in future, he said.
Chief Inspector Simms noted that the police have addressed concerns raised at the last meeting including MLA Rolston Anglin’s suggestion that police visit drug hot spots.
They have identified some areas and conducted various operations there resulting in 20 drug cases, said Mr Simms.
An attendee suggested that perhaps areas that are known for drug use could be taken over by the police and simply torn down.
Chief Insp Simms answered that police do not have the authority to simply tear down a property. The owners of the property need to be consulted and certain steps need to be taken. However, many drug arrests have been made in the past couple of weeks, he noted. ‘We’re definitely addressing these things,’ he said.
Just last week the police in West Bay spoke to three land owners with a view to clearing bush where drugs are used. They now have a commitment from one landowner and are going about getting resources to get it cleared.
Another question from the floor centred on why police dogs are not seen at the port and the airports. The attendee alleged that some cruise passengers come ashore and make connections to sell drugs.
Commissioner Kernohan said there is a lot going on around the island already without the cruise ships. However, they are serious in addressing every angle, he said.
A customs officer said that from time to time sniffer dogs are present at the airport and the cruise dock, but the complement of Custom’s staff and K9 Allstars needs to be expanded.
He also said a dog is on the way for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Some attendees thanked Chief Insp Simms for his hard work. They also praised the police in general for the work which some said is beginning to pay off.
Speaking about the difference between Monday’s meeting and the one held back in November, Mr. Kernohan said the difference was ‘tangible and palpable’.
‘It warms the cockles of my heart,’ he said, adding that if he could bottle the spirit shown at this meeting and spread it around the Cayman Islands they would be well on their way to fighting crime.