Crime down, crashes up

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Stuart Kernohan has reported a 26 per cent drop in serious crime and a five per cent overall reduction in crime for 2006.

But police admit they’re still trying to get control of this island’s traffic safety problems, which led to 14 deaths on the roads, and more than 1,000 motor vehicle collisions last year. RCIPS stats show there were 630 crashes in 2005; six of them fatal.

‘This is against a background of a major increase in police enforcement,’ said Mr. Kernohan.

‘We have not seen the kind of results that we probably would have hoped for (in regard to traffic accidents),’ said Deputy Commissioner of Police Anthony Ennis.

Mr. Kernohan said the drop in serious crimes like murders, rapes, robberies, assaults and burglaries, equated to 283 fewer crime victims in 2006 than the department saw the year before. RCIPS saw a whopping 32 per cent reduction in reported burglaries, 20 per cent fewer thefts called in and a 13 per cent reduction in domestic assaults reported.

A few areas of crime continue to concern the department. Those include damage to property, which increased 59 per cent in 2006; and minor assaults, which rose 19 per cent.

‘It’s been a good year for RCIPS in terms of crime reduction,’ said Mr. Kernohan.

Drugs and firearms arrests by island police both increased last year.

According to statistics, officers seized 32 firearms in 2006, compared to 18 in 2005. Drugs Task Force officers arrested 144 people last year. The unit was put largely out of commission in 2005, after it was forced to take on added policing responsibilities in the wake of Hurricane Ivan.

Mr. Ennis said he believed the increase in arrests was largely due to more focused policing efforts, rather than a rise in the drug trade.

‘I don’t want there to be this illusion that there are not drugs on the island in sufficient quantities, but…we’ve been more proactive and taken a more structured and planned approach to some of these activities.’

In addition to the more than 1,000 vehicle accidents last year, there were some 3,445 speeding tickets issued and 233 citations for drunk driving. The death toll on Cayman Islands roads was the highest it has been in more than a decade.

‘This should be a concern for everybody in the Cayman Islands,’ Mr. Kernohan said, adding that RCIPS is looking at several options to beef up traffic enforcement beyond what it has already done this year.

For instance, Mr. Kernohan said the department was researching the use of traffic wardens.

Recent changes in the Traffic Law allow the department to hire traffic wardens; people who are not fully certified as police officers, but who can be used in certain similar capacities. A warden might respond to the scene of a wreck and direct traffic. They would not have all the enforcement powers an officer has and would not be allowed to carry guns.

The Commissioner also noted police were still evaluating the use of cameras to monitor driver’s speeds, as well as whether closed-circuit television cameras might also be used to keep an eye on traffic.

During 2006, the police service introduced two unmarked patrol cars to help enforce traffic violations. Mr. Kernohan also noted RCIPS has an agreement with Cayman Helicopters to provide aerial support for officers.

‘It’s something I believe a modern police force cannot do without,’ said Mr. Kernohan. He noted the RCIPS was looking at purchasing its own helicopter, but would have to review costs before any decision is made.