Stymied for nearly two months in their search for a killer, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has come forward on at least two occasions pleading with the public for help in identifying who shot Marlon Brando Ebanks.
Some island residents, particularly on radio call-in shows, have criticised this approach stating the police should be able to solve such serious crimes on their own. A few have even questioned the ability of police investigators who’ve adopted the more public strategy.
In response to those questions, a 32-year veteran police inspector said earlier this week that without help from the public, many crimes would go unsolved.
‘Contrary to what some members of the population of the Cayman Islands think, the police don’t solve crimes,’ said RCIPS Chief Inspector Peter Kennett. ‘We orchestrate it, we ask the right questions, but it’s the public that solves crimes. Without information from the public, we are…on our own.’
Mr. Kennett said most residents who the police have contacted about the 21 August killing were very good about speaking with investigating officers. However, he said he has noted a marked reluctance in some quarters to give formal statements.
‘I’d be lying to say that there weren’t a few people who were less than helpful,’ Mr. Kennett said. ‘Some people…they’ll tell you about it but they’re reluctant for some reason to make a statement.’
Stuart Bostock with Cayman Crime Stoppers said it’s not a new concept for police here to ask for assistance from the public, particularly in high profile criminal cases.
‘It has been done previously,’ Mr. Bostock said. ‘The police will use the press to get information out to the public that generally would not be disclosed to the public in an attempt to trigger the memory of an individual.’
Mr. Kennett said the concept is also not a new one in other parts of the world where police have, often for decades, gone to the public seeking help in solving crimes and offering some reward in the process.
‘I did 32 years in the UK, the last 15 (were) as a detective-superintendent running murder enquiries,’ he said. ‘(Assistance from the public) is bread and butter. It’s the way it’s done.
‘It certainly worked for me in the UK, and I hope it’s going to work for me in the Cayman Islands.’
The Caymanian Compass reviewed how police agencies in other parts of the world communicate with the public in efforts to solve crimes.
Island countries in this region generally have websites for their police departments which provide some details on recent crimes, and phone numbers where people with information can contact detectives.
For instance, the Bermuda Marine Police issued a statement on a number of thefts from boats on 28 September.
The first line of the press release states: ‘The Marine Police are seeking the assistance of the public following a recent spate of thefts from boats.’ The release goes on to provide a phone number for the marine police office and a toll free Crime Stoppers tip line.
Police in the Bahamas provide names and photographs of individuals currently wanted on more serious crimes to the media and to the public via their website. Routine updates on missing persons’ cases are also provided.
The Bahamas police also have a website link which allows people to anonymously report a crime via the internet on a form provided, similar to emailing in reports about crime.
Information provided on one case includes the following: ‘We are seeking your help in locating Darrell Cloutier, age 34 yrs. Darrell was last seen alive on April 10 when he left work.’ Phone numbers for the Bahamas Central Detective Bureau are provided.
The Jamaican police post ‘crime of the month’ bulletins on their website, which can include video messages about the incidents which people can view on their computers. However, information on the Jamaican police site seemed to be somewhat out of date.
Cayman Islands police are currently in the process of having a website designed, though no completion date has been given for it.
Police services in the United Kingdom routinely seek public aid in solving crimes, providing a varying level of detail on specific cases as needed.
The Avon and Somerset Constabulary, for instance, give a huge amount of information on the unsolved murder of Dean Jeffery which occurred on 21 September, 2006.
The two page review of the murder case begins by asking the question: ‘Do you know who assaulted Dean?’ It goes on to urge people to contact police even if they think their information is insignificant.
The police website includes an audio interview with Mr. Jeffery’s mother, and an interview with Detective Inspector Simon Crisp about the case. It also has a map of the area where Mr. Jeffery’s assault occurred, a video reconstruction of the crime, and 15 photos taken by local CCTV cameras of people at a nearby gas station.
Contact numbers for police and Crime Stoppers are provided.
Thames Valley police include a complete list of press releases issued by their department on a website. A recent report of an attempted robbery issued 10 October states: ‘Police are appealing for witnesses to an attempted robbery in Wallingford on Wednesday.’ Numbers for Crime Stoppers and the officer investigating the case are provided.
The website also details the arrest of a rape suspect following a public appeal by the department’s Crimewatch initiative last month.
The West Midlands police have the entire right hand section of their website devoted to public appeals for help including ‘today’s appeals for help.’
The site gives details of an armed robbery which occurred in West Bromwich 9 October that includes a photograph of the suspect taken by closed circuit television cameras in the area.
Most large city police departments in the United States go to the public early and often for help in solving serious crimes, using Crime Stoppers or other anonymous tip services if residents don’t want to speak with officers.
However, even smaller US towns routinely make public pleas for help in unsolved cases.
The city of Orange, Texas (estimated population 19,000) routinely places the address of its department headquarters, the phone numbers for its detective division, and phone numbers for the neighbouring city of Beaumont police on its crime reports.
In one abduction case from 2002, phone numbers for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation are included.
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida police department also gives contact numbers for its detectives and for the local Crime Stoppers office on its news releases.
One recent report states: ‘Anyone who may have witnessed this shooting…is encouraged to contact Detective John Curcio…or Detective David Jenkins.’ Direct phone lines are provided.