Rise in overall crime

Figures that show the first significant increase in local crime in more than a year were released by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service this week.

Overall crime rose 15 per cent through September, when compared with the first nine months of last year.

Crime statistics for 2007 have been a mixed bag for the RCIPS, showing either a slight drop or no real change in serious crimes like murder, robbery, rape, burglary and assault. The only exception was a major increase in the number of aggravated burglaries, which went from just three reported in the first nine months of 2006 to 17 in the same time this year.

However, increases in other types of crime such as theft, threatening violence, and domestic violence were much greater and cause for some concern among police department brass.

Reports of people threatening violence against others were up 80 per cent in the first nine months of this year. In the Cayman Islands, physical threats made to intimidate, annoy or alarm a person, or threatening to damage someone’s home is punishable by three to five years in prison, depending on when the offence occurs. People can also be fined for using threatening or abusive language toward someone else, if that’s done in public.

‘I don’t want to characterise it as a cultural issue, but I do believe some people think they can make…threats (with) impunity,’ Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said.

Domestic violence reports also went up by some 45 per cent through September. Police said this was attributed in part to an increased awareness and willingness in the public to report such offences, but admitted the rise was disturbing nonetheless.

‘We know that domestic violence is still a problem in the Cayman Islands,’ said Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan. ‘That will be a serious focus for us for as long as it needs to be.’

Other crimes like minor assaults and theft saw significant increases in the first nine months of this year as well.

The police service has been predicting through the first part of this year that steadily decreasing crime levels would eventually bottom out. The department recorded a 26 per cent reduction in serious crime for 2006, and serious crimes such as burglary, attempted burglary, attempted rape, discharge of firearms and weapons possession have continued to fall.

Crimes like rape, robbery, attempt murder, wounding and defilement have stayed practically the same from last year to this year.

So far in 2007, Cayman has seen three murders, compared to just one during the same period of 2006.

‘We always knew that the success seen last year would be hard to follow, but nonetheless I am pleased with the progress we are making and the numbers we are talking about are still relatively small,’ Mr. Kernohan said.

Traffic crackdown

A major effort to curb reckless driving and drunken drivers by the RCIPS appears to be having some effect through the first nine months of this year.

Total traffic accidents, as well as total traffic offences, have gone way up. The total number of vehicle crashes has increased by seven per cent in 2007.

‘This is unacceptable,’ Mr. Kernohan said. ‘In one day officers dealt with 14 minor, non-injury collisions which could have been avoided if drivers paid more attention to what they were doing.’

However, fatal crashes have dropped. So far, Cayman has seen eight people die on its roads this year, compared to 11 at this time last year. Fourteen people died in accidents in 2006 here in Cayman, the island’s highest total in more than a decade.

Also, Mr. Kernohan said he takes heart at a sharp drop in the number of drink driving arrests within the past three months, despite the increased traffic enforcement by police. Drink driving arrests in July, August and September of this year decreased by half when compared with those numbers last year.

‘We are not detecting as many drink drivers, which may be a positive sign that individuals are actually heeding the warnings we’re giving out now,’ he said. ‘We are still catching individuals that have consumed alcohol, but we are finding more are blowing below the limit, rather than above the limit.’

The numbers of speeders and those caught driving without a seatbelt have seen massive increases in Cayman. Nearly 4,300 tickets have been handed out for spending since the beginning of this year. Seatbelt violations have more than doubled since last year.

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