Overall crime up slightly

Violent crime drops by 11 per cent in 2007

Violent crime has fallen for the second straight year in Cayman, following a 26 per cent decrease in 2006.

But volume crimes such as theft, threats of violence and domestic violence drove up the overall number of reported crimes on the islands by about three per cent.

The only category of reported violent crime that saw a substantial increase in 2007 when compared to 2006 was aggravated burglary, which went from just five reports in 2006 to 19 reports last year. Small increases were reported in robberies and rapes last year.

Burglary, attempted burglary, assaults, defilements, and firearms-related reports all dropped between 2007 and 2006.

‘Despite the unusual recent incidents that have occurred, serious crime is continuing to drop in the Cayman Islands and this is great news for us,’ Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said.

RCIPS numbers showed a decrease in virtually every category of reported crime for the final three months of 2007, which the commissioner said was also encouraging.

However, major overall increases were seen in reports of thefts (16 per cent), threatening violence (41 per cent), and domestic violence (48 per cent) for 2007.

The figures presented by the RCIPS also did not include any crimes that have occurred in 2008.

A spate of violent crimes last weekend sparked public debate this week on whether police officers were doing their jobs. Government ministers have advocated the creation of an evaluative process to ensure the police service was providing value for money.

So far this year, Cayman has seen three killings; the same number as it saw in all of 2007. There have also been three shootings within the past two weeks on Grand Cayman, which have injured three people.

Mr. Kernohan said his department welcomed any audit or evaluation the government wished to perform. He also noted that he has appeared before Cabinet, including the elected ministers, to provide briefings several times since January, including twice in the past two weeks.

The commissioner said his department was open to constructive criticism, but preferred that such criticism was well thought out and reasonable.

‘Some may choose to blame the police for criminals doing what criminals do,’ Mr. Kernohan said. ‘This demonstrates a misunderstanding of society and all the complex issues that are the genesis of crime.’

‘Officers are doing the very best they can on a daily basis. They deserve the support, the respect and backing of everyone from the Cayman Islands. If you won’t stand behind them or beside them, then do the next best thing and provide them with the information they need to do their job properly, because at the moment most of you are not.’

The RCIPS has long struggled to gain the confidence of community members in Cayman. It has also run into trouble with government ministers who have repeatedly said they are not being allowed to advise on policies and strategies of the police service.

Under Cayman’s constitutional arrangement with the United Kingdom, the governor has sole responsibility for internal and external affairs; which include police, customs and immigration. The only time elected members of government play a role in the operation of those services is during a yearly vote on their operating budgets.

Mr. Kernohan said, in recent months, steps have been taken to better inform the elected government.

‘I do know that the governor has offered for the Leader of Government Business to be present at police briefings and I do also know that the governor has offered that I, on a regular basis, will go in and fully brief the Cabinet on policing matters,’ he said, adding those briefings include both past incidents and future policing plans.

Traffic issues

The number of traffic deaths in the Cayman Islands dropped from 14 in 2006 to 11 last year. However, last year’s road fatalities still nearly doubled the number seen in 2005.

Overall traffic offences increased sharply, mostly due to increased police patrols and the heavy use of road blocks in several island districts.

More than 5,300 speeding tickets were written last year, and citations for failing to wear seatbelts more than doubled.

The number of traffic accidents increased by about nine per cent in 2007, but drunken driving arrests actually dropped by one case last year when compared to 2006.

‘Despite our continued focus in the area of road safety the collision rate continues to rise,’ Mr. Kernohan said. ‘There is only so much the police can do and I appeal to drivers to start taking more care behind the wheel.’

Roads Minister Arden McLean recently estimated that there were more than 30,000 cars on Cayman Islands roads; which he said was a high percentage for a country that has a population of between 52,000 and 55,000 people.