Killings, violence are worrying

The Cayman Islands has seen five homicides within the last five months.

That’s more than the generally peaceful Caribbean country has seen in each of the past three years. There were three killings recorded each year for 2005, 2006, and 2007. Cayman saw six murders in all of 2004, and four homicides in 2003.

However, a more frightening number is the potential homicide cases police might have been investigating had injuries to the victims involved in some recent serious violent incidents been a bit more severe.

Since mid-February, the Caymanian Compass has reported on at least eight separate instances of violent crime which sent at least one victim to hospital but did not result in death.

On 17 February, a man’s head was grazed by a bullet as he rode in his car along Tigris Street in George Town. Less than a week later, two men were seriously injured in a fight outside ShirReynolds night club and another man was shot in the eye outside Pepper’s bar on the same night.

On 28 February, a man returning home from work was fired on as he entered his West Bay apartment. What was believed to be a bullet fragment grazed his hand.

The next month, on 19 March, another man was stabbed in the back inside Pepper’s. The parking lot of the Everglo Bar in Bodden Town was the scene of another stabbing on 4 May.

And a week later, on 11 May, a woman was stabbed during a fight on the Meringue Town complex in George Town. Nineteen-year-old Miesha Yenara Gordon was charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in that incident.

None of the eight victims in those seven violent attacks died. If they had, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service would have been investigating 13 killings, instead of five.

The deaths

None of the homicides police have investigated so far this year appear to be related, and the victims have been found all over the island; one in West Bay, two in Bodden Town and two in George Town.

The victims have all been men, ranging in age from 47 to 18. The three youngest victims were Caymanians, two others were foreign nationals; one a Canadian, the other was Swiss.

Eighteen-year-old Josh Hooker was the first and youngest homicide victim so far this year. Police said he was shot to death inside his home on Kennedy Drive in George Town the night of 21 January while his two year old son was with him. The child was not harmed. Police have arrested one man in connection with the killing, but that individual has not been charged.

The next homicide involved 40-year-old banker Frederic Bise who was found dead in his own vehicle after it was set on fire sometime in the early morning hours of 8 February. An arrest was also made in connection with Mr. Bise’s apparent beating death, but again, no charges were filed.

About two weeks later, in the early morning of 23 February, 21-year-old Aaron William Berry was stabbed in the throat outside the Everglo Bar in Bodden Town during a fight. Police have arrested and charged a 20-year-old man in that killing.

The two most recent homicide cases have occurred within the past week. Around midnight 17 May, the body of 20-year-old Brian Adrian Rankine was discovered in a George Town car park. He was the victim of an apparent machete attack. Two men were arrested in the case later the same day.

And on Tuesday morning, the body of 47-year-old Martin Gareau was found inside his home, the victim of an apparent homicide. No arrests have been reported in his death.

Bar fights

Only one of the five homicides was reported in the vicinity of a bar or night club. However, several other violent incidents have occurred at local hangouts and Police Superintendent Adrian Seales said police are taking steps to better police those areas.

Mr. Seales said plans are in place to revise Cayman’s Liquor Licensing Law and indicated he would like to see regulations requiring more accurate metal detectors to be placed inside the night clubs. He said some establishments use metal detector wands on their patrons now, but that’s not always as effective.

‘You get what you pay for,’ Mr. Seales said.

Installing closed circuit television cameras immediately outside the premises would be another option, according to Mr. Seales.

The police superintendent said better communication between officers, and security staff at the businesses is needed in the future.

‘For instance, some patrons have been banned from an establishment, but that information is not communicated to the other establishments,’ he said. ‘Our long-term approach would be better partnerships with the liquor licensed premises.’

Mr. Seales noted that some half dozen liquor licensed businesses have been placed on probation in recent months by the Liquor Licensing Board. However, he said police don’t always favour simply closing trouble spots down as patrons are likely to just go somewhere else or have parties known as sessions at locations that are not monitored and regulated.

‘That phenomenon is called displacement,’ Mr. Seales said.

He said police have increased patrols in recent months to respond to the spate of violent incidents, and that it’s not unusual to have 30-40 officers out on weekend nights in high visibility patrols at various bars and clubs.

‘It’s still a lot of work to be done,’ he said. ‘The underlying fact is that the licensees do have that accountability for their patrons.’