An examination of crime reports in the Cayman Islands over the last five years reveals that the overall number of crimes committed here has increased by 21 per cent when comparing 2003 to 2007.
According to statistics released to the public for the first time by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the total number of serious crimes rose by more than 11 per cent between ’03 and ’07, and the number of volume crimes went up by more than 37 per cent when comparing those two years.
Serious crimes, as defined by the RCIPS include burglaries, assaults, rapes, robberies, murders, and firearms-related crime. Volume crimes include theft, damage to property, threatening violence, minor assaults, and domestic violence-related incidents.
The numbers put to rest a long-running argument in the community over whether crime was actually lower here in recent times than it was prior to Hurricane Ivan’s arrival in September 2004. Clearly, there were more crimes reported in the Cayman Islands in 2007 than there were in 2003.
However, that simple comparison doesn’t tell the full story.
According to population estimates from the annual Labour Force Survey, Cayman had nearly 10,000 more people living here in 2007 than it did in 2003.
That makes a huge difference in the country’s crime rate.
When factoring in population differences, Cayman’s total crime rate per 1,000 residents, as well as its serious crime rate per 1,000 residents fell when comparing 2003 to 2007. The rate of volume crime still increased during that time.
In other words, the number of crimes in most reported categories has risen between 2003 and 2007, but the instances of crime happening to individuals is actually lower, percentage-wise, because more people live here.
Ivan skews stats
The arrival of Hurricane Ivan in the latter half of 2004 and the difficult time that followed is often blamed for creating a spike in crime on the islands. However, that’s not what statistics released by the RCIPS show.
Both serious and volume crimes dropped to unusually low levels in 2004. For instance, there were 584 total serious crimes reported to police in 2004, compared to 728 reported in 2003.
The population of the Cayman Islands also dropped considerably that year. In the spring of ’04 it was estimated at 44,240, by the end of the year it had dropped to 36,340.
By 2005, a population boom was occurring as the islands rebuilt and workers flocked to the country. According to the Labour Force Survey for 2005, Cayman’s total population jumped to 52,465 at that time.
There was a massive surge in crime during 2005. The total number of serious crimes reported doubled from what was reported in 2004. Volume crime went up by some 38 per cent from 2004.
However, it is important to note that both years seem to be anomalies in terms of crime for the Cayman Islands.
Comparing serious crime between 2003 and 2004, one would find close to a 20 per cent decrease for ’04. But compare those serious crime numbers between 2003 and 2005, and you get a 62 per cent increase for ’05.
Apples to apples
Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, who’s on required leave from the RCIPS, has said he’s proud of his department’s success in dropping reported serious crimes by 26 percent from 2005 to 2006. The department also saw another significant drop in the numbers of serious crimes reported during 2007.
However, it appears that the serious crime rate in the Cayman Islands over the last five years has not varied much at all, with the exception of 2005.
In 2003, there were approximately 16.49 serious crimes committed per 1,000 residents. In 2004, it was roughly 16 serious crimes per 1000. In 2006, the crime rate was 17.11 per 1,000, and in 2007 it dropped back to 15.07 serious crimes per 1000 people.
Only in 2005 did that rate jump to 22.53 serious crimes per 1,000.
The overall crime rate in 2003 (57.31 crimes per 1000 people) is virtually the same as it was last year (56.84 crimes per 1,000 people).
One area of concern for the RCIPS may be volume crimes, which have shown a steady rise over the past five years.
In 2003, there were 1,218 volume crimes reported. In 2007, that number rose to 1,675. Reports of domestic violence and minor assaults in particular have gone up by large percentages.
Police are also making many more firearms-related arrests in the past two years than they were five years ago. There were 23 reports of unlicensed firearm possession in the Cayman Islands last year, and 31 cases reported in 2006. In 2003, there were just 10.