Killings obscure crime drop

Despite a perception the crime rate is increasing, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service statistics released last week show it is simply not true.

However, the public can be forgiven for assuming that crime has gone up.

The only categories of recorded serious crimes to rise in 2008, compared to the year before, were arguably the highest-profile type of crimes.

Murders and attempted murder reports more than doubled last year, while rapes, firearms possession and discharge of firearms cases also increased.

Nearly every other category of recorded serious crime including; burglary, aggravated burglary, assaults, robbery, wounding, and defilement all dropped at least slightly. Overall, serious crimes were down some 14 per cent when comparing 2008 to 2007.

The RCIPS also saw prodigious drops in what the service terms volume crimes including; theft, damaged property, threatening violence, assaults and domestic violence cases. The number of recorded drug arrests also decreased last year.

Total crime reported by the RCIPS dropped by nearly 22 per cent.

‘(That) means nearly 700 less victims, and that’s significant to me,’ Acting Police Commissioner James Smith said.

But Mr. Smith pointed out that the number of murders and attempted murder cases last year was a big concern. There were seven killings in Cayman last year, including the alleged abduction and murder of 33-year-old Cable and Wireless Communications Manager Estella Scott-Roberts, whose charred remains were found in a burned out SUV in Barkers last October.

This year has already seen the shooting death of 17-year-old Jerome Russell outside a George Town nightclub.

‘I think it’s fair to say though, that of seven murders in 2008 and then the one very early this year,’ Mr. Smith said, ‘four have direct connections to bars and nightclubs, and of the remainder there are likely to be significant links to drugs.’

Both Mr. Smith and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said police were still working with nightclub owners on security issues, including a stricter Liquor Licensing Law.

‘We’ll be looking at how we can…reduce the incidents of anti-social behaviour and violence around the nightclubs,’ Mr. Ennis said. ‘But…that is not for police alone. The proprietors…have a duty to take responsible action.’

Acting Commissioner Smith said, from his experience in the United Kingdom, liquor boards have quite a bit of power to regulate establishments. He said he’s still trying to grasp the regulations here.

‘I don’t pretend to understand that probationary thing’ (the law that allows the liquor board to place businesses on probation), he said. ‘But I have met with the Liquor Licensing Board, and they are very willing to work with us.’

He said police had recently taken on the job of licensing and regulating security guards and security companies, including those that employ guards at clubs and bars. He said part of the licensing process is to ensure those security officers are properly trained.

‘We will expect they are trained to minimise disorder,’ Mr. Smith said.

Accidents up

For the third straight year, traffic accidents increased in the Cayman Islands. Police recorded 1,470 wrecks in 2008; a 12 per cent increase on the year before.

Eleven people died in those crashes.

‘For me, that is a very high figure in what is a small jurisdiction,’ Mr. Smith said.

In general, tickets for traffic offences went down in 2008, but drink driving arrests did go up by 18 per cent.

Tickets for speeding saw a big drop, 36 per cent, when comparing 2008 with 2007. Police issued about 2,100 fewer speeding tickets in 2008 than they did the year before.