Murders off crime report

Crime numbers released late last week by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service did not specify how many killings or assaults had occurred in the Islands within the first three months of 2009.

It was not an oversight, RCIPS officials said this is the new way crime statistics are being reported by police.

The change in reporting of crime numbers was announced in July 2008 by then-Acting Police Commissioner David George, but the first quarter of 2009 is the first time the new method was used.

What isn’t clear for those looking at the figures is exactly how many killings have occurred in Cayman in the first three months of this year.

There have been three. Seventeen year-old Jerome ‘J.C.’ Russell became the country’s first homicide victim in the first few days of 2009. He was followed by local radio personality Sherman A. Bodden, and then by 21-year-old Sabrina Schirn.

The three killings match the three recorded in the first three months of 2008, which is the deadliest year on record for homicides in the Cayman Islands.

However, Cayman also had two other killings in May of 2008. In April and May of 2009, there were no homicides in Cayman.

A police spokesperson said specific numbers for other categories of violent crime; kidnappings, assault, manslaughter, wounding and the like were not immediately available although the press was invited to make a request for those numbers. The Caymanian Compass has done so.

Under the new RCIPS crime reporting method, crimes are grouped into 11 separate categories: burglary, damage to property, drugs, firearms, public order, robbery, serious violent crime, sexual offences, theft, other violent crime, and other crime.

The category of ‘other crime’ for instance, is separated into 87 different categories that include everything from obstructing police, perjury, selling alcohol without a liquor license and taking more conch than is allowed by law. None of the offences for those specific crimes was listed on the crime report RCIPS released last week.

As another example, ‘firearms offences’ can include anything from possession of a firearm, to discharging a firearm, to possession of body armour. But the specific offences for each are not identified.

A press release issued by the RCIPS in July 2008 quoted then-Acting Commissioner George as saying the governor and Cabinet members had signed off on the changes in how crime is recorded. It also indicated that the new counting system would be in place by 2009.

‘The new recording method…is part of wider measures to make the RCIPS more effective and intelligence led,’ the statement read. ‘Crimes have also been reclassified into new groups, which make it easier to assess crime.’