Eight days, six shootings

AG: Harsher laws coming

Bulgin

The killing of a foreign national
and the shooting of a teenage boy put an emphatic point last week on a recent
flurry of gun-related violence that has injured four and left one man dead on Grand Cayman since the beginning of the month.

Some of the incidents that occurred
between 4 March and 11 March were believed to be gang-related or retaliatory.
Others, such as the 11 March shooting death of Marcos Duran, were believed to
have stemmed from robbery attempts.

Also drawing unwanted international
intention during that week was the robbery and assault of a US Coast Guard sailor
who was on shore leave in downtown George Town. Police arrested a suspect for
the attack on Friday.

“We need to stop this,” Royal
Cayman Islands Police Superintendent Marlon Bodden said. “It’s disrupting our
way of life.”

Attorney General Sam Bulgin said
Friday that he would be proposing several changes to criminal procedure laws
that would allow cases to move more quickly through the courts and which would
also allow police to arrest individuals for more minor offences.

“But legislation alone won’t help
us to tame this beast,” Mr. Bulgin said. “We need people power.”

People on the Islands,
meanwhile, are growing more upset and concerned with the spate of gun violence.
Nine of the last eleven homicide victims on Grand Cayman
have been killed with a gun.

“It’s got to a point where people’s
businesses, families livelihoods – the risk has got too high,” said Cayman
Islands Tourism Association President Steve Broadbelt. “We’ve either got to act
now or it’s going to keep getting worse.”

The crimes

It was a beautiful night in West Bay
on Thursday, 11 March. A stiff breeze was blowing in from the northwest, but
the waves that were kicking up onto the iron shore weren’t keeping throngs of
visitors away from the Cracked Conch restaurant and neighbouring Macabuca bar
and grill.

A large group of about 20 visitors who
arrived around 7.45pm had puzzled expressions on their faces. One man said he
had seen eight police cars and two ambulances just around the corner on North West Point Road
near the Bonnie’s Arch complex.

Word quickly spread: it was a shooting.

Just down the road, a resident was
sitting on her patio enjoying the cool night when she heard three loud bangs –
like the muffler falling out of a car and striking the road. A relative came
running around the corner yelling about a man being shot.

“I heard a woman screaming (from
the apartments on Maliwinas Way
– just off North West Point),” the woman said,
speaking to the Caymanian Compass on condition of anonymity.

Other witnesses said a man, later
identified as Mr. Duran, was shot in the stairwell of a two story apartment on
Maliwinas as he tried to escape from suspected robbers. A white vehicle was
seen speeding off just after the shooting.

Mr. Duran had been shot in the
head. He was rushed to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town where he was
pronounced dead.

Seven minutes after the Maliwinas
Way violence, a 16-year-old male was walking along Capt. Joes and Osbert Road in West Bay,
not too far from where the first shooting occurred. An unidentified man opened
fire on him, getting off as many as six rounds, according to witnesses.

The teen was struck in the leg and
was expected to recover. Rumours circulated that this attack had been
retaliatory, but police declined to speculate.

Police said there appeared to be no
connection between the two shooting incidents.

The two shootings on 11 March
occurred about the same time of night as two other West Bay
shootings just a week before on 4 March. Two men were injured in separate
attacks that night on Miss Daisy
Lane and Birch
Tree Hill Road.

Those incidents were followed by an
early morning shooting on 5 March, in which an unidentified assailant opened
fire on several cars parked on Templeton
Street in George
Town. No one was hurt in that incident.

A woman was hurt in George Town later that
day. She was shot in the face in the parking lot outside Barnes Plaza,
but survived. Police arrested a 32-year-old man in that attack.

The plan

Superintendent Bodden – a Caymanian
and one of the top criminal investigators in the RCIPS – knows that the recent
spate of violent crimes represent more than just an urgent need to take a few
bad guys off the streets.

“It’s about our way of life,” he
said Friday. “Everyone wants Cayman to have that relaxed, cool feeling. But
we’ve lost that now, to an extent.”

Mr. Bodden said high visibility
police patrols would continue in West
Bay, along with
island-wide roadblocks and random stop-checks.

“We will be checking and searching
individuals to disrupt suspects’ travel patterns,” he said. “We’re serious
about this.”

Legislation to assist the police
and court system in prosecuting criminal cases has recently been passed in the
form of the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill and the Bail (Amendment)
Bill.

But Attorney General Bulgin said
more, and stricter, laws are on the way.

Government lawyers are considering
legislation that would allow police to caution – arrest – individuals for minor
infractions, disorderly conduct and the like. Specific details of the plan have
not been released.

Mr. Bulgin said he’s working with
the court system to draft laws that would allow an individual to be tried for
murder charges at the same time as they are tried for other offences that may
have been committed in connection with the killing. Right now, those offences
must be tried separately.

Another step being considered is to
eliminate long-form preliminary enquiries altogether, Mr. Bulgin said. Those
enquiries are essentially mini-trials held in Summary Court which decide if there is
enough evidence to send a case to the Grand
Court.

Mr. Bulgin said he’d like to get
the system to a point where a suspect charged with a “class A” offence (the
most serious of criminal offences) would have to make just one appearance in Summary Court
before the case is moved to the Grand
Court.

“There’s no point in having the
matter languish before the magistrate,” Mr. Bulgin said.

The attorney general said he is
aware that many members of the public are crying for stricter sentences for
criminal offenders. However, Mr. Bulgin said he’s not sure how much further
sentencing options can go in the Cayman Islands.

Current maximum prison sentences
for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated burglary,
and kidnapping are all life in prison. In fact, judges have no other option but
to give a convicted murderer a life prison sentence in Cayman.

Firearms-related offences carry a
maximum 20-year sentence and a minimum 10-year sentence, unless there are extraordinary
circumstances in the case determined by a judge – in which case a minimum
sentence of seven years can be applied.

There is also a maximum 20-year
sentence for anyone convicted of membership in a gang or who participates in
gang activities. However, that section of the Penal Code has never been used in
any Cayman Islands criminal case.

“I am not the court, but I could
say that I am satisfied with the length of sentences for most of these
offences,” Mr. Bulgin said.

Doing business

Both the Cayman Islands tourism
sector and the real estate industry said last week that they are starting to
feel the effects of recent crimes – or the perception of crime – on Grand
Cayman.

“Crime is something that’s really
difficult to talk about,” Mr. Broadbelt said. “We keep hearing promises… but at
some point you have to draw a line in the sand.”

Mr Broadbelt pointed at close
neighbour Jamaica as an example of the impact that crime levels could have on a
destination.

“They’ve created these resorts with
barbed wire fences around them to keep criminals out but to keep the guests in
as well. It’s become a successful business model but because they’re keeping
them in and safe they also kind of trap them and get every last dollar out of
them.

“One of the negative things about
all-inclusive resorts is the economic benefit from the resorts is not spread to
the wider community. It’s all for one and other businesses get very little out
of these all-inclusive resorts,” he said.

At this stage, he said he was not
aware of any plans for well-known inclusive resorts to come and set up on
Cayman or for any of the current hotels and resorts to move in a dedicated
all-inclusive and walled direction.

Local realtors, faced with a
declining international economy in any case, said the recent violent crime on Grand Cayman has added insult to injury.

“One trend is that a select few
overseas property owners and investors who have been in Cayman for many years
are considering selling their property, due to concerns about their own and
their family’s personal safety,” said Kim Lund of Re/Max.

Mr.
Lund also noted that some of the overseas customers coming here to invest in a
vacation home are reading the newspapers and are shocked by the violence and
level of crime. 

“An
important reason for them to come here and invest is the safety aspect and our
reputation for having low crime levels,” he said. “These potential purchasers
are starting to have second thoughts about investing, whereas a few years ago,
they would not have had any hesitation.”

J.C.
Calhoun of Coldwell Banker said he thought people were “overreacting” about
news of crime in the Cayman Islands last year.

“I
hear it a lot more now,” Mr. Calhoun said. “People are very concerned and are
rethinking spending their time here.”

“I
have been getting calls and emails from clients who have been coming here for
many years asking what is going on with all the crime.”

Sam Bulgin
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3 COMMENTS

  1. Serious about disrupting travel patterns sound serious dont it.(Reactive) Cayman need to seriously protect it’s coast line. (Proactive) Action at a national level is needed to stem the tide of illegal entry, while the police by attrition remove what has already landed. We need a coast guard, seriously! On Guard, not on call. This is where the UK should help. A warm water port for their navy/coast guard, with their training married to our coastline defense.

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  2. RE: Caymanian-on-guard
    This just makes so much sense that one wonders why no-one else has brought it up. These illegal firearms must be arriving by boat or cargo, and I would venture that the vast majority are by boat (and please correct me if anyone knows otherwise). If the firearms smuggling is stopped and Cayman continues to aggressively spot-check all illegal firearms would disappear from Cayman. This wouldn’t solve everything but it would make a huge difference.

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  3. While crime is just “disrupting some people’s lives”, it is taking lives of others and changing it forever for those who survived (woman got shot in the face).Nothing is more precious than a human life. The territory and population of Grand Cayman is so tiny and so isolated, that one should ask the authorities why is it so hard to find these criminals and why more sophisticated actions are not employed in search for weapons. 99% of the residens are decent human beings. These 1% is not a needle in a haystack.If 100 homes need to be checked for weapons, just do it. Desperate times require desperate measures. Get help from professionals from UK if local authorities are unable to make a difference.

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