Overseas territories struggle with crime

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An unusually
high number of gun-related, violent crimes have hit several British Overseas Territories
in the Caribbean and the Atlantic in recent months, while others struggle with
on-going internal corruption problems.

In Bermuda,
rocked by 43 firearms incidents since the beginning of 2010, police have
reported seven gun homicides within the past year. Thirteen people have been
arrested in connection with those killings, but no charges have been filed in
any of the cases.

“Clearly this
is a time that none of us have seen before,” Bermuda police spokesperson Dwayne
Caines told a newspaper there last week following a shooting that left a
teenage girl in critical condition.

The Cayman
Islands knows the feeling.

So far this
year, five homicides have occurred, all within the first three months.

This follows
two back-to-back record-setting years for killings in 2008, which saw seven
deaths and 2009, which saw eight.

All of
Cayman’s homicides this year have resulted from shootings. Last year, six of
the eight victims were shot to death.

The story is
the same in the Turks and Caicos, where a pastor lamented rising gun crime in
an editorial last week.

“Statistics
show a constant and alarming increase in crimes committed among our youth and
young adult population over the past few years,” Bishop Pedro Williams was
quoted as saying in the Turks and Caicos Sun.

The TCI also
has an on-going government corruption probe to deal with, one that appeared in
late March to be running out of money.

The UK house
Foreign Affairs Committee recommended last week that the British government
fund anti-corruption investigations in the Turks and Caicos. However, the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office has so far refused to do so.

The house
committee noted that it had been almost a year since Sir Robin Auld completed
his enquiry into allegations of widespread corruption in the TCI. The enquiry
sustained many of the allegations and uncovered major concerns about
misappropriated government funds. The probe led to the ouster of former TCI
Premier Michael Misick.

However, since
November, Special Prosecutor Helen Garlick has continued to express anxiety
about whether there would be appropriate funding for the on-going
investigation.

Foreign Office
Under Secretary of State Chris Bryant has maintained that the UK taxpayers
should not have to fund the prosecution team since “the former TCI government
was responsible for the present parlous economic state of the Islands.”

The Foreign
Affairs Committee said that argument was flawed.

“It ignores
the extent to which the UK government was also culpable in allowing a culture
of systemic corruption to develop in TCI unchecked, thereby neglecting its duty
of responsible oversight of the Overseas Territories,” read a report issued by
the committee last week.

Cayman Islands
Governor Duncan Taylor said he believes there is little similarity between the
corruption situation in Turks and Caicos and what is happening here.

However, the
comments from Minister Bryant raise questions about how much help Cayman can
expect to receive from the UK in the current economic climate.

“The Premier
has made it very clear…that he will make available whatever resources are
necessary for the police service and other law enforcement agencies here to try
and bring down the crime rate,” Mr. Taylor said. “That’s very important,
because if we can do it here, with our own resources, it’s got to be better.”

Police
Commissioner David Baines has said he intends to bring in 14 officers
temporarily from the UK to help local police with their criminal investigations.
Governor Taylor said some of those support officers could arrive by this week.

“The speed and
effectiveness with which our colleagues in the Foreign Office supported that request,
I think…is indicative of a strong level of support coming out of the UK,” he
said. 

Mr. Taylor
said some of the response to the crime escalation in Bermuda is similar to what
Cayman proposes.

“In other
words: a recognition that you can’t tackle the problem simply through policing
and prevention,” he said. “You’ve got to go back and start tackling some of the
causes of the crime, which is a much broader and longer-term challenge.”

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Crime scenes like this one on Mary Street on Grand Cayman are becoming more common throughout the Caribbean.
Photo: File
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