Lawmakers ‘disappointed’ over crime

Both opposition party legislators
and Cayman’s lone independent lawmaker expressed disappointment Friday that
Premier McKeeva Bush had not more fully addressed crime issues during his
budget address last week.

“You cannot separate the crime
issue from the economy,” Opposition Leader Kurt Tibbetts said during his debate
on the 2010/11 budget. “It is getting worse.”

Recent figures released by the
Royal Cayman Islands Police Service seem to bear that out.

Calendar year 2009 in Cayman saw an
overall increase in violent crime of more than 10 per cent as well as a record
set for the number of killings during one year – eight. Those grim statistics
were followed up by a similar increase in violent crimes during the first three
months of 2010, with a total of five killings through March.

Although the elected arm of
government does not have direct responsibility for law enforcement matters,
Cayman’s new Constitution gives lawmakers more input than ever before into
policing strategies with the creation of the National Security Council.

Mr. Tibbetts said he was concerned
that Cayman was being portrayed “as the new Wild West” (a reference to the
once-lawless American western borderlands in the 18th and 19th centuries) in
the press.

“Tourists will not feel comfortable
here if our own people do not feel secure,” he said.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, the
Legislative Assembly’s only independent member, said he was also “disturbed” by
an article that appeared in Friday’s Caymanian Compass, which quoted government
budget reports. Those reports revealed that the upcoming budget cut funding for
police patrols and investigations, while increasing funding for police security
operations, the police marine unit and helicopter patrols.

Although he said the lengthy,
detailed budget documents from which information for the article had come were
“a waste of funds”, Mr. Miller said he was “disappointed” in what the report
revealed. “The idea that the government may have reduced funds to police
patrols and redirected funds to provide more money for security of government
officials is disturbing to me,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller also said he disagrees
with the general concept of calling the RCIPS a police “service” rather than a
police “force” – as it once was known.

The North Side MLA said he is
concerned that neighbourhood policing officers employed by the police were
“fraternising with criminals”.

“I have no idea what a police
service is supposed to do,” he said. “I would like to have, in my district, the
reinstatement of a police force.”

“Those tempted (by crime) must have
fear of the police.”

Fingerprinting and arms

Mr. Miller also urged Police
Commissioner David Baines – by 6pm on the Friday on which he was speaking – to
arm “every police patrol car” in the Cayman Islands.

“If they (criminals) hear the
police cars were armed, they would think a second the about pulling a fake
weapon or a gun,” he said.

Commissioner Baines has repeatedly
said he would not take the RCIPS down that route. Mr. Baines, a 30-year veteran
UK lawman, has said he prefers expanding the number of Uniform Support Group
Officers – police who are specially trained in the use of firearms and who
respond to situations based on need.

Mr. Baines has said arming all
police patrols would simply put further distance between officers and the
community they serve.

The North Side MLA also brought up
the Immigration Department’s plans to start fingerprinting all work permit
holders in the Islands – that is due to occur in the last quarter of 2010.

The government has budgeted
$900,000 in the upcoming fiscal year to support the project.

“I support that fully, but I don’t
think it should be just for work permit holders,” Mr. Miller said. “I am one of
those Caymanians who will admit that there are Caymanians committing crimes.”

During the House debate, Mr. Miller
referenced one case he was aware of where a planning inspector on Cayman Brac
was employed by the government, which was apparently aware at the time it hired
the man that he had a previous conviction in the US for aggravated burglary.

According to prior research done on
this case by the Caymanian Compass, the man was 19 years old at the time of his
conviction in Ohio, USA. He had served his sentence and was not facing any
criminal charges when he came to Cayman Brac to work.

Questions sent to the Ministry of
Planning about the situation several months ago were never answered.

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