‘Triggermen’ off the streets

Most of the 15 ‘trigger men’ to
whom Police Commissioner David Baines attributed Cayman’s serious gun crimes
when he first took up his post are now behind bars, have left the Island or are
dead, the top cop told George Town residents this week.

Mr. Baines, speaking at a public
meeting at the South Sound Community Centre on Monday night, said all but one
of the people he had in mind when he made his statement about the 15 to 20
trigger men last September had been “through police cells” since he arrived on
Island.

“Our starting point is to take the
most dangerous people off the streets and stop people getting shot,” said Mr.
Baines, adding that the tit-for-tat gang shootings and night after night of
gunfire reported earlier this year in Cayman had died down.

“We have stopped that because we
have charged the people responsible and the trigger men, most of them, are [in
jail], have moved off Island, and some, regrettably, are dead,” he said.

While the public may still have a
perception that police are not dealing with crime adequately, Mr. Baines said,
he insisted that his officers had been successful in targeting known dangerous
criminals on the Island.

In the first of a series of
community meetings in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Baines was joined by government
ministers Mark Scotland and Mike Adam and George Town Police District Commander
Richard Barrow to outline the work police and the government have done to
tackle crime and social issues.

Recording interviews

Addressing criticisms that criminal
cases had been thrown out of court or not gone to court because police had
failed to interview suspects or witnesses properly or had mishandled or lost
evidence, Mr. Baines said police are preparing to record or videotape interviews
involving serious crimes.

He said there will be video and
recording equipment in interview suites where suspects in serious cases will be
questioned by police, so that their evidence and interviews would be
“indisputable”.

Stressing that he wanted to ensure
“we get it right first time”, Mr. Baines said officers were being trained to
record interviews. It emerged during a murder trial last year that only a
handful of Cayman’s police officers were trained to record interviews and that
police rely on handwritten interview notes.

Mr. Baines also said an exhibits
officer now handles evidence in each case, an effort he said has been paying
dividends in that there have been fewer cases in which defence lawyers were
challenging the chain of custody for evidence exhibits.

Facing complaints at Monday’s
meeting that some of his officers were not acting professionally, Mr. Baines
admitted that there was some “dead wood that needs to be cut out” in the force,
but that he has “a lot of fantastic officers doing their best in difficult
circumstances”.

One of the criticisms that
repeatedly arose during the meeting was that members of the public who were
victims of crime or who had reported a crime received no follow-up from
officers. One member of the audience described how his business premises had
been broken into 11 times in the past year, saying each time police returned
and took fingerprints, but then did not get in contact again until the next burglary
occurred. No one has been arrested in connection with those break-ins.

Mr. Baines said he had set up a
system whereby officers had begun to call complainants to check whether they
were satisfied with the quality of service they had received.

New hires

The commissioner said that to fill
some of the 85 vacancies that existed in the RCIPS when he took up the reins
more than a year ago, 44 new recruits have been hired locally and from
Barbados, Jamaica, the UK and US; 10 experienced officers have been hired from
overseas; and police are in the process of bringing another 10 officers on
Island in the next month. Among the experienced new hires are police who were
trained to use firearms, he said.

Once it has enough manpower, the
police service will endeavour to place two beat police officers in every
district covered by a Member of the Legislative Assembly, with a total of 29
officers, the commissioner said.

In the past, police had
neighbourhood beat officers, but many of those were pulled off that duty to
deal with and investigate spates of serious crimes in recent years.

CCTV

Mr. Baines said the addition of
closed circuit television cameras in districts would help address the
reluctance of witnesses to come forward with information because they retribution
from criminals.

He said police regularly
encountered situations where “people are reluctant to come forward and give
evidence because they are known to the offender or their family or they are
frightened of retribution”, adding that with the use of CCTVs, witnesses may not
need to come forward and that closed circuit TV cameras could also corroborate
witnesses’ statements or disprove them.

Asked if he supported the right of
individuals to bear arms, the commissioner said that while he acknowledges that
guns may be used for hunting or farming, he believes that the theft by
criminals of legally owned firearms poses a threat to his officers and to the
public, citing a recent shooting case in which he said a stolen weapon was
used.

More than 40 people attended the
George Town gathering, including current and former Members of the Legislative
Assembly Ellio Solomon, Kurt Tibbetts, Alden McLaughlin and Lucille Seymour.

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