Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner David Baines took issue with US gun rights and the proliferation of rap music at a regional governance and business conference held in Cayman last week.
Mr. Baines, who took over as Cayman’s top cop in June 2009, warned the attendees at the Northern Caribbean Conference on Economic Cooperation that on-going US enforcement activities at the Texas-Mexico border would likely have some significant affect on drug trafficking in the Caribbean.
“The consequences of US success in Mexico…will directly force lucrative drug trade and the associated gangs to revisit their traditional transit routes and, may I suggest, place the Caribbean at risk of an escalating turf war as transit routes through our region are of necessity increasingly used,” the commissioner said.
He said that certain media commentaries – he referenced the Economist magazine – had opined that Caribbean police forces were being overwhelmed by “well armed gangs, international drug traffickers, and systemic corruption” and were not capable of dealing with the increased threat.
“Quite rightly, such commentary rankles our communities with its suggestion that the answer lies in the recruitment of law enforcement professionals from the countries of the developed world,” Mr. Baines said, who is a 30-year veteran UK lawman. “The irony of my saying that is not lost on me.”
The commissioner pointed out that the same developed countries had not been able to stem the illicit guns and drugs trade despite having numerous law enforcement agencies and “unparalleled funding”.
The problem is a regional one, he said. The effects of crime are not bottled up on one Caribbean island and when one country starts to get a handle on its organised crime elements those individuals often start looking for a better place to operate. “They will migrate to safer locales to continue their criminality,” Mr. Baines said, adding that the need for law enforcement agencies to act regionally had never been more evident.
Commissioner Baines actually pointed to the United States as the chief suspect in indirectly arming criminal gangs operating in the Caribbean and Central America.
Mr. Baines said more than 60,000 guns that originated from the US were recovered in Mexico over the past four years, for instance.
“The prevalence of weaponry and the unrestricted sales of weapons – particularly within the second hand market within the US – is now being exploited to secure large numbers [of weapons], which are smuggled to our region and emerge within the criminal element,” Mr. Baines said. “I have no interest in seeking to comment upon the national politics and the laws…of the US citizens and their constitution. However, at an international level – and specifically here in the Caribbean – the constitutional right to bear arms in the United States is directly contributing to the denial of the right to life for young men in the Caribbean.” Mr. Baines also said that rap music had played its own part in the Caribbean gangs and drugs culture. He actually applauded efforts in some countries to prevent certain acts from travelling there to perform.
“I’m quite happy with those countries who are banning your pop stars who would want to spread the murder, mayhem rap and going around as if it is normal, appropriate, sensible,” he said. “The more people that we stop travelling around our region and actually collectively state, ‘that’s not our value for our communities’.”
Mr. Baines’ office later clarified that statement.
“The question had been raised about the influences of Caribbean music,” the statement from RCIPS read. “Mr. Baines had stated that there are many aspects of Caribbean music that should be celebrated – however there is one element of the music which is unhelpful; that element being the glorification of gun crime, murder and mayhem. You’ll recall that during the recent gun amnesty the RCIPS made similar comment about the influence such music has on our young people.”
Individual police services in some Caribbean countries were being beaten down in their response to crime as corruption and the collapse of governance structures leaves fertile ground for the proliferation of criminal gangs, Mr. Baines said.
“If we are to combat the threat, it is no longer sufficient to rely on….single departments or units, be they police or military,” Mr. Baines said. “The threat is such that alignments…by governments, judicial, police, military and civil society are absolutely essential…to prevent organised crime gangs from establishing a base in our communities. It will require nations to act collectively, to operate regionally and not locally.”