Police: Jewellery thefts a major concern
A sizable increase in jewellery thefts reported in Cayman during the latter half of 2010 has police rethinking their strategies to include greater regulation of second hand stores and pawn shops.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines said Wednesday that small electronic devices, like cell phones and laptops, are still considered a prime catch for thieves and burglars. But he said police are beginning to notice jewellery being swiped far more often in those cases.
“We have, over the past few months, recovered some stolen items from businesses, which specialise in buying and selling second-hand electrical equipment and jewellery,” Mr. Baines said.
He wouldn’t name any of the stores involved and said, in many cases they might not even realise the property they are buying is hot.
“We’ve started to see significant amounts in value turning up within those stores,” he said.
Mr. Baines said he recently discussed the issue with Attorney General Sam Bulgin, noting the police wished to place additional regulations on second hand goods dealers.
It is already a crime to knowingly handle stolen goods in the Cayman Islands. However, the police are seeking to require those shops to produce records to investigating officers upon demand and to create a seven-day waiting period for businesses before they can dispose of or melt down jewellery they buy from customers.
Mr. Baines said this type of legislation in the UK is not unusual.
“Even scrap yards in other jurisdictions…require that you maintain a log of what it was you received, the date you received it, the vehicle that delivered it, the person and their identity of what was delivered,” he said.
Such laws can be a deterrent to those who seek to sell off stolen property, but Mr. Baines said they can also protect the businesses from inadvertently breaking the law.
Prior to any proposals for pawn shop or second hand store regulation being finalised, the commissioner said he intends to send letters out to the owners of the second hand stores letting them know what steps should be taken.
He admitted there would likely be some leeway included in future regulations, similar to what exists in Cayman law regarding the handling of stolen goods.
“The first time you may get a warning, the second time you may get considered for prosecution, the third time I guarantee you’ll get charged with handling,” Commissioner Baines said. “It’s that sort of approach, about how many errors do you need.”
Some cases that involve stolen goods being fenced may be fairly obvious, Mr. Baines said.
“If you’re paying cents on the dollar, is it for scrap gold or what if it’s very expensive jewellery?”
Cell phone ‘thefts’
Thefts generally saw a massive rise in 2010 when compared to both 2009 and 2008, according to RCIPS year-end stats released on Wednesday.
There were 775 thefts reported in Cayman last year, a 51 per cent increase over the previous year and an 87 per cent increase over 2008, according to RCIPS records.
However, the numbers may not tell the full story, Mr. Baines said.
Almost one quarter of the thefts reported in 2010 involved cell phones being taken.
“We believe that this is more to do with insurance payouts than genuine thefts,” Mr. Baines said. “Our research has shown that some reports of theft may in fact be false reports and those reports could, in turn, be inflating the crime numbers.”
“For example, if someone goes out for the night then reports later that their cell phone, diamond ring or jewellery is missing, they can’t claim on the items through their insurance unless they get a crime number.”
The commissioner said police would be introducing new procedures in 2011 in how they deal with stolen property reports. Those incidents will be listed as lost property unless there is clear evidence that a theft has taken place, Mr. Baines said.