Today marks the beginning of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s annual month-long firearm amnesty.
From Friday, 1 July, to Sunday, 31 July, individuals with illegal, unlicensed, or unused firearms have the opportunity to anonymously turn in their weapons and ammunition.
From 7am to 7pm, seven days a week, a secure lock box will be available for individuals to deposit their firearms and ammunition at the West Bay, George Town, Bodden Town and Cayman Brac police stations.
Last year, the RCIPS gun amnesty resulted in the collection of 26 weapons, including handguns, shotguns, a flare gun, a crossbow, an explosives detonator and a grenade, as well as 233 rounds of ammunition.
“That in itself is a significant help because we know … that those firearms, which have been handed in, will certainly not fall into the wrong hands and potentially take other lives,” said Detective Superintendent Marlon Bodden.
Between the end of last year’s amnesty to 17 June this year, the RCIPS seized another 30 firearms and 2,301 rounds of ammunition in police operations. Mr. Bodden says these numbers highlight the continued importance of the annual amnesty.
“What will Cayman look like in the next 10 years if we do not take a strong stance today and deal with … the amount of unlicensed, illegal weapons that we are finding in the community?” Mr. Bodden asked.
Changing criminal scene
Although there have, so far, been no murders reported in 2011, the use of firearms in criminal activity has not necessarily decreased.
“This year, 2011, unlike 2010, we are having many, many armed robberies, or robberies with firearms,” Mr. Bodden said. “That is the climate in which we are operating in 2011 and … we need the assistance of the public to sort through this.”
Therefore, in addition to turning in illegal, unlicensed or unwanted weapons, individuals are asked to attend a series of community meetings to be held by the RCIPS.
“We want to use this as an opportunity to open dialogue with the Cayman Islands community so that, going forward, we would be in a position to make a safer Cayman Islands,” Mr. Bodden said.
Each district will be visited by the RCIPS during the next two weeks.
Along with members of the RCIPS, Michael Myles, the Ministry of Education Programme coordinator for At Risk Youth, will also be on the panel at each meeting.
“If people really want the crime problem to decrease, they are going to have to get involved,” Mr. Myles said. “This cannot solely be a police effort, it has to be community driven. They have a louder voice.”
The meetings will be held from 7.30-8.30pm and are scheduled as follows: Tuesday, 5 July, at the Mary Miller Memorial Hall in George Town; Wednesday, 6 July, at the Sir John A Cumber Primary School in West Bay; Thursday, 7 July, at the Bodden Town Primary School; Monday, 11 July, at the East End Civic Centre; Tuesday, 12 July, at the North Side Cradock Ebanks Civic Centre; Wednesday, 13 July, at the Layman Scott High School Hall in Cayman Brac; and Thursday, 14 July, at the Little Cayman Hurricane Shelter.
Mr. Bodden acknowledged that success of the gun amnesty requires
the public trust the RCIPS to keep the identities of those who hand in weapons secret, but that the 2010 gun amnesty had already proven their ability to do so.
“No one has ever been confronted as a result of cooperating with us and assisting us in the firearm amnesty,” he said. “So I don’t think that’s a fear that is realistic.”
Each firearm collected during the amnesty undergoes ballistic testing. Forensic testing is not conducted unless ballistics reveal that the weapon was used in a crime.
“If it features in any other crimes we are obligated because, regardless of any pre- or post-gun amnesty, that would have meant that that weapon was used in a crime and we are obligated … to investigate those,” Mr. Bodden said.
Mr. Bodden went on to say the increasing amount of cooporation between the public and the RCIPS was further evidence of the trusting relationship the community has with the police.
“I can tell you for that last 10 or 12 years we have seen a steady increase of information emanating from the public,” he said. “The members of the public have asked us to put on this amnesty, which is a clear indication that the trust is there for the police.”