Crime-fighting flop?

Cayman spends millions of dollars each year on social programmes aimed at fighting crime and community drug resistance. But a recent report finds the effectiveness and organisation of these programmes hard to determine.  

Would it surprise you to know that there are currently more than 130 various government-run and non-profit programmes aimed at crime reduction and community development in Cayman?  

Many of those programmes are enforcement operations by police and other law enforcement agencies such as customs and the Immigration Department.  

But the country spends millions each year on early intervention and efforts to cut down on re-offending by people who have already been convicted of crimes.  

According to a recent review of crime-fighting programmes reported in the Cayman Islands Crime Reduction Strategy, many of these efforts are disorganised, lack direction, lack proper funding and are going to waste.  

“There appeared to be too many projects with resources spread over too many agencies,” read a summary of the Cayman Islands Crime Reduction Strategy, made public by members of the National Security Council last month. “Sometimes [funding] was spread too thinly, with projects and departments having to compete. Based on volume, it is impossible for all these efforts to be effective.”  

The report – the result of a year-long research project into crime fighting and community stabilisation techniques – identifies several general strategies the government will pursue to reduce the incidence of crime.  

Dozens of other suggestions are made within the report for various ways to reduce crime, recidivism and strengthen the community. Governor Duncan Taylor said those will be reviewed in due course as to their feasibility.  

One of the key findings made in the report is the establishment of a coordination or “tsar” role within the Cayman Islands Cabinet office to direct crime-fighting and related programmes throughout the Islands.  

Governor Taylor says it is eventually expected that some of the current programmes will be phased out or merged together, depending on evaluations of their effectiveness. Determining their current effectiveness is not an easy task, the crime strategy report found.  

“Most agencies have not supplied the performance indicators of their various programmes or their success rate,” the report found. “To be more effective, we need to better understand what we have and why we have it… do we really need 15 similar screwdrivers all belonging to different people?”  

For instance, an organisation like the CAYS Foundation is separate from the government Department of Children and Family Services, but there may be no rationale for such a split, the report found.  

“Why is the Youth Services Unit in a separate ministry from the Department of Children and Family Services?” the report asked. “Why is the Department of Counselling Services running programmes that were previously run by the Department of Children and Family Services and not providing essential services they receive budget dollars for – like drug and alcohol counselling for prisoners?”  

A Cabinet Office coordinator [or tsar] is expected to be hired in government’s upcoming budget to assist in coordinating the various programmes.  

The crime strategy report also noted that too many of Cayman’s young people were becoming trapped in the criminal justice system. In early 2009, there were 14 young offenders in the Eagle House facility, but because of overcrowding at Northward Prison there were 18 adult offenders residing at Eagle House at the same time.  

“Eagle House does not begin to meet the needs of boys, and for young girls there is no facility between home and prison,” the report noted. “It was alarming to note the statistics of how the vast majority of boys released from Bonaventure and other care programmes had ended up in the criminal justice system.”  

Spending  

Figures for what exactly was being spent for which crime-fighting and community assistance efforts were not available for all programmes. Also, performance measures were simply not available for many of those programmes.  

Some, the report noted, just didn’t bother to respond to requests for information from the governor’s office, despite repeated requests. . Others are run out of various government agencies and are included in their budgets and separate funding figures for those programmes were not provided.  

“Most agencies have not supplied the performance indicators of their various programmes…or their success rate,” the crime strategy report noted. “There was a lack of information about non-governmental entities. Many [entities] are funded by government , despite their purchase agreements, there is very little information on how effective their programmes are in terms of outcomes.  

“There is a huge desire in the private sector to help, but they don’t know which area or who to target. A central and coordinated policy for project delivery in government is needed to provide a clearer focus for the private sector.”  

The “early intervention” programmes included in the list compiled by the National Crime Reduction Strategy report – those that reported what they were spending anyway – totalled CI $5,925,227 for the government budget year that ended on 30 June.  

 

Those programmes cover a wide range of areas. They include:  

More than a dozen athletics associations including the Cayman Islands Football Association, the CI Basketball Association, the CI Cricket Association, the CI Olympic Committee and the like. The sports programmes are considered early intervention programmes because they assist in involving kids in productive activities.  

More than $1 million was budgeted for residential treatment programmes for both men and women.  

Some $743,907 went for individual, couples, family and group therapy for individuals, which includes anything from drug treatment to family counselling services.  

The Cayman Islands Cadet Corp spent $343,080 for a membership- of about 200 young people in Cayman and Cayman Brac.  

The pre-sentencing, intervention and supervision programme for prison inmates cost $391,257, producing more than 2,000 reports to the courts system that year.  

A new victim and wellness support programme cost $334,780 for the year but did not provide numbers of people it assisted for the purposes of the crime strategy report.  

 

A number of other community programmes that either received no government funding or that did not provide those figures for the report included: the Outreach Training Programme, the “Men of Standard” mentoring programme at UCCI, Hedge Funds Care in Cayman, the ‘Prison! Me? No Way? Programme, the Alternative Education Centre, the Passport 2 Success Programme, the Girls Brigade, the Gideon Pathfinders, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, and the National Drug Council among others.  

 

Recommendations  

The report recommended that a main thrust of government’s crime strategy should be the reduction of instances of re-offending or recidivism, particularly among youth offenders.  

“There is currently no drug and alcohol counselling being offered to prison inmates,” the study reported. “This is shocking as over 70 per cent of those incarcerated have a drug and or alcohol problem.”  

Consistency in drug education was also recommended, starting early at the primary and secondary school levels. The report found young people have a lack of knowledge about the medical and psychological consequences of drug or alcohol abuse.  

One of the models with which the National Security Council members were most impressed was the BEST, or the behavioural and educational support team. The programme focuses on crime education targeting at-risk students at the primary school level, but the crime reduction strategy report noted it lacked funding at the moment.  

Once adult inmates are incarcerated, sentence planning to reward good behaviour is needed equally as punishments for bad behaviour. The report suggested reopening the previous site of the prison farm in North Side which was closed following the killing of Sabrina Schirn in 2009.  

The report also suggested that an inmate re-employment programme should be started potentially through the Department of Employment Relations.  

“If a prisoner on release has stable housing and a job, he is less likely to re-offend,” the study noted. On the housing front, assistance often comes too late from government as the inmate’s most vulnerable period is the first 72 hours after release.  

A slew of suggestions regarding early intervention, crime fighting operational programmes, enforcement and recidivism are also made toward the end of the crime report.  

Governor Taylor pointed out that most of the ideas contained in this section needed a more careful review, but he said the government and National Security Council would be exploring all aspects of the study.  

 

Suggestions from the crime  

reduction strategy report included:  

Home visitation for at-risk children and families from social workers  

Alcohol and drugs training as part of any driving education programmes and tests  

Consider raising the drinking age to 21  

Close all nightclubs at 1am  

Develop a cash-for-guns programme  

Establish a single law enforcement information database for RCIPS, Immigration, and 911  

House dangerous prisoners offshore  

Implement a sex offender registry  

Require all criminal cases to be dealt with, charge to sentence, within 6 months and consider fining defence lawyers who seek to adjourn matters  

Expand the powers of the police commissioner to impose a curfew  

Public advertisements identifying convicted criminals 

Creating a separate court for domestic violence 

Allowing the use of wiretap evidence in court, not just for intelligence-gathering purposes 

Potentially reducing standards required to charge suspects in cases where a violent crime has been committed 

Payment of informants that give valuable information in drugs and guns cases 

Implement a national ID programme  

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