At a gun amnesty meeting held Monday, 11 July, at the East End Civic Centre, law enforcement officials outnumbered attendees.
Only four East Enders came to the community meeting, which was open to the public.
Several factors may have contributed to the poor turnout, but while the members of the community blamed the choice of the isolated Civic Centre as the root of the problem, the members of the panel blamed residents’ apathy.
Despite the limited attendance, however, the meeting continued for an hour past the scheduled end time.
The meeting was hosted by a panel consisting of At Risk Coordinator for the Department of Education Michael Myles, Detective Superintendent Kurt Walton and Chief Inspector Martin Bodden.
The main topics discussed included gun crime, the lack of trust the public has in the police, the number of armed criminals in comparison to the number of armed police officers, the impact of media on youth, truancy, youth programmes, and the role poor parenting plays in the lives of at-risk youth.
Guns and gossip
Concerns over confidentiality within the police force, one of the most common criticisms of the RCIPS, was touched upon in the East End meeting.
Mary Bodden, an elder in the East End community present at the meeting, said she only felt comfortable talking to two police officers.
“I have two policemen … and I can tell these two policemen anything and it stays with them,” she said. “The rest of you talk too much.”
While Mr. Bodden acknowledged this is a common perception, he was aware of instances where gossip was wrongly blamed on the police.
“Unfortunately, what has happened in some instances is whenever people report violence to a police officer, they also go and speak to other people as well,” he said.
Mr. Bodden also pointed out that former members of the RCIPS continue to negatively influence public opinion.
“This job is not an easy job and I’m sure there’s a lot of police officers that may have broken those rules who are no longer with us, but that stigma is still here on the RCIPS,” he said, encouraging the public to cast aside their mistrust for the good of the community.
The increased amount of reported crimes involving firearms and the ability of the RCIPS to deal with gun crime was also discussed.
“If I call them and tell them the person has a gun and I can see they have a gun, the police are not going to come,” said Community Relations Officer Delmira Bodden, who attended the meeting as a member of the East End community. “The reality of it is they are not going to come … until the area is secure.”
While Mr. Walton tried to assure the community members that unarmed police officers could safely respond to reports of firearms, the need for additional armed forces was clearly a community concern.
“What does that officer have to protect himself?” asked Ms Mary. “There’s seven guys out there and one policeman and all he has is his hands.”
As with previous community meetings held over the past week, youth issues were also brought up at the East End community meeting.
“Truancy is a contributing factor … it is also a warning that something is going wrong in that young person’s life,” said Ms Delmira, questioning why there was only one truancy officer responsible for every student in Grand Cayman.
While Mr. Myles agreed with Ms Delmira, he did point out that responsibility ultimately rested on the shoulders of the children’s parents.
“Parents are going to have to start going before the court and explaining to the court why their kids are truant,” he said. “People are saying that it’s the police’s responsibility, or it’s the government’s responsibility, it’s the community development officer’s responsibility, it’s the social services’ responsibility, instead of saying it is [their own] responsibility.”
Mr. Myles also expressed his hope that the Prison Me! No Way! programme would soon be implemented within schools on island to discourage youngsters from embarking down paths of disobedience, drugs and violence.
The Prison programme would replace the Drug Abuse Resistance Education programme which Mr. Myles said had been proven ineffective.
Ultimately, however, Mr. Myles said the situation with local youths would not improve until the community took responsibility and parents became role models.
“Everyone must have a stake in this,” he said, “because it is costing us.”
The remaining meeting will be held on:
Thursday, 14 July, 7.30 to 8.30pm Hurricane Shelter, Little Cayman