Guns for rent?
Arrests for possession of unlicensed firearms more than doubled in the first six months of 2011, according to crime statistics released by Royal Cayman Islands Police last week.
The police records revealed there were 14 cases of illegal firearms reported in the first half of this year, compared to just six in the same period of 2010.
It may not sound like a success story, but to RCIPS Commissioner David Baines, it means more illegal weapons have been taken off the streets – and more importantly – crucial pieces of evidence in previous crimes have been located.
“Some of those firearms that we’ve recovered have been directly linked to three, and in one case, four separate serious offences,” Mr. Baines said Thursday.
Mr. Baines said in some of those cases one firearm was passed between different criminal offenders, then hidden somewhere, picked up and used again.
“We’ve had weapons recovered that have been buried, we’ve had other instances where it’s a clear storage and its handed off to specific individuals,” he said. “We’ve even had instances where its suggested they’re rented out for a given period.”
Although shootings on Grand Cayman dropped off in the latter half of 2010 and the early part of this year, firearms were reported to have been used in many of the 39 robberies here since January to threaten victims.
In the two most recent incidents, 28-year-old Kemar Golding and 57-year-old Medsadie Connor were shot by the men who robbed them.
Mr. Baines believes the two incidents were largely “crimes of opportunity”, and that the violence displayed in the heists – which occurred on 29 June and 13 July – was worrying.
“We could just as easily have been investigating two murders here,” he said.
However, the trading off of weapons among criminal suspects, while troubling, is also a sign to police that there is a limited availability of illegal weapons on Grand Cayman, Mr. Baines said.
“There are still too many firearms, as (Wednesday night’s) shooting indicated,” Commissioner Baines said. “But what it does say is that we’re not awash with firearms. If that were the case, why would there be a need for different offenders, different gang members…to have a collective crew of weapons?”
One of the police service’s top criminal investigators, Superintendent Marlon Bodden, said police have been successful in taking illegal firearms off the streets to some extent.
A gun amnesty period in 2010 ended with 26 weapons – including guns, bows and arrows, a grenade and a taser – being surrendered. Since that amnesty, Mr. Bodden said some 30 firearms and about 2,300 rounds of ammunition had been recovered by police between mid-June 2010 and mid-June 2011. .
In addition, another 17 firearms were either seized at Cayman’s port or in the US in packaging that was earmarked for Cayman. The weapons seizures occurred between 2009 and 2010.
That adds up to 73 weapons – mostly firearms or items adapted to be used as firearms – being taken off local streets.
“It sounds good that we’ve made these seizures, but a lot of crimes have been committed after that,” Mr. Bodden said.
RCIPS is again trying a gun amnesty this month, running through 31 July. People can turn in weapons at the George Town, Bodden Town, West Bay and Cayman Brac police stations.