Commissioner says good work, lawmakers sceptical
A near 27 per cent decrease in burglaries since the beginning of the year is the result of focused efforts of police, not the reluctance of residents to report those crimes, Police Commissioner David Baines said in a recent interview.
Burglaries make up the vast majority of the serious crimes in Cayman each year. In the first six months of 2011, burglaries accounted for roughly two-thirds of all serious crimes reported to police. A sharp drop in burglary numbers would therefore make overall crime stats look much better.
With the fall in burglary numbers, Cayman’s serious crime rate dropped about 22 per cent this year when compared with the first six months of 2010. If one eliminates the burglary figures from the crime tally, the six-month drop in serious crimes in Cayman is reduced to about 10 per cent – rather than 27.
Commissioner Baines said the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has maintained a steady focus on burglaries since last year.
“We had a burglary investigation team … that brought together increased patrols in the areas where burglaries were taking place at the relevant times, coordinating the evidence that was coming from them … and those we knew were actively involved in burglaries,” Mr. Baines said. “The end result was … a speedier identification of offenders.
The commissioner said it’s not unusual to see a large drop in burglary numbers once a few arrests are made, since burglars generally don’t stop at just one break-in.
“In the courts … individuals have come in and it’s not just one offence they’ve been identified for, they’ve been linked to 10 or more offences,” Mr. Baines said. “People do not burgle in isolation… they’ll continue operating until caught.”
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller has publicly doubted RCIPS crime figures and recently noted in the Legislative Assembly his belief that people simply weren’t going to the police to report crime anymore.
Mr. Miller said part of this had to do with mistrust issues, and part was because of light sentences the public perceives to be given to convicted offenders.
“I know for a fact that the crime in the district I represent is being under-reported … because they have no faith in the police taking proper action with the crime,” he told the assembly in June. “I encourage them to report it.”
The North Side representative recounted an incident where he said he reported a person “setting up shop” on the side of a road. When he came back to the location later on, Mr. Miller said the subject of his complaint came to him and asked why he had called the police. Mr. Miller said the person only could have known he made the report if the police told him about it.
He added that Governor Duncan Taylor said during his Throne Speech in May that public confidence in the police remained elusive.
“I wonder why,” Mr. Miller said.
When questioned about some of the comments in the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Baines said it was an issue police come across when they report that crime has fallen.
“If [police statistics] had shown an increase, you’d have taken it as fact,” he said. “There’s an oft-heard issue that says ‘well, obviously people aren’t bothering to report it.’
“The fact that we have identified and arrested [suspects] is the critical factor. We’ve taken out individuals who are part of that spike and increasing level of burglary, we’ll continue to do that.”
Premier McKeeva Bush also opined during a recent crime strategy presentation with the governor that criticising the police is historically somewhat common amongst local lawmakers.
“That complaint has been in every finance committee … or when they get on the floor of the house,” Mr. Bush said. “The first thing they say is ‘oh, we hear people are not going to the police.’
“It’s the easiest thing to come and say that the police are not doing their job. I really don’t believe that.”