Short-term measures include pawnbrokers legislation and faster checking of cameras
Police Commissioner David Baines and Eastern District top officers met North Side residents on Wednesday night for over two hours, with most of that time spent discussing burglaries, burglars and ways to stop them.
Asked who was buying stolen goods, Mr. Baines said local members of the community did, and officers have intercepted things being wrapped up for shipment to Jamaica or Honduras.
Referring to a third market, he said, “Pawn shops are creating real issues.” He revealed that a law was being produced to regulate the pawn shop business and he has asked for holding periods. That is, when an item is taken in, it would have to be held unchanged for a certain number of days.
A holding period is particularly important now that there are smelting capabilities on the Island, he emphasised.
He noted that there has been a particular rise in the amount of jewellery being stolen.
Area Commander Brad Ebanks added that, in addition to gold, silver and platinum being stolen, people should be aware that copper was one of the most sought metals on the Island right now. It is being stolen from construction sites, air-conditioning units and electrical boxes, he said.
Electronic items and flat-screen TVs remain popular, the officers indicated.
Police do go to the pawn shops and check the registers of items received and information about the person bringing them in. Some stores take photos and fingerprints, Mr. Baines said.
When police go to these businesses, it is helpful if they have a list of stolen property to show to the staff, he continued. That was one reason why it is so important for property owners to make a list of valuable items, complete with make, model and serial number.
Another reason is so recovered property can be returned to its owner. Mr. Baines gave the example of a flat-screen TV being recovered. Four burglary victims think it’s theirs because it’s the same make and model, but there is no evidence of ownership because no one has kept a record of the serial number.
Mr. Ebanks suggested taking photos of valued items and their serial numbers and then e-mailing them to oneself. Storing them on a computer will not help if the computer is among the items stolen, he pointed out. He especially encouraged photographing jewellery: “Nothing identifies jewellery better than a photo,” he asserted.
Asked who the burglars are, Mr. Baines said the majority are Caymanians and some are Jamaicans that come with them. Some live in North Side, while others travel to the district to engage in their criminality.
MLA Ezzard Miller, who hosted the meeting in the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre, said there was evidence that some people were taking jobs at various residences “to scope the place.”
Mr. Ebanks said North Side has always been known as a peaceful, quiet place where nothing happens. Unfortunately, people now realise that properties are unoccupied for extensive periods.
Even when they are rented, would-be burglars will drive past and see a rental car in the driveway, so they will come back when the car is gone and then break in. He suggested that residents be aware of vehicles cruising in their neighbourhood and take down licence numbers.
The officers recommended that owners who have someone managing their property should insist that the manager check it every day. A report to police about a break-in a week after it happens is not as good as a report the day after the incident, when people’s memories are clearer.
Another reason a timely report helps is that it narrows the time frame for a search of footage from CCTV cameras in the district, Mr. Baines said.
He revealed that, when his boat trailer was stolen, he was able to find out where it was within 24 hours by looking through camera footage.
One man complained that he had reported an incident that occurred on 8 or 9 January, but no policeman yet had come to see him about it.
Mr. Baines said it was good that he could refer to specific dates. The cameras hold data long enough that officers would be able to go back and check footage for those dates.
The men agreed there was a problem with repeat offenders. Mr. Baines pointed out that the police arrest and charge suspects and put them before the court. The decision whether to release them on bail is up to the court, he explained. It was not unusual for a bailed person to commit another burglary or two while waiting for his first charge to be dealt with.
He acknowledged that part of the problem was the overcrowded prison.
Long-term solutions to the crime problem were also discussed. The audience of about 20 supported the idea of programmes that help children learn social values and teach young adults job skills.
Mr. Miller said one problem was the recent tendency of business owners to find the cheapest labour. North Siders have always been honest and hard-working, he submitted, but they were now being denied employment because people of other nationalities would work for $2 an hour less.
District residents also asked for a clarification on what is trespassing and what police could do about traffic on Sundays and holidays.
Mr. Baines, Mr. Ebanks and Inspector Christsandra Mitchell talked with individual members of the audience afterwards, while Mr. Miller reported to others on updates to the proposed marine conservation legislation.