Crime is ‘in progress’

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Cayman Islands crime figures have revealed a significant improvement in public safety over the past 18 months. Nonetheless, there will likely be some key changes to law enforcement oversight after the upcoming May general elections.

Cayman’s elected officials will often be heard grousing that they do not have any direct control over what the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service does.

Shortly after 22 May, 2013, that all may change.

The 2009 Constitution Order has added two new ministerial posts to the country’s current roster of five. It has been envisioned that one of those two new ministers will serve as the ‘Home Affairs Minister’ or ‘Minister for Public Safety’, as the position is referred to in other jurisdictions. The exact title hasn’t been worked out yet.

Currently, the Deputy Governor [formerly the Cayman Islands Chief Secretary] oversees the annual budget for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. Overall responsibility for policing in the Cayman Islands will remain with the British-appointed governor of the territory, in any event. However, the subtle shift in responsibilities contained in the Constitution is likely to mean that the deputy governor hands the purse strings for police over to whatever elected member of the Legislative Assembly is given the ‘home affairs’ role.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said it will ultimately be up to the next government, in consultation with himself and Governor Duncan Taylor, to work out what ministry assignments will be and what is left to the civil service and the governor’s remit. “At the end of the day, it’s a decision for the governor and the premier and his ministers in what they select. Police will still remain with the governor. But you could have a minister being [directly] responsible for the police budget.”

It’s something the civil service is now trying to work out as part of its ‘Project 1’ wholesale review of government departments, according to Deputy Governor’s Special Assistant Peter Gough. “Should all uniform services be under the same ministry, are there synergies there?” Gough says. “

Should immigration and customs be in the same ministry, for example? It’s something we need to review.” 

The Legislative Assembly approves all expenses made by the government, police and other law enforcement budgets included. However, right now, an elected minister does not get too involved in the internal workings of processing those expenditures, other than in the LA’s Finance Committee where budget line-items are reviewed. Manderson and his chief officer at the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, Eric Bush, perform that role now.

“We have a chief officer, Eric, who has day-to-day responsibility and then in Parliament [he reports] to me, but that could change,” Manderson says.

“You could have a minister now, specifically responsible for the police budget. In the LA, I am responsible for the Portfolio of Internal and External affairs and the civil service. You could very well have those duties taken away from me. I would keep the civil service, for example, and then everything under the portfolio…would be under a minister, to include the police budget.”

In that scenario Bush, the chief officer, would report directly to an elected minister, rather than Manderson as the deputy governor.

Crime down

Crime numbers of late in Cayman have been trending down, despite a rash of high-profile armed robberies in Grand Cayman toward the end of 2012.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service crime statistics for 2012 show the lowest murder and robbery rates here in at least five years. 

Overall crime levels during 2012 were comparable to 2008, according to a review of police service crime statistics, which also show a considerable decline in violent crimes since 2010. Cayman recorded just one homicide in 2012, coming just at the end of the year in George Town. The death of 23-year-old Jackson Rainford on 16 December was the first fatal shooting in Cayman in about 15 months.

The one homicide in 2012 also bucked a disturbing trend in the British Overseas Territory since 2008, when murders – particularly gang-related killings – had become more frequent. In 2008, the Cayman Islands recorded seven murders; in 2009, there were eight people murdered; in 2010 there were seven murders; and in 2011 there were six homicides. 

Five of the six killings in 2011 occurred within 10 days of one another in September and at least four of them appeared to be related to ongoing gang disputes in George Town and West Bay, according to police. That series of deadly shootings led to requests from local law enforcement to bring in additional investigators from the United Kingdom to help solve the crimes. 

There was no recurrence of any similar incidents during 2012. In fact, attempted murder cases dropped from 14 reported during 2008 and 15 reported during 2010 to just eight reported last year. 

Reported robberies also declined during 2012 to levels not seen in the last five years. The Cayman Islands saw 39 robberies in 2012. Robberies reached record highs during the previous three years; in 2009 the territory reported 46 robberies, in 2010 there were 64 heists and in 2011 there were 67 reported robberies – believed to be the highest number of robberies ever reported in Cayman. 

In 2008, there were just 38 robberies reported in the Cayman Islands. 

Year-to-year

Both serious and volume crimes declined significantly between 2011 and 2012, according to police service reports for the end of 2012. In addition to the declines in murders and robberies, assaults, attempted robberies, attempted murders, burglaries and firearms possession all dropped when comparing 2011 to 2012.

Some serious crimes, including rape and wounding cases, went up. Both increased significantly with rapes going from 12 in 2011 to 19 in 2012. Wounding incidents jumped 50 per cent, going from 14 in 2011 to 21 in 2012.  

Overall, serious crimes declined by more than 17 per cent between 2011 and 2012. 

Most categories of volume crimes recorded by police went down, with the exception of incidents of threatening violence. Reports of theft, damage to property, common assaults and domestic violence reports all declined during 2012. 

Drug arrests also declined during 2012, going from 231 to 190. However, police investigators have often noted that fewer drugs arrests are not always a good indicator of the levels of the crime that occurs. 

 

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