Covert teams of plainclothes officers will be on patrol in an effort to catch crooks “red-handed” as part of a new focus on tackling the only serious crime in Grand Cayman that is on the increase – burglary.
George Town officers faced a frustrated crowd of homeowners at a community meeting in the capital on Saturday.
One man told how he had been burgled three times this year, and another said he had been confronted by burglars in his own home during a raid.
Several said they frequently saw suspicious characters casing out their homes and were increasingly concerned about the number of burglaries and nuisance thefts in their neighbourhoods.
Detective Sergeant Sean Bryan said the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is aware of the problem and is putting extra manpower and resources into tackling burglaries.
He said a new 10-officer unit, including six detectives, began operating in the George Town area on 5 August. If the initiative, which will target burglary “hotspots”, is a success, it will be replicated across the island.
There were 262 burglaries in the Cayman Islands in the first six months of 2013, a small increase on the same period last year. Almost every other crime category decreased.
Mr. Bryan told homeowners at Saturday’s meeting at the Family Life Centre that the new unit would combine high-visibility patrols with undercover work.
“The covert patrolling that is done is targeting hotspot areas,” he said. “Through analysing where the crimes are happening, we can identify parts of the George Town district most vulnerable at any particular time to burglars and thieves.
“The intention is to keep covert patrols in these areas and hopefully catch these guys red-handed.”
He said studies have shown that when one burglary is committed, others are likely to occur in the same area within a week.
“By targeting where the burglaries first happen you can stop a pattern before it begins,” he said.
Mr. Bryan urged concerned residents to call the police if they see anyone acting suspiciously in their neighbourhoods.
“We can’t do this on our own. It has to be all of us together. We can’t do anything without your assistance,” he said. “Forget some of the stories you’ve heard in the press about some of the own goals we have scored in the past and give us a chance.”
Around 50 residents, including George Town legislators Marco Archer and Joey Hew, were in attendance at the meeting, hosted by a neighbourhood watch scheme for residential communities off Walker’s Road.
Several residents spoke about their personal experiences with burglaries and expressed concerns over a perceived lack of action from police and about convicted criminals being released too early.
Russell Bunton said burglars had targeted his home in a small residential street off Walker’s Road three times since January.
On the first occasion, they took jewellery, iPads, computers and other valuables and stuffed them into two backpacks during a Saturday lunchtime raid.
They attempted to hit the same home again a week later but were scared off by his daughter, who was home at the time. On a third occasion, they broke into two vehicles parked in the driveway and stole items, including a phone.
“I see it all the time. People are out there, scoping out houses in the area. My neighbours have been broken into as well. So many homes in this area have been targeted,” Mr. Bunton said. He said he would like to see swifter response times and higher visibility patrols from the police.
Mr. Bryan told the Compass after the meeting that the new targeted approach would be rolled out to other areas if it could be proven to have an impact in the capital.
“Once we can show this initiative is making a difference, we can look to push it island wide. If we are successful, they (burglars) will move to the districts and we have to move with them,” he said.
He added that police were working with pawnbrokers and cash-for-gold operators to catch burglars who try to sell stolen property. Residents were urged to mark their valuables so they could be identified if they are resold on the second-hand market.
Alliyah McCarthy, the neighbourhood watch coordinator for the area, said the group had been set up in response to an alarming number of burglaries and petty thefts. She said residents would be on the lookout for people who did not belong in their neighbourhoods and urged anyone who saw someone acting suspiciously to write down number plates and take photographs to help provide the police with evidence if a crime was committed.