What may surprise our readers, however, is that much of the crime in the Cayman Islands is never reported – by us or anyone else – because the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service does not make these crimes public.
We became sensitized to this issue when we learned recently of a rash of burglaries in the Seven Mile Beach area, including the Buckingham Square shopping center where a number of retail outlets have been broken into. We discovered this information by chance. The RCIPS never shared it with us and, by proxy, you.
Our view is that when highly visible public places such as Buckingham Square, situated in the heart of Cayman’s most-popular tourist district, are beset by burglars, that’s news that is in the public’s interest to know. It’s not even a close call.
Commissioner Baines sees it differently. He makes the point that his department is in the business of investigating crime, while the Compass is in the business of reporting it – and sometimes those interests diverge.
In a statement to the Compass, Commissioner Baines wrote: “I appreciate the media’s appetite for access to all crime information. You will appreciate the police are in a very different business other than providing an interesting story.
“The decision as to what information is released to the media, and when, is made by the Senior Investigating Officer after taking in a number of factors,” which he enumerated as whether the release of information would prejudice an ongoing investigation or subsequent trial, the willingness of a victim to publicize the incident and the need to protect vulnerable witnesses, among others.
Regarding the Buckingham Square burglaries specifically, Commissioner Baines asked, “Distressing as that case is, is it more newsworthy than a person’s home being violated and the sense of insecurity the householder is left with?”
To that we would answer, “Absolutely not.”
Burglaries, we believe, are being downgraded in their importance in the community in part because of the sheer number of them. In the first six months of 2013, for example, 262 burglaries were reported – very few of them made known to the media.
In fact, burglaries have become so commonplace here that it is tempting to treat them as “every day minor offenses,” such as jaywalking. They are nothing of the sort.
We believe Commissioner Baines would agree with Magistrate Valdis Foldats, as we do, when he talked earlier this month about the “unimaginable” fear suffered by victims of burglaries. It’s terrifying for an individual to know his house has been burgled,” he said. “It destroys any sense of peaceful occupation of his home.”
For a community or neighborhood to combat crime, or aid the police in bringing forth witnesses or otherwise cooperating with the authorities, it must first know that crimes are being committed.
In that regard, the police department should know that silence is not the best policy.