With the aim of bolstering the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s capabilities, Cabinet approved $4.6 million in extra funding to law enforcement. Police beefed up their ranks with new recruits and called in outside help from British officers.
Two years later, a wave of violent crime is again washing over Grand Cayman.
Within the past five weeks, the Caymanian Compass has reported on 10 incidents involving firearms, including the killing of 52-year-old Irvin Bush and the wounding of a 6-year-old boy during a grocery store robbery.
Those two crimes happened in West Bay, but gun violence does not discriminate against any district on the island. Gunmen are perpetrating holdups and invasions in George Town, Bodden Town and North Side, targeting individuals, households and businesses alike. Whether under cover of night or in the brightness of day, criminality is prospering.
Last year, police reported serious crime had declined significantly in the first half of 2012. Only a couple of a months ago, police proclaimed another substantial drop in reported offenses.
The police have extensive and expensive equipment, modern weaponry and wide latitude to pursue their duties. Yet crime appears still to be proliferating.
Depending on how incidents are recorded and reported, one may indeed be able to identify a decrease in crime, statistically. But all crimes are not created equal, and are not perceived as equal by the local community or international visitors. This territory continues to experience the most frightening acts on the criminal spectrum: direct assaults on people’s bodies and break-ins into their homes and businesses.
The police helicopter buzzes overhead. Police boats ring the islands. New police cars patrol our streets. Special police units carry firearms or Tasers. The voluntary constabulary helps serve warrants and make arrests. The number of salaried officers is near a record high, and police are looking for a dozen or so more Caymanian recruits for cadet training.
Still, the narrative of what passes for law and order in Cayman remains the same. Cultural and socioeconomic conditions may contribute to crime, which police are understandably unable to prevent. When a crime does occur, suspects often elude capture and investigators often decline even to inform the public that certain crimes have taken place.
If a suspect is arrested, the process is marked by interminable prosecutorial and judicial delays, and if a conviction is eventually secured, multiple, costly appeals often follow.
Too often the lengthy trial process ends with judges dismissing cases based on inadequate evidence or poor police procedure. If a criminal is found guilty, judges are wont to impose sentences that, to the untrained eye, appear either disproportionate to the offenses, or in the case of some sex crimes, terribly inadequate.
The criminal justice system of the Cayman Islands is under fire and appears flawed at nearly every level. The defects in our society cannot be disguised with either denials or additional financial appropriations.
The police have been granted extraordinary funding and appropriate power. What is needed is a universal commitment at all levels – from our police, our prosecutors, our judges and our people – to declare with one voice that enough is enough. We will no longer tolerate living in an environment of increasing insecurity and fear.