Eastern district residents raise concerns over police staffing

Savannah residents ‘don’t want to be West Bay’

Damien DaCosta spends a lot of time on the road for his job and once in a while he notices something: There doesn’t seem to be many Royal Cayman Islands Police Service cars or officers between Savannah and East End on any given day.

“I hardly see any police presence,” Mr. DaCosta said. “When I look at local businesses, I don’t know why there isn’t a police officer who walks in and says ‘good afternoon, how’s business going?’ I’m on the road and I see these kids riding [bicycles] up and down, pulling into someone’s yard, and it kind of makes me suspicious, but there’s no one there for me to mention it to.”

Mr. DaCosta’s eyes aren’t deceiving him. At the moment, the Bodden Town police station has one sergeant and four police constables assigned to it to cover any shift during a regularly staffed workday. That means in one 24-hour cycle, there are a total of 15 officers able to respond to incidents or “work the beat” between North Side and Newlands, not counting specialist units that will respond if the need arises.

The numbers were confirmed by police Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks during a meeting Wednesday evening at Savannah Primary School, where about 50 residents turned out to speak with local authorities about their crime concerns.

Chief Inspector Ebanks acknowledged that he has asked his officers from time to time why, after driving through Bodden Town district, he hasn’t seen any police cars.

“Every time, they have been dealing with something else,” Mr. Ebanks said. “We’re working with what we have.”

According to numbers released last week by the police service, the RCIPS now has 396 uniformed officers, not counting special constables. The service is seeking to add 12 to 15 more through a local recruiting class that will be held later this year.

Another local resident, Woody DaCosta (Damien’s uncle), said – given those numbers – it felt like the RCIPS wasn’t really with residents in the fight against crime.

“If we only get 15 officers over a 24-hour period and there are 400 in the entire force, we’re being discriminated against,” Woody DaCosta said. “What I see happening in West Bay is coming here [referring to Savannah-Newlands] and we need to stop it.”

RCIPS Superintendent Adrian Seales said, while he understood local residents’ concerns about a series of recent armed robberies, there is no comparison between the crime rates in the eastern districts and those in George Town and West Bay. “[This] is one of the safest places to live in the Cayman Islands,”

Mr. Seales said. According to both voter registration rolls and population estimates in recent years, Bodden Town has overtaken West Bay as the second most populous district in Grand Cayman. Given the population surge, Mr. Seales said crime levels in the district – and the eastern districts in general – have remained exceptionally low.

Chief Inspector Ebanks said from Jan. 1 through Tuesday, 106 burglaries and 153 thefts had been reported in Bodden Town. Five robberies were reported in the district since the start of the year, he said. Three of the robberies involved commercial properties and two involved Bodden Town residents.

Mr. Ebanks said the burglaries were obviously a concern for police and noted that the vast majority of the break-ins occurred during daytime hours when robbers believed residents would not be home.

Often the would-be robbers “scope out” these homes several times prior to a burglary attempt, he said. They look for residences that appeared unoccupied with no activity around the house. When a break-in is attempted, typically a young male or female is dropped off by a vehicle and knocks on the front door. If no one responds, the suspect proceeds to walk around the back of the home and break in.

“If you answer the door, they’ll ask for a glass of water or something and then just walk away,” Mr. Ebanks said.

The chief inspector said residents should be vigilant in their neighborhoods about spotting unfamiliar vehicles or pedestrians. “Be your neighbor’s keeper,” he said.

Burglars also tend to target homes that are close together “where they can move from one house to another quickly,” the chief inspector revealed.

Mr. Ebanks assured district residents that help would soon be on the way. He said the police service intends to increase staffing levels at the Bodden Town police station later this month. Also, he said the district is scheduled to get four Uniform Support Group officers [armed police officers] “in the near future.”