We say “perceived increase” because, in the absence of current and comprehensive statistics, we’re forced to rely on first-hand reporting by our journalists, anecdotes from friends and information disclosed by sources in the criminal justice system to supplement the woefully inadequate figures that officials cite publicly from time to time.
As a rule, Cayman’s police are not very good at maintaining (and utilizing) open channels of communication with the news media and, by extension, the general public. They could, and should, do better.
But something Cayman’s police cannot do, no matter the amount of emphasis and resources devoted, is to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place. No police department can do that. It is simply asking too much.
Yes, it is important for officers to sustain a certain level of visibility within the community – to keep the bad guys, and their potential victims, aware that the good guys are nearby – but taken too far, it quickly becomes an expensive strategy with diminishing returns. Police can’t be everywhere at once, all of the time. (And, even if they could, would we want that?)
Most criminals, even the foolish ones, wouldn’t dare break the law in proximity to a police officer, but some will, as evidenced by Compass newspaper clippings of incidents of misconduct and misdeeds perpetrated practically in the backyards of the police stations in West Bay and Bodden Town. They are evidence of brazenness that most law-abiding residents can’t even comprehend.
Perhaps one reason why Cayman’s police are reticent to share more information with the public is that whenever they do, they predictably become the primary targets of attack – especially from callers to talk radio shows and bloggers who post anonymously to local websites and social media.
The police may be the lightning rod for criticism, but our real issues leading to crime are more directly traceable to a breakdown of our family structures as well as a societal tolerance (including the reluctance to cooperate with authorities) that invites more antisocial behavior.
An effective police force is limited to relatively few functions. Those are: Investigate crimes. Arrest suspects. Collect evidence to help prosecutors secure convictions from judges and juries.
The police can’t be responsible for teaching children right from wrong, monitoring who they associate with, or appearing the instant before they decide to commit a crime. Police are not social workers. They are first responders who appear after, not before, almost all crimes are committed.
Sure, police do have areas for improvement within their own sphere of influence, but they have no control over what goes on inside chambers and courtrooms. The police are as frustrated as we all are – probably more so – when the obviously guilty evade Crown prosecutors’ efforts entirely, or escape the system with little or no time in Northward.
The police cannot do much before a crime occurs, and they cannot do much after the case is handed over to prosecutors. Sure, the police deserve a portion of the blame, and credit, for the condition of Cayman society, but no single individual or institution deserves all the blame, or is wholly free from it.
We are reminded of a quote from the comic strip philosopher Pogo, who once opined: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”