Police concerned about gang violence in SMB area
In September 2009, West Bay resident Carlo Webster was shot dead on the dance floor of what was then known as the Next Level nightclub.
Since that killing, things have never been the same for the West Bay Road night spot, located in the heart of Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach tourism district. Name changes to Jet and Dream nightclub, numerous attempts at re-branding, security enhancements and the like have not stemmed the tide of criminal activities in and around the nightclub.
However, in the last two to three months, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has noted a marked decline in what officers term “anti-social behaviors” in and around the club, which has been operating under probation terms set by the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman. Dream manager Omar Chambers told the board Friday that he hoped recent security and clientele changes at the nightclub would encourage board members to lift the probationary terms.
The board agreed to do so, according to a list of decisions announced on Monday.
“I somewhat inherited a troublesome area and I was asked to go in and change a lot of the [club] operations,” Mr. Chambers told the board. “There are some major incidents that happened due to the type of people that were coming to the establishment.”
A security guard was attacked at the nightclub within the past several months and, when those believed responsible for the incident were barred from returning to the premises, Mr. Chambers said the glass door at the club’s front entrance was smashed not once, but twice.
“We are now refusing entry to certain individuals that we know that will create trouble,” he said.
While there has been a decline in violence in and around the club, there have been a number of reports of confrontations, fights and arrests over the past several months in the general area bounded by Lawrence Boulevard, West Bay Road, the Esterley Tibbetts highway and the Gecko Link roundabout near Galleria Plaza.
Mr. Chambers said in one case, a gang hanging out at another bar in the area ended up in a clash with another group in the Dream parking lot.
“That started a big fight at the back [of the parking lot], and I think someone’s windscreen got busted,” he said.
RCIPS Inspector Lloyd Marriott said crowds gathering at some of the late night eateries in the West Bay Road area, particularly on Friday nights into early Saturday, were problematic.
“It is a common area for people to congregate [in],” Inspector Marriott said. “That is where they socialize, teenagers and older persons…if you’re not careful, that’s where problems can occur.”
Mr. Chambers said he can’t control what happens off premises, but he’s seeking to change Dream’s music lineup and events calendar to keep out the undesirable clients.
“We’re looking at doing some corporate events there,” he said. “We’re teaming up with Peppers [restaurant], encouraging people to eat there and then come over to the club,” he said.
Friday night’s playlist has moved away from the “hardcore hip-hop,” and Mr. Chambers said he’s brought in a DJ from the South Beach, Florida, area to spin techno dance music. “That would deter the guys who like the hardcore hip-hop,” he said.
On Saturdays, Mr. Chambers wants to introduce an event called the “fly society”, where club attendees have to get dressed up. “If people are dressed really nice, it’s less likely they’ll want to start fighting and mess up their clothes.”
The club has also put up “no loitering” signs, allowing police to arrest people for that activity, and has placed more cameras on the premises to monitor the parking lot. An attendant at the front door is checking for fake IDs, and Mr. Chambers said a security change is likely because the nightclub has found some of the younger security guards are a bit too friendly with underage patrons.
“Fake IDs [for club-goers under 18] are still a problem,” Mr. Chambers said.
Another improvement at the southern end of West Bay Road is the police response to reports of criminal activity outside the clubs and other business establishments, according to Liquor Licensing Board members.
“The police should be commended for the job they’re doing out there,” said Liquor Licensing Board member Bernice Richards. “The response is very good. You’re not having to wait like before.”
RCIPS Chief Inspector Claudia Brady told board members that local police have focused more resources in the downtown and West Bay Road areas, particularly on routine foot patrols, since a string of business robberies in October. However, the department’s staffing and budget is not unlimited, she said.
“How long we can sustain that is another question,” she said.