Five illegal dirt bikes confiscated during police operations earlier this year were stolen from the rear yard of the George Town Police Station sometime over the weekend, police reported Tuesday, following questions about the theft from local news outlets.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service revealed that three other dirt bikes went missing from behind the police station on Feb. 29. Three of the eight bikes that were stolen were recovered Tuesday in George Town.
“These bikes were recently confiscated as part of a police crackdown on off-road bikes around the island and were chained with padlocks in a fenced area in the rear yard,” said RCIPS Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton. “Thieves cut through the chain and the fence locks to gain access to the bikes.”
It appears the culprits climbed over the back wall of the police station, took the dirt bikes from where they were being kept and then simply walked out the main gate which opens via a motion sensor. No code or key card is required to exit the fence, only to enter.
CCTV cameras that monitor the backyard area of the main police station are installed and are supposed to record the premises 24-7. However, Mr. Walton said those cameras did not appear to be working on either Feb. 29 or this weekend when the dirt bikes were taken.
Police officers have now been stationed to monitor the backyard lot around the clock.
Additional chain link fencing with barbed wire is being installed on top of the concrete wall that encircles the facility and a night time lock will be placed on the lot entrance, police said.
Mr. Walton said the dirt bike thefts represent just one of the many problems police are encountering in a condemned station building that is no longer fit for that purpose and is essentially deteriorating around them.
“The rear yard of George Town Police Station was originally intended as a carpark, not a police compound,” said Mr. Walton. “The security for this area has been a problem for us since the 1990s. We continue to struggle with the limitations of providing 21st century policing with a building that was long exceeded its building life span.”
In addition to the recent thefts of dirt bikes, a significant quantity of cocaine and ganja was stolen from a police container in the back yard of the police station last July.
After initially reporting that nothing had been taken in a July 13, 2015 break-in outside the police station, the RCIPS confirmed in September 2015 that “a quantity” of illegal drugs was taken from an evidence container there. The container was used to store “old evidence” and “drugs awaiting disposal,” police said at the time.
The police also stated in September that the “actions of those responsible” for following evidence handling and storage procedures at the police station would be reviewed. Police Commissioner David Baines has publicly stated since then that police officers were being investigated in connection with the drug thefts.
Under formal questioning in the Legislative Assembly by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson revealed that 24 kilograms of cocaine and 33 kilograms of ganja were stolen from the container. Mr. Manderson indicated that the drugs were not intended to be used as evidence in any ongoing investigation, but had been set aside for destruction at the earliest opportunity after having washed ashore.
Building problems known
Commissioner Baines and Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush have both spoken repeatedly in the past five to six years about the need for new and/or improved jail cells and police station facilities generally, in George Town and in West Bay. However, funding for those improvements has not been available as Cayman has struggled through budget difficulties in recent years.
Concern regarding the police jails was practically the first public statement made by Commissioner Baines after he took the job in June 2009.
“There was a real issue … about West Bay, actually the station, the size of the community, and the demands facing it is another area,” he said following a meeting with Cayman Islands Cabinet members. “We’ve raised with the governor the state of the central [George Town] lock-up and detention facilities on [Grand Cayman] which, if we’re going to prefer obligations under human rights legislation, need to be addressed and fairly quickly.”
Mr. Bush said more recently that, going back to 2008, plans for a modern police holding facility were set for the proposed Bodden Town Emergency Centre.
However, in early 2010, plans for the $15 million combined police, fire and medical response station were “delayed indefinitely” due to a lack of funding.
“We planned to build the new jail at the Bodden Town Emergency Centre, but due to the economy it just couldn’t happen,” Mr. Bush said.
Since that time, government has installed modular units in the Fairbanks area of George Town for prisoner detention. Those modular units just opened for police use this weekend, officials confirmed. In 2015, the Progressives-led administration proposed moving the George Town Police Station to a new facility, but that has not occurred.