EDITORIAL – Ballistics hub puts Cayman at center of regional gun fight

Tiffany Rankine, a scenes of crime officer trainee, holds a bullet in front of an enlarged image of a projectile. - PHOTO: SPENCER FORDIN

In the battle against gun crime, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has fired back. It isn’t through the addition of any new armed police officers, but through the unveiling of a new ballistics hub that greatly improves Cayman’s investigative capabilities, and puts our country at the center of regional law enforcement efforts.

The new system enables our police service to analyze bullets and cartridges, and conclusively match a bullet to the gun that fired it.

As we wrote in Friday’s front-page story, “Previously, when local police had a gun crime, they had to send the bullet overseas for analysis, a process that could take a couple of weeks. But now, thanks to new equipment and a new database, the RCIPS can analyze a pristine bullet in half an hour and a severely damaged projectile in the span of an hour.”

Of course, the new technology won’t directly prevent the occurrence of crimes, such as the April 8 armored truck robbery and shooting outside Foster’s Food Fair at the Airport Centre, but it will make police investigations into those incidents easier and more efficient.

Unfortunately, the best-case scenario is that gun crime is here to stay in Cayman. (Let’s not at this time contemplate too long about the worst-case scenario …) Gun-toting criminals continue to demonstrate their brazenness, and their willingness to target any district. Consider, for example, Thursday night’s armed robbery of a gas station in East End.

Accordingly, we welcome any advancement in the capability of Cayman’s police to bring these types of criminals to justice, particularly when there is no apparent trade-off in citizens’ privacy or civil liberties. The same cannot be said about Grand Cayman’s island-wide closed-circuit television system, the purported but as-yet-unmaterialized electronic license tags for automobiles, or the adjustment of legal standards for police searches when a firearm may be involved.

Another positive aspect of the new ballistics lab is that it makes Cayman a hub for the exchange of law enforcement information among British Overseas Territories in the region. According to Friday’s story, “The ballistic matches of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos will all be analyzed on Grand Cayman, and they can be shared and cross-referenced with the Interpol Ballistic Information System.”

Generally speaking, just like the model developed by our financial services industry, whenever Cayman can leverage technology and expertise to be a “service provider” for other countries, that’s the position in which we want to be and the course that we want to pursue.

As far as we can tell, credit for the ballistics hub cannot be given to just one person. The RCIPS had been attempting to obtain this technology for at least five years. The proverbial “cherry on the top” is that funding from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Conflict Security and Stabilization Fund will pay for the purchase of the equipment and four years’ worth of training, meaning Cayman won’t be bearing any expenses of the program until the year 2021.

All in all, the unveiling of the ballistics hub is a “good news” story for police and law-abiding members of society, and “bad news” for the “bad guys” – the small number of people in Cayman (and the region) who use firearms to commit crimes.

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  1. The ballistics lab is very good to have in the Islands. But without having a Legal gun registration and Laws , it would be hard for the lab to be 100% effective. Especially if you can’t find the gun or the one that used it . Or if you find the gun but can’t link the gun to a owner.

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  2. Is this the best way to spend an incremental dollar for law enforcement? How about a better 911 system? Or computer terminals in patrol cars? Or how about patrol cars that work?

    Very fancy but we need basics!

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