Police arrested seven teenagers in connection with a rash of burglaries, attempted burglaries and criminal trespass cases that plagued Bodden Town district this spring, residents were told at a public meeting Wednesday.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Sgt. Orlando Mason told the group of Bodden Towners that between April 1 and June 1, about 60 crimes were reported, generally in the center of the historic town.
When asked during the meeting at Savannah Primary School whether police had made any arrests in connection with the crimes, Mr. Mason responded they had cleared about 20 cases.
“That was just to get it under control, because it was horrendous,” he said of the burglary situation.
It was more troubling to some Bodden Town residents who attended Wednesday to discover who had been arrested.
“They’re youngsters, 15 to 17 most of them,” Mr. Mason said. “There was about seven youngsters we targeted and all seven are currently at Her Majesty’s pleasure [going through the criminal justice system].”
Mr. Mason, one of three police detectives now assigned to the Bodden Town area, said he asked one of the young men arrested in the crime spree why he had done it.
“He said he’s safer in Northward [prison],” Mr. Mason recounted. “He has no one to care for him and he said the system would look after him.”
The news of the arrests and some of the detective’s comments about those taken into custody struck a nerve with district residents.
“We’ve just basically condemned seven young people to a life of crime,” said Mary Lawrence, a former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. “I don’t know what brought them to this point, but I do know the Caymanian community is responsible for getting them to that point.
“In some of these new developments, there is not one square inch of space left where children can kick a ball,” she said. Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo said he had been out walking local neighborhoods “a lot recently” during the general election campaign and noted the same concerns as Mrs. Lawrence.
“Just about every evening I went out … that’s what I saw,” Mr. Suckoo said. “Young kids running around in the neighborhoods, unsupervised, and some of them are causing problems.”
RCIPS Inspector Rudolph Gordon said his officers already have their hands full “going back in” to burglary cases that have not been solved from this spring.
“What caught us the other day was the number of incidents we had to return to,” Mr. Gordon said. “[The burglary spree] has been stemmed and now it’s just a matter of going back to solve as many as possible.”
Sergeant Mason said there are some limits to what he and his team of two detectives in Bodden Town can do on their own, and lobbied Police Commissioner Derek Byrne for a few more officers in the district.
Mr. Byrne has transferred a number of police officers to the eastern districts in recent months, but acknowledged that is not going to be the permanent solution to the district’s crime problem.
The commissioner told residents Wednesday that 30 police officers had been assigned to Bodden Town Police Station, working “six a shift” – five officers, supervised by a police sergeant. He said there are also two neighborhood police officers assigned permanently to the district.
In addition, there are now two full-time officers and a sergeant assigned to North Side Police Station, and two officers at East End Police Station. Until this year, those police stations had been vacant.
While the police department’s current staff is reallocated based on community needs, Mr. Byrne said the overall number of police officers has continued to shrink. The RCIPS now has fewer officers on staff than it did 10 years ago. Three more officers have recently announced their intention to leave the force, Mr. Byrne said.
“They’ve all agreed that while they’re going to other jobs, they’ll work as special constables,” he said, referred to the volunteer, unpaid officers who are used to supplement the RCIPS ranks.