An expanded neighborhood police force should help resolve many of the crime problems Cayman faces in its prime tourist areas and at tourism-related businesses, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said this week.
However, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has no plans to create a separate, tourism-oriented law enforcement service that responds solely to crimes reported against visitors to the islands.
“Our expanded community policing department will enable us to work more closely with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association to prevent crime through improved safety messaging to tourists, in addition to other anti-crime activities foreseen within our greater partnership,” Commissioner Byrne said Monday.
Mr. Byrne met recently with top government and private sector officials with responsibility for tourism, including Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell and tourism association President Theresa Leacock-Broderick to discuss crimes occurring in tourism areas and against tourists.
Crimes against tourists in Cayman are rare, but concerns have been raised about a number of incidents, including bag-snatching on the beach, the public use of ganja and the loss of passports.
“[The tourism association] has previously asked for dedicated officers for tourism zones throughout the Cayman Islands, so were pleased to learn that community policing will soon be reinstated and with several aspects of improvements in the longer term,” a statement from the association on Monday reads. “Technological enhancements are anticipated that will enable better communications and information sharing amongst pertinent stakeholders and allow RCIPS contacts to be accessible.”
Of crucial importance, Ms. Leacock-Broderick said, is the time it takes police to respond to incidents in tourism zones.
“We would like to see better response times to all 911 calls, as well as improved communication on tourist-related incidents and emergencies, whether on land or in surrounding waters,” she said.
Mr. Byrne announced his plans last month at a community meeting in George Town.
New police hires are proposed to expand the neighborhood police force to 28 full-time constables, two supervising sergeants and an inspector. That represents about 9 percent of the police officers in the service, not including volunteer special constables.
“We expect to see an increase in resources … a dedicated, ring-fenced commitment to community policing to avoid … abstraction of police officers for other purposes,” Mr. Byrne told about 25 George Town residents.
Premier Alden McLaughlin promised government would provide funding for the additional community officers in the upcoming budget, which begins on Jan. 1, 2018.
“I am anxiously awaiting the commissioner’s plan, but I promise him that we are going to do whatever … we need to do to ensure that he has the resources to be able to have dedicated beat officers in the key communities across Cayman where there are perennial problems,” Mr. McLaughlin said at the meeting.
“We can look, as a country, to a significant increase in the money that is spent on policing, and I hope that I don’t hear the usual … complaints from the usual quarters about how much the government is spending,” the premier said. “I don’t believe any issue is more critical now than national security.”
Mr. Byrne said those officers will be assigned to specific neighborhoods, including high-traffic tourist areas like Seven Mile Beach and Rum Point. RCIPS Superintendent Robert Graham said those officers will “walk the beat” on a regular basis to present a highly visible police presence and to get to know the surrounding neighborhood.
While dedicating officers to that task is a good idea, Mr. Graham said, there’s nothing to stop regular patrol officers from developing relationships in the neighborhoods they patrol.
“A lot of police officers tend to spend too much time driving from A to B,” he said. “I still would expect the officers that we have to be spending time on foot patrol … I’m talking about having a purposeful conversation.”