They have aerial and marine patrol units, taser stun weapons, and computer-aided dispatch systems in their patrol cars enabling them to retrieve all sorts of information from around the Cayman Islands.
However, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers, in many instances, are missing a key crimefighting tool owned by almost everyone else these days – a smartphone.
“There’s a requirement for a lot of phones, right now,” Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said last week, adding that the primary issue facing the department is the cost of ordering the hardware – the actual phones themselves – from local providers. Mr. Byrne said the “data plans” required for using the phones would likely be affordable, once the department received the devices.
The phone problem affects police on a number of levels. Some officers do not have any department-issued cellphones whatsoever, while others have old, outdated Nokia or Blackberry devices.
Other officers purchase their own Android phones or iPhones to enable them to keep in contact with members of the public who provide valuable information about what’s going on in the community.
The addition of the WhatsApp feature on these phones is becoming increasingly more important in modern communications.
Many neighborhood watch or concerned citizens groups in various Grand Cayman neighborhoods are now providing information daily to community police “beat” officers or other RCIPS personnel.
One recent case where information was “Whatsapped” involved the theft of a Honda Accord Friday, which was located in Bodden Town after a resident there noted a vehicle that looked like one the police had reported stolen earlier in the day.
Cayman Crime Stoppers Chairman Sebastien Guilbard seemed surprised to learn about the police phone shortage during a recent community meeting in Prospect, but noted it “was not for Crime Stoppers” to judge where police resources are used best.
“If we can help with private funding, we will,” Mr. Guilbard said Monday. “We are currently looking into this, but no final decisions have been made.”
Commissioner Byrne said the phones issue was something the RCIPS was looking into “across the organization” and pledged it was a matter the department would solve.
According to government budget analyses, the area of “national security” receives the lion’s share of annual budget funding over the next two years.
Roughly 22 percent of the $1.5 billion the government will spend during 2018 and 2019 on its central operations budget will go on police, fire, prisons and immigration.
More than $56 million of that has been set aside during the two years for the RCIPS, most of it for police protection and investigative services.
In addition, more than $4 million is budgeted for the construction of two new police stations in George Town and West Bay, with most of the funding for the George Town Police Station ($10 million), not expected to arrive until the 2020 budget.
The cost of ordering 300 Android phones for the police services, assuming a cost of about $500 per phone, would be around $150,000.