RCIPS Inspector Courtney Myles and Superintendent Robbie Graham talk to the local press about community policing initiatives Monday afternoon. - Photo: Brent Fuller

Twenty-six Royal Cayman Islands Police officers have now been assigned to full-time neighborhood policing duties around Grand Cayman, as the department attempts to expand its visible presence within the community.

Four officers and one supervising police sergeant have been placed in North Side and East End, 10 officers and a sergeant are in George Town, three officers and a sergeant will staff areas of Bodden Town and four officers plus a sergeant will staff West Bay neighborhoods.

RCIPS Inspector Courtney Myles will oversee the entire unit. For now, no specific community “beat” officers are assigned to Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, as all officers stationed in the Sister Islands are considered to be community officers.

Mr. Myles said there are 12 specific areas, known as neighborhood “beats” or “sectors,” within the districts around Grand Cayman. A specific number of officers are assigned in each area.

For instance, two officers apiece have been assigned in sector No. 1 (East End) and sector No. 2 (North Side). Three separate “beats” within Bodden Town (Spotts-Newlands, Lower Valley and Bodden Town, sectors 5, 4 and 3, respectively) will receive one community officer each.

George Town will receive three “beat” officers in the district’s central area, with two assigned to South Sound and one in Prospect. Meanwhile, four community beat officers will be assigned to the George Town harbor-front area. Each of West Bay’s four “beats” will receive one officer each.

RCIPS Superintendent Robbie Graham said there will obviously be many other police officers on duty to respond to emergency calls, and that is not the primary responsibility of the community or neighborhood policemen. Rather, the specially assigned officers will work to develop good “inside knowledge” of what’s happening in a particular area; street-by-street, during the two years they are to be stationed there.

“They are embedded within that community,” Supt. Graham said. “There’s a real commitment … to make sure those officers are maintained within those beats, and they’re not abstracted to other work.”

Community officers will work different shifts, one from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and another from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. The shifts will vary depending on what the demands are for each area on a given day, Mr. Graham said.

A number of problems that will arise involve “neighborhood nuisances,” such as derelict cars or properties, traffic issues or loitering around liquor licensed establishments. Mr. Graham said these will require a collaborative effort between not just RCIPS and local residents, but other government agencies as well.

“We’re looking to problem-solve,” he said. “It may not happen overnight, but we’re looking to have a good understanding of what the problems are in the communities.”

Inspector Myles said the community policing effort has already had an impact in some areas, such as in George Town’s “Swamp” neighborhood, where the police officers recently did a walk-through one evening. “The public was behind us there 110 percent,” Mr. Myles said. “We want them to be able to trust us. I can say right now, that trust is going up on a daily basis.”

Commissioner’s orders

RCIPS Commissioner Derek Byrne announced shortly after taking up the post in late 2016 that it is typical in police forces to dedicate about 10 percent of available officers to community policing initiatives.

With 26 officers assigned to it now, the RCIPS is not yes close to that 10 percent figure, but it is a significant investment in neighborhood policing.

“We know the concept of [community policing],” Mr. Byrne said in November 2016. “We need to build capacity around that. We need to be embedded in communities … seeing neighborhood officers, speaking to schoolchildren, talking to people.”

In past years, the RCIPS neighborhood policing unit was slowly dismantled as daily calls for police service took priority. Yet, Mr. Byrne said, the kind of relationship building the police need when serious crimes occur, is fostered mainly through community police activities.

“We have to get to a stage where people can speak to us in a confidential way, and that’s something I’ll be working on,” the commissioner said.