Community policing makes immediate impact

Eastern districts get more officers

On March 21, a suspected cockfighting ring in Newlands was broken up and 80 roosters seized.

On April 13 in West Bay, an illegal lottery parlor in West Bay was put out of business.

On July 2 in George Town, an elderly woman who had fallen after having difficulty breathing was rescued by police who knew the neighborhood well enough to find her, even though she could not tell 911 her exact address.

One thing these disparate events have in common is that Royal Cayman Islands Police community beat officers played a role in all of them.

“[The community] said something, they were heard and it was acted upon,” RCIPS Commissioner Derek Byrne told the Cayman Compass Monday.

Mr. Byrne, who launched the revamped community police service in February, said the specialized force had now been expanded to 35 officers, including a supervising inspector and four police sergeants. The department has also staffed up police stations in East End and North Side districts – each of which has four officers – supervised by Police Sergeant Davis Scott.

Police cautioned that it could be some time before the public saw the effectiveness of community policing – embedding select officers within certain defined areas to be the “point of contact” for residents and, hopefully, building their trust.

In practice, it has not taken that long for results to occur. Another cock-fighting ring was busted on June 6 at North Sound Road, George Town. An arrest was made on Bodden Town’s Coe Wood Public Beach on April 21 for suspected money laundering.

“Community officers [are] interacting with the public and providing a positive face for the organization. That is just one aspect of what they do,” said RCIPS Superintendent Robbie Graham. “Offenses such as cock-fighting and other illegal gambling often lead to other, more serious crimes.

“One of the major goals of the Community Policing Department is to put a stop to these kinds of activities before they have a chance to take root.”

When these operations occur, it is not community beat officers going out and acting alone, Mr. Byrne said. In the case of the cockfighting investigations, tips received by community officers were passed along to police patrol operations, which then developed a plan of attack. That plan included the involvement of animal-control staff from the Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a bit of everything,” Mr. Byrne said. “The [community police] sergeants tell us what’s going on … they pass it along to the command structure, who decides how to act on a certain situation. Certainly in the case of the cock-fighting, that’s what happened.”

The difference, from the police chief’s perspective, is that there is now a “structure” in place to community policing. Officers who find out information know where to go with it, and the RCIPS command staff is kept constantly informed about what the street-level officers are up to.

Information received by officers must be kept confidential, but perhaps just as importantly, it must be acted upon, Mr. Byrne said.

“If we don’t close that cycle, what’s the point of somebody coming back and saying something else?” he said. “We hear this all the time from the public. ‘I’m not prepared to tell you something if you’re not going to do something about it.’”

Outer districts

One constant refrain community police are hearing from the public is the need for more officers in Cayman’s less-populated districts, where vacant vacation properties and clear roads have served as invitations to burglars and illegal motorbikers in the past few years.

The RCIPS had already opened both the North Side and East End district stations, staffing them with two police officers apiece as of last year.

That staffing has now been doubled, with a total of four officers in each district. It still will not be enough to run a full-time, 24-hour police station in each area, however, because the officers will be out patrolling for most of their shifts.

“That’s where they should be – out on the road, telling us what’s happening,” Mr. Byrne said.

The two stations will be staffed during clearly posted hours, probably no more than two or three hours at a time. At some point, a clerical staff worker may be brought in to answer the phones during the daytime hours, but that decision has not been made yet.

Smartphones

The community policing officers have also received a donation of 22 smartphones, purchased by Cayman Crime Stoppers.

At the moment, many community officers do not have the devices, which means they cannot communicate with various neighborhood watch groups and other chat groups using the WhatsApp function.

“Officers are excited to explore the use of smartphones specifically as tools for community policing, which means better communication with residents, but also the ability to receive photos and information quickly,” said Inspector Courtney Myles, who heads the community policing department.

Mr. Byrne said this is becoming a critical law enforcement tool, because individuals generally feel secure giving information to police over an encrypted messaging service.

“This now makes those officers more accessible,” he said.

The 22 phones will not cover all the community policing officers, but Mr. Byrne said the RCIPS will purchase the rest.

1 COMMENT

  1. Community policing is a very effective method of policing although it comes at a cost which, in terms of dollars, is never easy to justify. The RCIPS had a community presence for many years but it was eroded in the past 10 years by demands for officers to undertake other roles – an enlarged marine unit and increase in firearms officers to name but two, and it is great that the current Commissioner has reversed this and gained approval for the additional officers.

    It’s effectiveness is based on the officers on the ground gaining the confidence and trust of the public and being visible and accessible. This does mean that those who volunteer for this role – and it should always be volunteers – have to commit to remaining in their community post for some years to build this trust.

    A community officer will rarely, if ever, be able to say they prevented a crime by their presence on the streets but they will be able to claim they are reassuring the public by being there.

    Well done RCIPS

  2. If the RCIPS cannot prevent a crime from occurring by their presence on the streets, then it’s time to go to Plan B. Can it get worse than cockfighting and dog fighting. Tips from citizens of animal abuse and cruelty should be encouraged and perhaps rewarded, because this problem is rampant here. If you know of someone mistreating an animal, there must be a hotline to report this action anonymously. Hire more patrols to canvas the island to see what dogs are loose, malnourished, neglected. Every dog must be licensed with a numbered tag. If we don’t step up now and make animals a priority, once and for all and help the animal shelters, animal advocate groups who care for animals, then shame on you. Our purpose as human beings is to help those in need.We are failing. We can turn it around.

    • Mistreatment and cruelty to animals is not one that can be dealt with by the RCIPS – arrests and appearance at court are just a sticking plaster on a cancer.
      The issue is that animals are treated as worthless by so many Caymanians, in exactly the same way as many male Caymanians think it is perfectly alright to beat up on their partner/wife/girlfriend. These are societal issues and until such behaviours are condemned by the people and the perpetrators ostracised from their communities then these behaviour will continue regardless of what the RCIPS does.

      • Societal issues…you the nail on the head.

        Former government social worker Michael Myles, who is a “vociferous advocate for a more proactive approach to tackling the causes of crime at an earlier stage”, has more wisdom than the entire current administration.

        Unfortunately his call “to intervene with vulnerable children and young people before they go off the rails “ falls on the death ears.

        You reap what you sow. And it is not RCIPS who is responsible.

        “The question is will this generation succeed, or will our grandchildren become “the screwed generation?” Bo Miller
        https://www.caymancompass.com/2015/07/30/an-argument-against-cruise-berthing-facilities/

  3. John, you make a great point. It should start when children are very young. Teaching respect of all living things is at the heart of what it is to be human. Until such time as this type of curriculum is introduced in schools, we need someone to enforce anti cruelty laws for animals, and measures to protect those who can’t speak for themselves. Neutering dogs should be the law here, unless you can prove you are not a “backyard breeder” with documents and licenses to prove it. Step up Cayman. This can turn around very quickly, and we can be the beacon of hope for our 4 legged friends.

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