Police will keep up the pressure on criminal gangs shipping drugs into the Cayman Islands after confiscating more than $1 million of ganja in six major marine raids during 2018.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said plans for a new coastguard unit and the arrival of a new high-tech helicopter meant air and sea patrols would only increase in coming years.

Though cannabis is widely smoked in Cayman and there have been calls in some quarters for the drug to be legalised, Byrne denied that it was an ‘exercise in futility’ for police to pursue smugglers.

Responding to questions from reporters at a press conference Wednesday, he said the drug trade was linked to a host of other crimes and police would not treat it lightly.

“The fact that cannabis is commonly imported from a neighbouring country is a criminal offence and it leads to all aspects of money laundering and criminal enterprises both in Jamaica and here in the Cayman Islands,” he said.

“It is something we are right to be concerned about. In some of the shipments firearms have been recovered. It is not anything I would like to ignore. We do treat it seriously.”

According to a recently published police statistics report, the six major marine drug interdictions last year led to the seizure of approximately 2,250 pounds of ganja, worth an estimated $1.125 million, 24 arrests and the recovery of two illegal firearms.

There has already been at least one major drug bust in 2019. Police fired on armed drug smugglers during an extended boat chase in Cayman’s waters in March. Around 900 pounds of ganja, worth more than $800,000, was eventually seized and three men from Jamaica were arrested. It was hailed as the biggest drug bust in more than a decade.