High-visibility patrols as Cayman prepares for lockdown

Police on high visibility patrol outside Fosters supermarket in George Town
Police on high visibility patrol outside Fosters supermarket. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

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Cayman police are at full capacity and on high alert to deal with any and all offences as the island prepares to go on lockdown amid the global coronavirus crisis.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said high-visibility patrols were already out in force at supermarkets and other potential flashpoints.

Traffic cops and community officers have been deployed on special patrols, policing the new rules around public gatherings, and a ‘rapid deployment team’ is receiving special training in case they need to support health services with any coronavirus cases.

Byrne said everything was “calm and controlled” so far, and he sees no reason for crime to escalate during the three-week closure of Cayman’s air border.

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“Everyone is aware that there are opportunities for criminals but there are opportunities for us to arrest them as well and give them the full force of the law.”

He said bars and restaurants had been largely compliant with the new rules restricting establishments to 50 customers. And he expects total compliance when they are shut down completely from Sunday night.

The commissioner said he believed most people understood the need for the rules and were happy to abide by them, despite the economic hardship.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne

“We will be visiting licensed premises, we will be inspecting them and we will be asking for full cooperation. If we do come across breaches, we will take enforcement action.”

Though police are not being asked to enforce isolation protocols for people with the virus, the commissioner said he was prepared to investigate cases where people put others at risk.

“If that happens, we will look at it,” he said.

“It is totally irresponsible if people are meant to isolate and they don’t. If someone recklessly presents harm or risk to the community, it is an offence,” he added.

He said his own officers had been practising good hygiene, social distancing and other preventative measures in an effort to avert a potential outbreak affecting the viability of the force.

Officers are following new hygiene protocols to keep themselves and the public safe. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

If multiple officers are impacted and have to isolate, he said, contingency plans were being put in place.

As of now, the police are at full force.

“It is business as usual for the police,” the commissioner said. “We have resources in place and our supply lines remain open.

“We are fully operational. We haven’t any reduced capacity at the moment and our objective is to keep that running thorough the duration of this crisis.”

Byrne appealed to the public to be law-abiding and for the community to pull together and get through this period, and come back stronger.

“We are going through a period of uncertainty where there is a lot of anxiety and stress for a lot of people, but the general consensus is we will pull through and it is then about how quick we can recover,” he said.

“We are a safe place to visit, reside and retire. We want people to come back after this and we need to maintain that safety during this crisis period.”

“Everyone is aware that there are opportunities for criminals but there are opportunities for us to arrest them as well and give them the full force of the law.”

Fake news will be targeted

Anyone spreading fake news and false rumours during the coronavirus crisis could face prosecution, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne warned.

“It is a problem,” he said, citing reports on social media and other sites about confirmed cases of the virus, including one involving a school, that turned out not to be accurate.

“It is reckless. We don’t need it at the moment. We need everybody to pull together,” he added.

He said police did not want to be chasing after people for posting online and urged everyone to cooperate and not publish or pass on unverified information.

He said government was giving frequent updates and there was no need for speculation or rumour mongering.

“I have given a commitment to investigate them (fake news reports) because it is causing distress,” he said.

“I would prefer to be spending my time helping people rather than investigating these things, but it is a matter of serious concern. It is just not right. It is reckless and there is no need to do it.”

Section 64 of the Penal Code gives police the power to arrest anyone who publishes a “false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public”. The offence carries a $5,000 fine and a potential prison sentence of five years.

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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  1. The UK government took their media to task for using the word “lockdown” because it invokes fear and has hugely negative connotations. Personally, I cannot abide the term and I think it gives rise to anti social behaviour but I’ll just leave this comment here and lock the door on my way out.