Police step back from using Cayman Crime Stoppers

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has stopped asking people to send anonymous tips via the Crime Stoppers phone number and online, as the phone tip-line number no longer works and the number of tips being received has fallen off to almost zero.

For years, the RCIPS has included the Crime Stoppers tip-line number and website link at the end of its emails to the media about crimes and investigations. The last RCIPS email to the media which included the 800-8477(TIPS) Crime Stoppers number was on 16 Jan. 2021.

The Crime Stoppers number has not worked for several months. Any attempts to call the number end in a ‘failed call’ notification.

The Cayman Compass submitted a Freedom of Information request to the RCIPS to determine when the last Crime Stoppers tip was received by police. According to the response to that request, just one tip was received via Crime Stoppers last year – on 29 July.

The number of tips received by police via Crime Stoppers over the past three years has fallen exponentially. In 2018, 28 tips were received. That fell to just six tips in 2019, and one last year, according to police.

The FOI response from police stated, “Please note the RCIPS does not have access to the system at the moment.”

Sebastien Guilbard, chairman of the Cayman Crime Stoppers board, said issues with the tip-line phone number occurred last year following the installation of new software, but he added that calls to that number had already begun to drop off in recent years, and tips more often were submitted online or via email.

He said that Crime Stoppers Cayman, which has operated since 1993, had been working with Crime Stoppers Jamaica and the Crime Stoppers Caribbean Association to develop a new app, that would enable tipsters easily to submit photographs and other information.

Calls to the Cayman Crime Stoppers number results in a Call Failed response.

“The app would replace the phone tip line,” he said. “For the previous eight years or so, slowly but surely, the phone number has become almost zero as far as tips. Unfortunately, the Miami call centre that was taking the calls has not been very reliable as far as passing along information.”

He added, “Some of the problems with the phone tip line was that callers wouldn’t give enough details. There’s a questionnaire and set questions that [the call centre] people ask, but in some of the cases, getting enough detail is sometimes hard. And also people sometimes don’t call back. They need to call back to claim their reward, or to find out if their tip has been successful and if they are entitled to a reward.”

The organisation, before lockdown, had plans to revamp and relaunch its website, and was about to embark on a local publicity campaign, but the COVID crisis put a halt to that.

“Right before COVID, we had big plans to put signs up in some high-risk areas,” Guilbard said. “We had actually worked with the Planning Department, as you need planning permission to erect those. We were going to put those signs up all over the island where we thought it best to put them. I’m hoping we can complete that, but I don’t know the timeline right now.”

He added, “The good news is our finances are extremely healthy because… we have kept fundraising. The money is in our bank account, and we are able to pay to upgrade our tipster programme.”

Currently, though, his focus is on keeping his own business afloat and his 11 employees in jobs, he said.

He pointed out that the absence of the Crime Stoppers tip line has not had a major impact on the RCIPS receiving tips or information about various crimes, as Cayman’s police service has launched its own tip line and has a social media presence. Nonetheless, he said, there is a dedicated RCIPS staff member who has had access to the Crime Stoppers tips.

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