Anti-gang committee set up

Authorities have set up a committee, under the auspices of the Office of the Deputy Governor, to address gang violence in the Cayman Islands, Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne told Members of Parliament Monday.

The committee has been established in response to the recent spate of gun crime in Cayman, which has claimed the lives of three men this month.

Byrne, appearing before Parliament’s Finance Committee, said there seemed to be three separate groups involved, one each from George Town and West Bay, and another “younger” group, which were not the traditional gangs that have been operating for years. Instead, these are “more disorganised groups, loosely associated young persons” involved in criminal activity, he said.

He told MPs that following the first meeting of the new committee, it was possible that the RCIPS would return to the Finance Committee to request additional funding and resources.

Since 10 April, 16 people have been shot – three fatally – in Grand Cayman. Two of these instances involved mass shootings – at Vic’s Bar in Seymour Road on 9 July when six people were shot and on the street in Martin Drive on 1 July, when four were shot.

In response to a question from West Bay West MP McKeeva Bush about the motives behind the shootings, the commissioner said police investigations were indicating a variety of reasons behind the violence, including “territory, hierarchy, guns, drugs, conflict – females and males”. He added, “The smallest conflict can escalate, resulting in gun crime.”

Byrne said these groups were predominantly male, with some young women helping them with logistics.

He said police were encountering “some challenges in terms of information from the community” but said good progress was being made in the investigations.

But he added, “We are picking up information. The difficulty is trying to convert that to intelligence, to convert it to evidence to try to prosecute people, and that is a challenge.”

The commissioner said the RCIPS, based on intelligence and for the “foreseeable future”, would have additional patrols in areas such as Seymour Road and Martin Drive, where the shootings have occurred, “until we get this matter controlled”.

Since the beginning of this year, nine different firearms had been used to commit crimes locally – two high-powered weapons and seven 9mm handguns, Byrne said.

An automatic weapon was used during the shooting at Vic’s Bar.

Byrne told the legislators that firearms were being imported in Cayman in domestic appliances and furniture, and some guns had been on the island “for a number of years – the exact number, we don’t know”.

Following the shooting at Vic’s Bar, Cayman’s National Security Council, at an emergency meeting, authorised armed patrols in high-incident areas and at liquor-licensed premises, an increase in CCTV coverage on major roadways and in known hotspots, and a $50,000 reward via Crime Stoppers for information leading to arrests or confiscation of illegal firearms.

The commissioner had been appearing before Finance Committee today as it considered supplementary expenditures of various government departments and agencies. The committee approved more than $2.8 million already spent by police in 2020 on COVID-related matters, including overtime and other personnel and vehicle costs.

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