According to the headlines and the statistics, serious crime is on the increase. Eight murders last year already is a shockingly high ratio per capita in this tiny jurisdiction. Cayman has always lauded its safety and security to the world as vital draws for business, so getting on top of this current crime wave is essential if business is to continue, especially since the recessionary grip has also taken its hold on Cayman’s business fraternity. Yet recent well-documented investigations among the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has done little to increase public confidence that this will happen. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull has an exclusive interview with Police Commissioner David Baines and appreciates that an entire change of mind set is needed if Cayman is to properly embrace the tough demands of 21st Century society. Final in a three part series of articles.
Although Baines spoke at that Chamber lunch about the core group of about 15 or so individuals ready and willing to use guns in criminal activities, he concedes that gun culture is proliferating in Cayman at an alarming rate.
“Guns are almost seen by young men here as a fashion accessory. They derive their ideas from the gangster culture popular in the US, which has woven its way into Caymanian culture,” he states. “That and the American right to bear arms that is often used in defence of firearms. Of course the US has the highest number of shootings and gun deaths per capita anywhere in the world so perhaps Cayman should seriously question whether it wants to adopt such a mindset for itself.”
Another change in mindset will be required to rid Cayman of firearms, a difficult task according to Baines with around 1300 legal firearms currently owned.
He confirms: “Most say they are either farmers needing guns to control their animals or those who belong to the gun club. In either case the RCIPS is ramping up its push to ensure that all guns are properly stored and background checks will be conducted to ensure they are legally owned and securely stored to prevent them from finding their way into criminal hands.”
The marine unit
The Cayman Islands is an island nation and thus Baines believes that resources must be focused on the maintenance of a strong marine unit. He says that they have sufficient vessels to cope with the demands on the service but that more training is required for officers to be fully conversant in this field of policing.
“Not a day goes by without the marine unit being required to pursue an emergency call,” he states. “Whether it is a tourist who has gone missing while snorkelling, a diver in distress, illegal drugs winding their way to Cayman from Jamaica in canoes or pleasure craft being operated under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the marine unit is kept very busy.”
Baines says that pleasure craft owners in particular should exercise caution when operating their boats, jet skis etc and that the marine unit will be policing the sea vigorously, especially where large groups of people gather.
“We are not trying to stop the fun at places such as Rum Point on a Sunday afternoon; but we want people to act responsibly,” he says.
As well as the prospect of losing 16 staff members, Baines is also assessing other areas where costs can be cut. This includes reducing the car fleet by 10 per cent, and deploying GPS systems in the response vehicles which permit officers the more effective dispatching of officer a command centre for the dispatching of officers to a scene, meaning the nearest officer.
“I want to stop any misuse of police vehicles and streamline proceedings, which will ultimately make us more efficient and more cost effective,” he says.
Baines believes that there are many areas in which modernisation of the law and criminal justice system and procedures in Cayman can be improved so that Cayman can revert back to the peaceful society it once was. Not all improvements need to involve large injections of cash but all require a genuine desire by all concerned, by the business community, government, the legal and criminal justice fraternity and the public at large, for change and improvements to the system. Without that will to move in collective support of each other there is little hope of improvement.