While innovative cyber sleuths like London’s Darktrace create algorithms to track the slightest irregularity in a company’s computer network, Cayman’s newest security company, Sterling Security Solutions, is focused on more tangible problems.
Sterling’s two founder/directors, Mike Cansell and Frank Brennan, both former British police, RCIPS and security-company executives, don’t solve crime, but try to prevent it.
They provide uniformed protection for businesses; advise on security alarms, cameras and lights at private and commercial premises; undertake due diligence on companies and individuals; execute deep dives into court documents, among others; and even, on occasion, provide personal security for clients who feel vulnerable.
“Security needs have always been with us, not just at this point,” Cansell says, although conceding “the whole world has changed” in the 21st century.
“I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and I wouldn’t live anywhere without an alarm.”
Since its April launch, Sterling has gained 20 full-time local clients and another 10 overseas, offering a host of services.
It is not the largest Cayman-based security company; the Security Centre holds that honor with affiliates in Bermuda, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
The list of local security companies is formidable. Island Electronics Security and Monitoring says “we’ve been protecting Cayman since 1986,” with a range of services such as alarms, access control and video surveillance. Scotts Security, founded by ex-UK police and RCIPS officer Andy Scott, who worked in the drugs task force and marine patrol units, customizes security systems and specializes in surveillance, firearms and dog handling.
Fire security, alarms systems and CCTV is offered by Electra-Tech Services; Guard dogs, property inspections and alarm responses by K9 Security Services; alarms, fire detection and access control at a full range of sites by National Security Services.
A full list of local security companies includes former MLA Dwayne Seymour’s A P S Security; Eagleye Security Services; Guard On Alert Security; Britthay Electric Ltd; Caribbean Security Monitoring and Installation; Cayman Armoured Courier Services; Hi-Tech Electronics; Knights Security Services; Marksman Electronics and Security Services ; and Ranger Security.
The sheer proliferation of local security services only indicates how much needs have grown since the 1980s, Brennan says: “People are more aware: terrorism, homeland security around the world; you have to have 24-hour control,” and globalization means local security systems must be as sophisticated as systems anywhere.
Meanwhile, police statistics attest to the stubborn number of burglaries, almost the local crime of choice. The crime is largely opportunistic, often low-yielding, driving further break-ins, and largely committed by the same group of people.
On Aug. 19, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service released its statistics for the first half of 2015.
While the statistics indicate overall crime slowed from the early part of 2014, the number of burglaries was notable.
Police spokeswoman Jacqueline Carpenter said the numbers reflected an overall 10 percent decline in crime and a 24 percent decline in “serious, violent crime,” a category that includes armed robbery, rape, aggravated burglary, assault, murder and attempted murder.
Although the math bodes well for most security worries, burglaries have risen 16.25 percent this year from last – and pushed up the rate of serious crime by 14 percent.
So far in 2015, police have recorded 322 burglaries, 45 more than the first half of 2014, putting Cayman on track for more than 600 break-ins this year.
Carpenter said, “The crime statistics point to issues that exist, but some sort of think tank [to interpret them] is really missing from the debate.”
Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton says his own research indicates a 15-year average of 623 burglaries per annum, dipping to 592 between 2010 and 2014, rising to a 2005-2009 peak of 639.2.
“It’s beyond prevention and enforcement,” he says. “We talk to the public all the time, we distribute leaflets and information. You’re supposed to lock your doors if you go away, but the needs go way beyond that.
“There has to be a collaborative effort among a number of agencies: prisons, social services, needs assessment, employment. We need an integrated offender-management program.”
Walton points to Cayman’s high recidivism rate, saying that released prisoners usually take a “holiday” between one month and two months, “and then they’re back to their old ways and back on our radar.”
While burglary is frequently a crime of opportunity, the chief inspector says, “there are career criminals” who will never hold a job, responsible for many of the break-ins.
He counts between 150 and 200 offenders, people not currently in prison, who commit most burglaries. One detainee in particular, he says, appears responsible for as many as 10 break-ins. Walton’s roster of offenders includes children as young as 11 and 13 years old.
In the ‘90s, he says, a crack cocaine epidemic sparked much criminality, and drug addiction remains a persistent cause, underscoring the need for an interagency offender-management program.
Combating Cayman’s most immediate security problem has reached a level that is not solely a police matter, observers say, but one that requires a cooperative, societal effort – and that is a matter of political will by government and the private sector.