Monday, April 26, 2010

Cayman Islands fight growing crime

Caymans fights growing crime
tribune242 editorial
Nassau, Bahamas

WHILE Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade and his newly energised team of officers make their presence felt throughout New Providence, the Cayman Islands has imported British police to help them get their rising gang-related crime under control as quickly as possible.

Dependent, like the Bahamas, on its world image as a safe tourist and financial destination, Caymanian business leaders fear that rising crime could damage that image. According to a Reuters news report from Georgetown on Thursday, 14 British officers arrived on the island late Wednesday at the request of Cayman Police Commissioner David Baines.

"The murder rate in the small British territory, with a population of 55,000, remains low compared with Caribbean states like Jamaica," said the Reuters report. "But the 390-strong local police force has been stretched since the start of the year by five murders, a kidnapping, armed robberies and shootings. Victims included a 4-year-old boy killed in crossfire.

"Cayman authorities and local leaders in tourism, financial services and real estate are worried the spike in crime could damage the islands' reputation for safety and security, which has underpinned its emergence as a legal domain for many of the world's hedge funds.

'"If we can't crack the problem and bring down the murder rate and restore a much better level of law and order, in the long term, it is going to damage the Cayman Islands,'" the British-appointed governor, Duncan Taylor, said this month, according to the Reuters report.

Fearful of losing its attraction -- already crime is affecting the recruitment of foreign staff for financial positions -- Cayman is determined to get the problem under control as quickly as possible. "It has to be dealt with now and we have to deal with it aggressively," said a developer.

Cayman's police commissioner has cancelled all rest days for his force and put them on 12-hour shifts. Non-essential services were suspended to boost police visibility on the streets. Commissioner Baines said it wasn't a matter of bringing in a UK SWAT team, rather it was about "filling in the skill shortfall we have because our existing detectives are stretched."

Although Cayman knows its problems are not as severe as its neighbours, it is taking no chances. Compared to its five murders for the year, the Bahamas has had 26. National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest said last week that the international yardstick for murder is five per 100,000. "Assuming a population of 350,000 (as is the Bahamas) that should equate to around 17 or 18 murders a year in the Bahamas. At 26 murders to date, we are way over the threshold," he said. The Cayman's population is 55,000.

Commissioner Ellison Greenslade has also moved into emergency mode. Armed with a new police Act, he has outline his five "strategic" crime fighting priorities for 2010. One of them is to raise the standard of recruits -- the days of compromising a community's security to give a chance to unqualified, and probably undeserving persons, are over. He will also demand greater accountability from his men, and those police officers who are not doing police work, will be recalled to active service. He is determined to make our communities healthier and safer.

After studying the hours that most crimes are committed -- 4pm to 8 am - the hours that the police are on duty will no longer be exclusively from 9am to 5pm. There will be an active night shift.

Commissioner Greenslade is determined to have an around-the-clock police presence in the community. Many of us are already aware of that presence. We are also aware that the public is starting to assume its responsibilities of assisting their law enforcement officers in flushing out pockets of subterranean criminals, who, confident in the silence of their frightened neighbours, have gone about their evil ways undisturbed.

Friday's uncovering of what police believe is a long-running, well orchestrated car theft ring, should turn up much information. Already police have discovered parts of cars that have been used in armed robberies.

For many years here at The Tribune we have battled with the police about withholding information from the public. There were always two schools of thought in the Force -- those who believed in keeping information to a minimum so as not to alarm the public, and those (in the minority) who wanted to share as much information with the public as possible, believing that an informed people could better protect themselves.

At long last we now have leaders of a Force who realise that the only way to recruit the public to their crime fighting team, is to keep them informed. The National Crime Prevention Office at police headquarters is making its presence felt. It is keeping the public informed, not only of crimes committed, but crime trends and tips to help them protect themselves and their property. At long last the public is starting to feel that the police have their welfare at heart. And in turn more members of the public are responding with good, solid information.

With the police and public working in tandem, the criminal will gradually learn that with the spotlight on him, his safest bet is to turn himself in. He has already discovered that there is no longer any place to hide. The public has had enough crime, and they want the criminal in the one location built for him -- HM Prison, Fox Hill.

It is now up to the judiciary to get itself organised and join the team that is determined to rid our islands of criminals.

April 26, 2010