Published 9th May 2019, 10:8am
Following the release last week of the 2018 Crime and Traffic Statistics, I would like to thank the Commissioner of Police, Derek Byrne and all officers and staff of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) for their hard work to keep the Cayman Islands a safe place to live, to visit and to do business.
When we took office, our Unity Government prioritised action to make communities safer and we gave a clear commitment to work with the RCIPS to tackle crime.
In our first two year budget, we delivered on that commitment as we allocated additional funding to the RCIPS to provide for 75 new police officers over three years with added civilian support staff.
The Commissioner of Police agreed with us that we needed to improve Community Policing and Iím very happy today that Community Beat Officers are operating in every district across Grand Cayman. The success of that approach is demonstrated in the statistics released last week.
Building relationships and trust within those communities as well as the introduction of many new Neighbourhood Watch Schemes is helping to stop nuisance crime and providing intelligence about serious crime.
I am delighted that property crime and burglary dropped significantly in 2018 and were the lowest for 18 years. Whilst the RCIPS targeted and imprisoned serial offenders, support from Neighbourhood Watch Schemes has also added to this reduction. Neighbours know when something looks wrong and when someone looks out of place in a community and these groups are raising the alarm with their Community Police.
The Commissioner has said, and I agree, that we need to keep up the pressure to maintain this improvement. Thanks to further additional funding from Government, the RCIPS is in the process of expanding its Community Policing Department with the addition of Community Safety Officers, which are civilian posts. These officers will know the people in the communities they serve, but more importantly local people will know and trust him or her. My Government welcomes this enhancement of community policing efforts.
Similarly we must redouble our efforts to clamp down on gun crime. Improvements shown in last yearís statistics are attributed to marine interdictions, firearm recovery operations and the firearms amnesty. I expect to see this trend continue once the new Cayman Islands Coast Guard is up and running. We have combined the law enforcement units of Immigration and Customs into a single cohesive Cayman Islands Customs and Border Control Agency. They along with the new Coast Guard have the responsibility for protecting our borders, whether by air or sea, making it difficult for drugs, guns or illegal persons to enter our country.
His Excellency, the Governor Martyn Roper has been very helpful since taking up his new role. He supported the purchase of the new H145 helicopter, which was part funded by the United Kingdom Government. This expands our aerial law enforcement operations as well as supports our neighbouring Overseas Territories in their time of need.
Whilst Iím very pleased with the 2018 Crime and Traffic Statistics, we cannot become complacent.
We believe improved policing is about dealing with crime now. The long term answer lies in stopping our people turning to crime in the first place.
The Community Police are working closely with the schools, attending careers days, PTA meetings and generally building relationships and trust with young people.
I believe the most significant contribution to long term crime reduction, besides a good education, will come from the early identification of young people at risk of offending behaviour, and implementing programmes to help them make better life choices Ė choices that will benefit them, their families and their communities. The anti- gang strategy that the NSC has commissioned will be an important part of our efforts to support young people as well as targeting gang activity directly.
Community safety is not just a policing issue. The whole of government has a role to play and communities themselves contribute to their own safety. The 2018 crime statistics show that by working together we have helped to make Cayman safer. We must all do our part to maintain that improvement over the years to come.