Declaring that crime levels in Cayman remain comparatively low, Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne says the Royal Cayman Island Police Service(RCIPS) is nevertheless mindful of how some types of criminal activity could increase once the borders reopen.
The Commissioner, accompanied by several senior ranks, was at the time giving the annual report on crime in Cayman for the period 2019 to 2020.
“2020 was dominated by the COVID 19 pandemic and it completely changed our operating environment,” the Commissioner reported.
He said the report showed a reduction across a broad range of crime classifications.
“I suppose the key outcome is that our crime platform remained very stable and very controlled during 2020. And for a successive year, the Cayman Islands remains a very, very safe place to work and to live.”
However, as the jurisdiction begins to open up, Commissioner Byrnes noted that so far for 2021 an uptick was being noticed especially in knife crimes.
“Going into 2021 we still have some concerns around the bladed weapons. We're not saying that crime has gone away, we still need to be very alert. None of us have become relaxed or complacent around crime,” the Commissioner said.
“We do have concerns as we move into 2021 and five months into it now we are dealing with a lot of crime.”
However, in the main, he said “the Cayman Islands remains a very, very safe place to work and to live.”
The RCIPS report shows that in 2020 serious crime in the Cayman Islands continued to decrease with an 18.2% year on year reduction compared to 2019.
In all, there were 3,604 recorded crimes (excluding COVID-19 crimes), equating to a reduction of 12.8%.
That equates to 55 crimes per 1000 population in 2020, down from 59 crimes in 2019.
Overall levels of violent crime reduced by 12% with crimes of serious violence down by 6%, although there was an increase in the number of serious crimes in which a bladed weapon such as a knife was used.
As a response, the RCIPS reports that it initiated Operation Bladerunner in the second half of 2020, to tackle criminal behaviour especially at venues linked to the night-time economy.
In 2020 there was a slight decrease in the number of recorded offences involving domestic abuse, specifically physical violence. This decrease in 2020 goes against the trend of increases seen in recent times.
Regarding drug crimes, last year saw an increase of 12 or 7 per cent.
The RCIPS said a more intrusive approach adopted as part of the response to Covid has led to the detection of some drug crime offending which might not in the past have been recorded.
Over the course of 2020 the RCIPS recovered over 2250 kgs of ganja and 62 kgs of cocaine with an estimated value of CI$ 5.5 million.
COVID-19 has also had a direct impact on the volumes and types of criminality on the Cayman Islands according to the RCIPS report.
There were 1882 incidents linked to COVID-19, and the reports shows that many are linked to multiple activities in response to COVID-19 carried out by RCIPS Officers and staff, that fall outside normal duties.
Regarding reports of domestic violence and child safeguarding across the past year, there was an increase of 96 - or 9 per cent - in child safeguarding referrals in 2020 compared to 41 in 2019, which the RCIPS says in line with a pattern noticed over the past several years.
There was a 20 per cent drop in the number of domestic violence referrals last year compared to 2019, a change in the pattern of steady increases in recent times.
Commissioner Byrne said both domestic violence and child safeguarding issues remain areas of serious concern for the police.
“It's not just decreasing, it's a cause of concern to us and factors in the way in which it's going to diminish. How we're going to do it is in partnership with all other government agencies or relevant government agencies.”
He said the RCIPS is “overloaded” with the number of reports being received for both domestic violence and child safeguarding matters.
Traffic remains a challenge despite the impact of COVID-19 restrictions last year, coupled with the decrease in population in 2020, contributing to the reduction in the number of vehicle accidents.
There were nine traffic fatalities last year, and three so far for 2021.
“Speeding is one of our major concerns,” the Commissioner said.
The RCIPS which currently has a strength of 517 is planning to add another 30 to 50 officers this year across its various divisions.