Residents say close Barkers

| 18/02/2009

(CNS): In the face of unsolved murders, drug abuse and gang activity troubling the residents of the West Bay district, Acting Commissioner James Smith attended his first police community meeting on Tuesday where he addressed a number of their concerns. However, the issue that dominated the night’s proceedings was the perceived need to regulate the opening of the Barkers area.

Prior to the ACP’s first meeting in the district, the West Bay Action Committee had submitted a letter to him outlining a number of concerns from the recruitment of officers from high crime jurisdictions to the level of training and a demand for K9 patrols. But their first point was regarding Barkers Point, a national park on the north coast of West Bay where the burnt out car and body of Estella Scott Roberts was found in October last year.

Angelique Howell, Area Commander for the district, explained that she had raised the community’s concerns regarding the area with the Solicitor General to interpret the law and see if the police did have the power to close the road after dark. However, she explained the SG’s position which was that this could only occur in exceptional circumstances and past crime in the area could not be used as a reason to cordon off what is in part private property. Howell said that working together with CUC and the district beautification committee, new light poles had been erected along with signs regarding littering and loitering.

While the audience seemed unconvinced that the police did not have the power to restrict access to Barkers after dark, Smith told residents to take up their concerns with the Ministry of Tourism which managed the park to see if it would supply resources to erect a barrier and supply the security staff to man the gates. “We cannot close Barkers. This sits firmly with the Minister of Tourism to put up some form of barrier,” the Commissioner stated, adding that a considerable amount of serious continuous crime would have to take place before the police could take action to close it as it was a matter of restricting people’s liberty.

However, residents felt that this was already the case. One resident from the WBAC said people were calling for it to be closed at night because they have very real concerns that drugs are being trafficked there and people were using it as a dump, not to mention the fact that Scott-Roberts’ body was found there and the police were doing nothing. “The West Bay Action Committee is not asking for it to be closed, we are asking for it to be regulated properly,” he said. “We want it closed at night from dusk till dawn.”

One committee member said he had been coming to police community meetings for several years and the only thing that kept on happening was more crime.

Residents raised the possibility of finding the resources themselves to close it, as they said they all feel very strongly about it. One local fisherman objected, however, as he said he used it at night to go into the area to fish.

Another issue which caused contention and saw Smith face off with residents was the recruitment of officers. Residents wanted to know who was responsible for recruiting foreign officers and why the RCIPS did not recruit Caymanian officers instead of ones they described as being from high crime jurisdictions. Smith said he would recruit the best officers for the job, no matter where they came from. He said with 120 different nationalities on the islands the police service needed to reflect that diversity. However, he did say he agreed that there were training issues and he was doing what he could to ensure that improved.

With regard to requests for a permanent K9 patrol in West Bay, Smith said he could not justify this as not only is it very expensive but there is a worldwide shortage of these kinds of dogs and finding a match to a good handler with a dog was not easy.

He reassured the community that despite the long unresolved murders in the district, the cases were not closed or cold but were still being investigated, though he said that the police needed information from the community. “Somebody out there knows something,” said Smith, emphasising the need for the community to come forward. A number of people in the audience said that residents feared for their lives and would not come forward because some police officers had a habit of telling the criminals who had tipped them off.

Smith said he was aware that the RCIPS had not always handled information well and there was a problem of keeping confidential information secure but he was addressing that problem with his joint intelligence team which he said was also assessing the gang issue to see if Cayman did have a problem with violent organised gang activity.

Howell gave a report on overall police activity in the districts and noted that while the year was less than two months old police had responded to 505 call outs and already made 102 arrests but she pointed to a 40% overall reduction in crime in the district during 2008.

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  1. near and dear to Barkers says:

    As a resident that lives near to Barkers, it grieves me to hear such foolishness, it make west bayers look stupid saying such garbage, it simply goes to show how some people think.

    The "park" as it is called should be off limits after dark yes, but not locked off,the police constables on patrol, should have as they do on any street in the cayman islands, with out cause stop, ask questions and if they feel that you are a suspect in what ever crime or offence have the right to detain you until you can give a good reason why you are in any particular spot at any given time.

    stop talking garbage and look out for each other, trash talk makes us look stupid

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why dont we just shut the whole Island down. Crime is everywhere!!  We have already lost majority of our Tradition, crime is what happens when families dont have anyplace to camp out anymore. The kids then turn to Illegal activities. Closing Barkers will not leviate crime on the Island. Law Enforcement needs to do their job and stop being corupt.



    • Anonymous says:

      And while they’re at it, they could just put a curfew on the whole island as well!!

  3. noname says:

    Barkers if NOT a National Park.

    There is no legislation to make it one.

    Most of the land in the area is privately owned.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why not set up a mail box in the Cayman Islands for people to mail in tips about crime and criminals? This mail drop box for tips would be much more secure and the letters would be untraceable thus insuring the safety of those who provide information.

    • Anonymous says: