September 22, 2020

MURDERS UP – ROBBERIES DOWN: Police chief says heists decline is linked to deaths

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The scene of one of the armed robberies (photo by Dennie Warren Jr.)

In the face of five murders in nine days, says Commissioner of Police David Baines, armed robberies have nearly stopped, and the evidence is that the two are intimately tied.

“Who do you think is involved in them?” the commissioner asked. “The robberies are gone. We have not had one. We have direct evidence that some of those involved in the murders have been involved in the robberies.”

Police have already linked the white Toyota van in which Jason Christian was killed on 19 September to the 15 September armed robbery at Tortuga Rum in Pasadora Place.

“We are looking at what has triggered this, but maybe it’s that some of them were taking too much haul.”

On 3 October , Mr Baines told iNews, the first of 20 officers from northwest UK would arrive, most from Merseyside, to bolster the ranks of local police.

“We are a small force to cope with serious incidents when they occur,” he said, “but not five of them simultaneously, so we have been stretched. We will have two senior investigative officers to bolster our efforts, three sergeants, and five officers for each of them,” he said.

“They are trained and qualified for investigation and will provide capacity, expediting inquiries, doing interviews and finding witnesses,” he said.

The visitors will stay between four weeks and six weeks, the commissioner said, but will remain should they be needed.

He stopped short of threatening to “fight fire with fire”, famously suggested by a former Merseyside police chief confronting a crime wave, but said the new Cayman team would balance “service-style policing and force-style policing” as warranted.

However, he rejected accusations that local police had failed to combat the nine-day wave of killings, which started on 13 September with the slaying of Robert Bush and culminated with the 22 September East End death of Asher McGaw.

“We have pulled between six people and eight people in, from the same group and we put in a lot of effort. Others are being sought, but they have gone into hiding,” Mr Baines said.

“We want to make sure, though, that they have as much to fear from us as they do from the opposition [gangs]. We tell them they are either a potential victim or a potential offender.”

RCIPS Commissioner David Baines

Three of the detainees remain in custody, he said, while the others are “out on bail, on tags, with an ankle bracelet, so we can monitor their whereabouts”.

“But we don’t have the officers to babysit them, and if there is no evidence to charge them, well …” he trailed off, but echoed Chief Inspector John Jones who last week said police could not act outside the law.

“There is enough evidence to demonstrate that short-term expedients like that are not effective,” Mr Baines said. “The tough-style policing in Jamaica, where the police have killed 340 people in the past year, has not reduced levels of violence.”

He also rejected criticism that police had been insufficiently aggressive about Facebook photos of gang members making hand signs and brandishing weapons.

“No, that is not enough. Unless we have significantly more, then what do we have? A picture? Is that evidence? Is that proof? It is not sufficient to charge.” Gang legislation, he said, was inadequate. “It hasn’t been used once in six years.”

Police were still seeking the original “trigger” for the murders, but acknowledge both the tension and social background in the community.

“We didn’t shoot these people and we didn’t put the guns in their hands, and this didn’t happen overnight,” Mr Baines said. “What happened that young men that were in Sunday school five years ago now think it’s alright to shoot someone in the head?” he asked, echoing Sunday remarks by Church of God Pastor Stanwyck Myles that he used to drive Andrew Baptist, murdered on 15 September, home from Sunday school.

“We have young Caymanian men ready to kill young Caymanian men for ridiculous reasons. What happened to a whole generation of young men? What did they miss?

Noting that gang members were as young as 17, he lamented “the indication where these young men’s futures are going to take them.

“These are education and social issues. The police role is like first aid when these things boil over. We take them off the street and detain them, but we are already at the end of the story.”

 

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