Cayman police chief visits home

Rising to the very top of your profession can be a long and times protracted journey.

Rising to the very top of your profession can be a long and times protracted journey.

Yet for Ardagh man and Cayman Islands police chief, Frank Owens that path has been filled with distinction or as he terms it-”variety”.

Having spent much of his early life in the rural surroundings of Ardagh, Frank, who is the son of Patricia and long serving county council employee Tom, relocated to Liverpool just shy of his tenth birthday.

By the age of 21, the lure of the British Metropolitan Police came calling at a time when social unrest and economic turmoil began sweeping the nation.

Unperturbed, Frank’s appetitite for progression remained unshaken. In 1998, an opportunity arose for police officers overseas to join the ranks of the Cayman Islands Police Force. It was the opening the young Longford ex-pat had been secretly yearning for.

“I grabbed it with both hands,” he said as he talked with the Leader inside Longford town’s Market Bar this week. “I wanted to travel and gain experience. I had been to Australia and with my love of sports and warm weather it just seemed ideal.”

A little over a decade later, the innately proud Longford native now holds the mantle of being the Chief Inspector of George Town, one of three districts on the island governing a population of around 55,000 people.

Clearly the spectre of occupying such a lofty position is one he continues to relish.

“I would have about 60 to 70 people working for me,” he explained. “I would have inspectors below me, it’s all about delegation at the end of the day.”

Located in the western Carribean Sea and 500 miles west of Jamaica, crime rates on the Cayman Islands has shown signs of a gradual rise in recent years, mainly involving gangs brought on by drug related shootings.

Dealing with these challenges on a day to day basis is one which Frank has become more and more accustomed to throughout his 13 year association on the islands.

“One of the biggest issues is drugs and firearms that come in from Haiti. Criminals see it as a shipping point to the States,” he frankly put it.

“We have seen an increase in burglaries and robberies too, some of them have been aggravated and a lot of it is because firearms are coming into the country.”

But that’s not the only headache which Frank has to contend with.

“Temperatures out there get as high as 90-100c and then when you come back home there’s no comparison. I love the variety, the outside and the fresh air,” he added in his distinct Liverpudlian accent.

Frank was just as forthright when giving his opinions about the recent rioting in Britain. “I would still have friends in Liverpool who work in the police. A lot of the violence has to do with resources and cutbacks (within the police) but it’s also about opportunism as well.”

Quizzed about whether he ever felt the urge to switch codes and join the ranks of the gardai, Frank looks inquisitively across the table with a broad grin.

“No never, I’m happy enough where I am,” he calmly replied

And with that, the easy-going Ardagh man and Cayman Islands police chief offers his hand and makes his departure ahead of an eight hour and 4,500 mile round trip back to his adopted Carribean home.