Police find knives on taxis, busses

A police roadblock on 18 November that targeted Grand Cayman’s taxi and bus service drivers recovered several knives and other offensive weapons.

Six knives, a box-cutter and a pair of scissors were seized during the stops and searches of public transit vehicles. A machete was found the previous day during a search of a taxi van on Fort Street in George Town.

Royal Cayman Islands Police Superintendent Kurt Walton said officers had received reports that public transit drivers had begun arming themselves for various reasons.

‘The information was… that there were a lot of tensions among the taxis,’ Mr. Walton said.

Apparently, police said cabbies and bus drivers, concerned about dropping revenues in the economic downturn, have been getting into scuffles with each other over business issues. Cayman’s Public Transportation Board brought concerns about the situation to the police, which led to the searches.

Some cab drivers said police tactics during the searches were heavy-handed. They alleged that searches were conducted while tourists were in the cabs and that police forced those travellers to get out of the public transit vehicles before they conducted their searches.

‘[The law] is clear,’ Mr. Walton said. ‘The driver of a bus or taxi shall not carry firearms or other weapons.

‘We have taxis who are responsible individuals and considered ambassadors for this Island that are driving around with weapons. (Officers) could have proceeded by way of arresting them. The fact that they didn’t do that, I’m confident that inspectors acted in the best interests of the drivers.’

Knives of the sort taken by police are not considered prohibited weapons under Cayman law, such as a firearm would be. However, knives carried in a public vehicle could fall foul of the Public Passenger Vehicles Law.

Mr. Walton said police had not made a decision on whether to prosecute any of the cabbies or bus drivers who had the weapons taken from them.

The government has yet to follow through with plans to replace public buses at their former station next to the George Town library. Right now, the passenger vehicles are operating out of a dirt lot along Harbour Drive.

Bus drivers have complained that they are losing vital business at the new location, which is slightly out of the way from George Town’s central tourism district.

The former bus depot has become an impromptu parking lot for downtown workers and visitors. Ministry of Education officials have said the buses will soon return to that location, but no date has been given.