Police have increased the number of tickets issued for vehicles with illegally tinted windows by more than a hundred-fold within the past two years. But that’s not saying much.
In 2011, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service issued one citation for windows with dark tint, according to records revealed under an open records request. In 2012, that number went up to 89, and, this year through Tuesday 139 tickets had been handed out for tinted windows, according to police records.
That’s largely due to changes in the law that allow police officers to write tickets for illegally tinted windows, said RCIPS Inspector Adrian Barnett.
The police department, in conjunction with the Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing, announced in early 2012 that it would commence periodic roadside spot checks for more than just seat belt scofflaws and speeders.
“We’re targeting tint because of the criminal activity going on on the island,” Mr. Barnett said Thursday.
The operation – similar to one the department conducted for heavy-truck drivers who disobeyed safety requirements – sought essentially to perform snap roadside inspections on vehicles. One such operation in May 2012 on Linford Pierson Highway sent several vehicles to the inspection pit.
Former RCIPS Inspector Courtney Myles, who now works for the Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing, was on the scene that day.
“Our examiners are out there, along with RCIPS,” he said. “If there’s anything that concerns us, we can take a vehicle back for inspection. If you look at the red Honda there, you can’t read the license plate because it has been covered with film. Also, the wheels are so cambered that the vehicle is riding improperly.”
One issue police were focusing on that morning was excessive tint on windshields.
“If there’s not enough transparency of light going into the vehicles, we can remove the tint from the car right here,” Mr. Myles said at the time. “We use portable trash bins to dispose of it so it doesn’t litter the side of the road.”
A little-known fact, according to regulations attached to the Cayman Islands Traffic Law, 2011, is that a person can be sentenced to six months in prison and fined up to $2,500 for having illegally tinted windows.
Some window tint on vehicles is allowed, but it is up to the commissioner of police, in consultation with the director of the vehicle licensing department, to determine if the tint is so dark that it would be considered unsafe to drive the car.
The front windshield of a vehicle must allow “not less than 70 percent light transmission,” excepting a maximum 6-inch- wide strip that can be placed at the top portion of the windshield.
The front side windows must allow a minimum of 35 percent light transmission. The rear windshield and rear side windows can allow less than 35 percent light transmission, but only if fitted by the vehicle manufacturer as standard equipment. In any case, tint on the rear windows of a vehicle must allow at least 15 percent light transmission.
Drivers with medical conditions or other “special public interest” reasons, as defined by the department of vehicles director, may be allowed to have darker tinted windows on the sides and rear of the vehicle.
For police, tinted windows aren’t just about driver safety, but the safety of the general public.
“We are all acutely aware that some vehicles in the Cayman Islands are used for criminal activity, such as the transportation of drugs/firearms or as getaway cars following criminal incidents,” said RCIPS Superintendent Adrian Seales. “All too often, vehicle windows are tinted and license plates are obscured to intentionally hinder police investigations or in an attempt to prevent vehicles being identified in CCTV images.”
In mid-2012, police officers started searching individuals whose cars with tinted windows were stopped at police road checks, giving them tickets and arresting them if they discovered anything illegal in the vehicles.
The police service has made few arrests or issued citations for obscured license plates. Records show just three citations were issued in 2011 and four in 2012. No tickets were issued for that offense through September of this year.