Lawmakers question traffic enforcement decline

Cayman Islands lawmakers are concerned a general lack of traffic police has made it more difficult for local motorists to obtain settlements from insurance companies following vehicle accidents.

“Insurance companies have said the quality of reports are kind of poor,” said West Bay MLA Bernie Bush. “They feel that is occurring because there’s no dedicated patrol set, or traffic department as I usually call it.”

Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines told the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee that the RCIPS Traffic Management Unit was “de-established” in 2011, and normal traffic duties were assigned to patrol officers.

In the case of a major injury or fatal traffic accident, specialist officers and reconstruction experts would be dispatched to the scene. However, in the case of a “fender-bender,” police would write a brief description, get the parties to exchange information and then leave it to the insurance companies to sort out.

That’s part of the problem, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said.

“When you don’t have an accident report that concludes who is at fault, that is where you have tremendous difficulty,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “Neither insurance company wants to settle with the other. That is a most unsatisfactory situation.” Mr. Baines said the traffic unit officers were reassigned at a time when the RCIPS was facing an “unprecedented” series of gang-related killings and had to shift its personnel to meet the community’s needs. Since then, the specialist traffic unit has not been re-established.

“Since that has taken place, we have never grown our staff numbers, and at the same time we’ve had more demands placed on us,” Mr. Baines said. “We’ve had to do things differently.”

Earlier this year, the Cayman Compass reported an overall 80 percent drop in speeding citations issued by the RCIPS since 2007.

In 2013, the number of speeding offenses detected for the calendar year totaled 811. That’s a 53 percent drop from what was seen in 2012, when police detected 1,735 offenses.

That 2012 number of offenses represents less than one-third of the traffic citations handed out by RCIPS officers during 2009 and 2007.

In 2007, police cited more than 5,700 speeding offenses. In 2009, there were more than 5,500 such offenses, according to police traffic statistics reports. Police officers handed out more speeding tickets during a two-month period in 2007 than officers did for all of 2013, statistics show.

The numbers dropped a little in 2010, but the department still ticketed more than 4,000 speeders. It wasn’t until 2011, that police records show speeding offences really tapering off.

Mr. Baines asked assembly members to consider the use of speed cameras, devices that take pictures of license plates on speeding vehicles, allowing the government to mail copies of tickets to the offenders.

There are some issues with that in Cayman, Mr. Baines said, since there is no direct delivery government mail service to home addresses and not everyone maintains a post office box.

“Speed cameras have been used very successfully to prevent accidents…and indeed to fill treasury coffers,” he said. “They have no discretion.

“But as it stands at the moment, it would be thousands of extra summons [to court] served by my officers.”

Cayman’s current CCTV camera system has automatic number plate reader cameras that can perform roughly the same functions as speed cameras but they are not currently used for such a purpose, partly because of issues Mr. Baines raised.