No plans to revive traffic unit
Tackling a rising number of burglaries and dealing with violent crime rather than handing out speeding tickets are the key priorities for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, according to the country’s top police officer.
Police Commissioner David Baines said he had no plans to re-establish a dedicated traffic unit, despite a recommendation in a criminal justice adviser’s report that police should consider reviving the department in some form.
Mr. Baines said it is a matter of priorities.
“How many times have I been told, ‘The only thing you’re good for is pulling people up for speeding but you can’t do anything about the people who are murdering and killing each other and the people breaking in my house?’
“I get it. That’s not to justify it [traffic offenses], but I have to put my resources where the priorities are.
“I’ve got to address the challenges I’ve got at the minute around burglaries.
“People don’t want to come home and find their homes violated. They certainly don’t want to get pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, to find out we have put all our energies in traffic enforcement at the expense of not being able to protect their property or, more importantly, them.”
He said the expertise still existed within the police force to handle all kinds of traffic crime and trained accident investigators were directed to deal with major collisions.
Police statistics show a significant drop over the past few years in the number of recorded traffic offenses, including speeding and drunk driving.
In 2007, when more than 5,700 speeding tickets were issued, police officers were averaging 475 tickets per month. Last year the average per month was 55 tickets.
The criminal justice report, produced by U.K. lawyer Claire Wetton, suggested the quality of evidence files handed over to prosecutors had also dipped.
“Traffic prosecutions are a significant proportion of cases heard in the summary court and the quality of the files continue to be a reason for adjournments,” she wrote.
Mr. Baines said the traffic administration department remains in place and the process for validating evidence files is the same as it has always been. He is seeking clarification on what the specific issues have been with traffic files.
He said he would seek to address any issues with the quality and completeness of files handed to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions with more training for officers and a standardized process, based on the U.K. model.
He said the dedicated traffic unit was disbanded after a spike in violence in 2011, combined with a squeeze on hiring, forced him to dedicate resources to more critical areas.
Traffic officers were put on regular shifts to allow more flexibility in deploying resources where they were most needed, he added.
“We had traffic officers who paraded separately, patrolled separately and were almost a police service within a police service.
“They are now on the same radio system, they deploy with their regular colleagues as response officers, and if there is a serious accident the people who are trained in traffic investigation are sent to deal with it.”