Police officers who say they are being swamped with calls on nearly a daily basis about illegally operated motorbikes are urging lawmakers to adopt a ban on the importation of such vehicles which cannot be registered for on-road use.
“Every single day, we’re getting complaints about these bikes on the road,” Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said. “Why are we continuing to let these motorbikes into the country?”
“They should be banned,” said RCIPS Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis.
Street-legal bikes that are used on roads, particularly late at night, are not the bikes RCIPS commanders are suggesting be banned, despite complaints over the past 18 months from Grand Cayman residents about disturbing the peace.
However, other bikers are using vehicles that cannot be licensed or insured, no matter their state of repair. If police do stop one of these vehicles, they are seized and impounded, according to Mr. Walton.
Police reported this week that eight of the impounded vehicles were stolen from the lot behind the main George Town Police Station. Three of the vehicles were taken on Feb. 29. Five others were stolen sometime over the past weekend.
RCIPS officers reported Wednesday that significant security changes are being made as a result of the thefts, including the extension of a fence surrounding the compound and 24/7 site monitoring by a police officer. CCTV cameras are trained on the backyard area of the police station, but officials said those were not working when the dirt bikes were stolen.
Mr. Ennis said most of the illegal bikes, dozens of which were still being stored at the police station as of Wednesday, are operated by teenagers, some of whom may not have a license to drive any motor vehicle.
“When you have young people who are brazen enough to steal from a police station, it’s a major concern,” he said.
Another difficulty for police is in determining who is a legal bike operator and who is illegally using the road. Once a determination is made that the motorbike is being operated illegally, police must decide whether to give chase. Police have been wary, generally, of pursuit since a 2013 Grand Court judgment by Justice Alex Henderson in relation to a 2008 police chase along West Bay Road that ended in the deaths of two men in the car that was being pursued.
The family of Caymanian Bruce Lee Ebanks sued the driver of the vehicle being pursued by police, as well as the Cayman Islands government, over the fatal crash on Feb. 29, 2008.
Mr. Ebanks and 21-year-old Sidney Myles, who were passengers in the car driven by then-19-year-old Alex Callan, died in the Friday night crash. Mr. Callan survived and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving.
In late March 2013, Justice Henderson granted a judgment and costs in favor of Paulene Ebanks, the mother of Bruce Lee Ebanks. According to the judgment: “The accident was contributed to, if not caused by, the speed at which Mr. Callan was driving. He was doing so because a police car was chasing him. Had the pursuit been terminated, it is more probable than not that Mr. Callan would have slowed down to a normal speed so as to avoid attracting further police attention. The negligent failure to end the pursuit was one factor which contributed to the accident.”
Mr. Walton said banning the import of illegal dirt bikes would reduce the chance of such a tragedy resulting from a police chase in the future.
Customs Collector Charles Clifford, whose department would be responsible for enforcing such an import ban, said Thursday that it is up to Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly to make such an amendment to the Customs Law, if they desire.
“The collector of customs does not have the authority to make such a decision [on his own],” Mr. Clifford said.