Long before you see them, you hear them: Engines gunning, tires squealing, the racket reverberating up and down our streets.

Then they appear — helmetless, licenseless, popping wheelies, weaving in and out of traffic, all at breakneck speed — the menacing motorbikers of Grand Cayman, personifications of road death and lawlessness.

Just how little regard they have for the safety of themselves and others, these motorbikers display through their reckless behavior. Just how little regard they have for the police is best exemplified by the recent brazen theft of impounded vehicles, right from law enforcement’s own backyard.

To put it bluntly, these motorbikers are driving police — and the rest of us — crazy. And it’s time to stop them.

“Every single day, we’re getting complaints about these bikes on the road,” Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said.

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(Let us at this point differentiate between Cayman’s “motorbikers,” the topic of this editorial, and the law-abiding, safe and courteous “motorcyclists” who take great pride in the maintenance of their two-wheeled machines and their conduct on the road.)

Compounding the issues of general nuisance and public endangerment is the fact that motorbikes, in other Latin American and Caribbean locales, are the “getaway” vehicles of choice for thieves and violent criminals. (Why use a comparatively slow and bulky car to commit a crime, when you can simply hop on a nimble bike that police are hesitant to chase? It worked wonderfully for the pair of gunmen who robbed the Camana Bay jewelry store last month.)

Our ever-astute readers have been chiming in with their own thoughts and observations on the issue. We’ll share some of their comments from our website here:

“Unless the police crush every bike that has been taken, they will be back out on the road, legal or illegal. It is time we stop asking why about things and get into action about them.”

“Agreed 100 percent on the ban. If I see another hoodlum popping a wheelie on the public road, I’m gonna bust a blood vessel in my head!”

“Fairbanks Road is a popular race track for these noisy illegal bikes with un-helmeted riders. They’ve been reported to cops and where are they? Nowhere to be seen. If it is so easy to steal from under their noses, just how effective can they be on the road in law enforcement?”

Of course, there are serious concerns about why, and how, police evidence — including significant quantities of drugs, as well as the motorbikes — is being “liberated” from the George Town police station. (And just how is it that the police station’s CCTV cameras have not been working when those thefts have occurred?)

Putting aside that topic for now, however, and focusing on the topic of motorbikers’ misbehavior, it appears there is not very much that police can do to stop them.

The comments we may be tempted to make in regard to certain court decisions might infringe upon a rather vague area of Cayman Islands law (it’s called “scandalizing the judiciary”), so we will simply reprint, without comment, a passage from Justice Alex Henderson’s 2013 Grand Court judgment, in relation to a 2008 police chase that ended in the deaths of two men who were being pursued, which has made police wary of speeding after law-breaking motorbikers:

“The accident was contributed to, if not caused by, the speed at which [the pursued man Alex] 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.”

What do our readers think about that?

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  1. Another great and timely editorial by the Cayman Compass. I suppose those folks with pitchforks and picket signs waiving against a broad dirt bike ban can go and dust off their copy of Plato’s Republic or quote from the much criticized John Stuart Mill who advocated utilitarianism. Thus following Mill the hoodlums can continue to pop those wheelies winding in and out of traffic (grant it within the speed limits) as long as no harm comes to others. Nonsense and absolute freedom unchecked is a slow but sure road to chaos. The harsh reality is that there is no “rational man” OR “socially responsible man” in the equation. These lost boys are products of our society- we have to come to grips with their sociopathic behavior and in the meantime before most are reformed with hard work or miracle we need to plug the holes so that common folk don’t have to deal with this growing nuisance.

  2. This used to be a serious problem in the area I lived in the UK. The police response was a joke, we were actually told not to try and collect evidence by taking photographs or video of the kids involved because some of them were so young. In the end, and then only after one of the bike riders had nearly run down a woman walking on the pavement with two small children, we took the law into our own hands. Several of the bikes got punted off the road, I personally drove two off the road with my car, and things like plastic wheelie bins were thrown at them. I wasn’t present but apparently two of the worst offenders were cornered in the pub car park one night and given a pretty comprehensive beating.

    When the police realised they were in danger of completely losing control of the situation they stepped in. Although rather belated, their response was very simple and very effective – they already knew who most of the riders were so simply went round their houses (or strictly speaking their parents’ houses) and demanded proof of ownership for any motorcycles found on the premises. If there was no documentation the machines were simply seized and destroyed. In the course of this operation they also recovered a stash of stolen motorcycles hidden in local woods and traced them back to the thieves so it was a good result all round. At that point the problem stopped and as far as I know over 10 years on it hasn’t returned.

    I wouldn’t advocate anybody taking the law into their own hands but RCIPS need to be aware that there is point, particularly where these activities put lives in danger, where people stop sitting around complaining and act.

  3. David to my earlier comment “plugging holes” I’m referring to lawmakers and force of the police to usher in a ban on the use of dirt bikes on PUBLIC roads. Not suggesting in any way, shape or form that citizens take matters into their own hands. It’s for the lawmakers and police to deal and the police are taking a proactive step by suggesting a solution and now we wait for the lawmakers to do their jobs and knock out a solution.