Traffic ‘concept’ has not worked, police say

Traffic enforcement staffing levels seeing increase

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service will be staffing its Traffic Management Unit back up, following what the service’s senior officer said was a strategy that had not worked out.

“I don’t want to call it an experiment, but a strategy was developed to assign traffic officers to the [police patrol] shifts,” Acting Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said last week during Finance Committee. “It was a good concept, but we’ve realized it hasn’t worked the way we wanted it to.”

During the 2010/11 budget year, RCIPS commanders downsized the traffic unit to a small specialist force. Prior to that it consisted of a larger number of officers who focused mainly on traffic management and investigation.

The idea at the time was to place more uniformed officers “on the beat” for patrol purposes at a time when violent crime and robberies were at unprecedented levels in the Cayman Islands.

Instead of working out of the traffic management building near the intersection of Crewe and Lyndhurst roads, the police officers responded to calls from the main police stations, giving the department more flexibility in deploying police rather than designating a specific group of officers as traffic investigators.

For routine accidents where there were no serious injuries and that mainly involved vehicular damage, any line officer would typically handle it. Mostly administrative staff members now work out of the RCIPS traffic building on Lyndhurst Road in George Town, although officers can go there to complete paperwork and file reports as needed.

With the change in 2010/11, crime numbers came down, but so did traffic enforcement statistics.

By 2014, tickets for speeding had dropped to 659 for the year. In 2007, RCIPS officers wrote more than 5,700 speeding tickets, averaging about 475 tickets per month. Annual arrests for things like drunk driving or other ticketable traffic offenses also fell steadily over the same period, RCIPS stats show.

In 2015, the number of fatal traffic accidents also spiked, with a total of 12 people dying on Cayman Islands roads. So far in 2016, several more fatal traffic accidents have been reported.

“We are reconstituting the traffic department,” Mr. Ennis said. “We are rolling that out now.”

Mr. Ennis did not state how many officers would be assigned to work traffic exclusively. The work of RCIPS traffic officers will be supplemented by volunteer constables, known as special constables, who have been appropriately trained in this area.