“It’s going to cause a fatality, either for someone on the motorcycle themselves and cause distress to families, or it’s going to cause a fatality with an innocent driver or a pedestrian with people behaving that way on the road.”
– Police Commissioner Derek Byrne
The citizens of a country should never have to petition their government to enforce its own laws – and yet, in regard to the hordes of motorbikers illegally screaming through the streets of Grand Cayman, it seems that is where we have arrived.
In a functioning democracy, the legislators make laws, the police enforce the laws, and the courts adjudicate the laws. Like an engine, if any single part fails, the entire system breaks down.
When 100 or more people congregate in a moving mass of motorcycles – some licensed, some not, some that aren’t street legal – and take over Grand Cayman’s roads, ignoring intersections and red lights, intimidating law-abiding drivers, and disrupting domestic tranquility, we have difficulty tallying up how many ordinances and statutes are being broken.
With this lawlessness in progress and in plain sight, our police should not be, and must not be, spectators at the parade. After all, the Cayman Islands is a high-end tourism destination, known for our law and order, and celebrated for our quality of life. These bikers, on the other hand, are arrogant, aggressive, threatening and, yes, dangerous. As a country are we willing to sit passively and silently by as these scofflaws (or outlaws; the word choice is yours) commandeer our streets?
We know that our new Police Commissioner Derek Byrne understands the motorbike mess he’s inherited.
In a sense, it presents a golden opportunity for Commissioner Byrne to establish his own reputation as, in effect, the tough, no-nonsense “new sheriff in town.”
We were pleased, during Wednesday afternoon’s press conference, to hear Commissioner Byrne cite the rogue bikers as a top priority for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, more importantly, to declare that police are going to take a hard-line approach to the issue, and most importantly, to set a time line for ending the problem in weeks (not months or years).
As Commissioner Byrne, who has decades of laudable experience in fighting crime, no doubt knows, it is a rare occasion when the police don’t have to search for suspects, question witnesses, and gather evidence in order to make sustainable arrests. In the case of Cayman’s rogue bikers, they have already rounded themselves up and announced their presence for miles around via the deafening roar of engines.
Certainly the police – and the populace – know where they are (almost everywhere) and who they are. Their offenses are both legion and obvious. We are mystified why the police have not been making arrests … at least, not until now.
“The first approach is to try and seize the bikes and prosecute them for reckless and dangerous driving,” Mr. Byrne said. “That’s where we’d like to be. We’re looking at our legislation at the moment.”
If there is any doubt whether the police are allowed by law to confiscate illegal motorbikes, then our elected politicians can easily clear that up with a 15-minute emergency session of the Legislative Assembly. Law enforcement officers must be empowered to seize and scrap (destroy, not auction) the offenders’ means of transportation.
Some people have suggested that the problem can be solved by prohibiting the importation of dirt bikes and other vehicles that aren’t legal to operate on roadways. That strategy is fatally flawed in two key ways:
First, the bikes, in menacing numbers, are already here.
Second, there is nothing wrong with dirt bikes. The problem is the people who are illegally using dirt bikes and other vehicles. Dirt bikes are perfectly acceptable recreational vehicles, so long as they are confined to, well, dirt. The bikes are inanimate assemblages of metal and do not come equipped with brains, conscience or judgment. Neither do dirt bikes have responsibility or accountability.
Their riders, however, do.