Police Commissioner: Motorbikes problem ‘disturbing, dangerous’

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne speaks to members of the media at a press conference at police headquarters Wednesday. - PHOTO: MATT LAMERS

New Police Commissioner Derek Byrne identified stopping the reckless and dangerous use of off-street racing motorbikes as one of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s top priorities.

“It’s disturbing to see what’s going on on our public roads on a Sunday afternoon,” Mr. Byrne said Wednesday, referring to numerous reports he said he personally received about dozens of motorbikes, some that were not street legal, speeding around Grand Cayman between about noon and dusk Sunday.

According to eyewitness reports, anywhere from 40 to 100 motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles were seen “popping wheelies,” weaving into the opposite lanes of traffic and speeding as they traversed Grand Cayman. Mr. Byrne revealed that the RCIPS helicopter videotaped a portion of the bikers’ Sunday ride and that he had reviewed the footage.

“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,” Mr. Byrne said, speaking at his first press conference since arriving on island.

“It’s one of the serious issues occurring at the moment that we need to get … a grip on very, very quickly,” he added.

Mr. Byrne acknowledged that while there are other facets to the racing motorbikes problem, the immediate concern facing the RCIPS is getting those bikes off local roads. He said the police service would be taking a hard-line approach to achieve that in the coming weeks.

“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.”

There have been some concerns raised privately about the police service’s legal ability to seize off-road bikes from their owners. Mr. Byrne said the RCIPS Traffic Unit is looking at the matter and that the police believe they have the proper legislation in place.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne

Some illegal bikes that were seized in various police operations this year ended up being stolen from behind the George Town Police Station. Additional security measures have since been taken to prevent similar thefts, police said.

Another option being reviewed is stopping the non-street-legal vehicles from entering the country. Mr. Byrne said he was meeting with Customs Collector Charles Clifford Wednesday afternoon to discuss options on that front, although Mr. Clifford has publicly said that the customs collector does not have the unilateral authority to enact such a ban.

In addition to the law enforcement operations, Mr. Byrne said the issue with the illegal bikes is one of many areas in which police need assistance from the community at large.

“I’m sure there’s members of the community that can tell us where these bikes are parked at nighttime,” he said, adding that the police confidential tip line and the Crime Stoppers number are available if members of the public want to report the non-street-legal vehicles.

The police have two separate and distinct problems with motorbikes. The first is with street-legal bikes that are used on roads, particularly late at night, which elicit many complaints from Grand Cayman residents about disturbing the peace. The second issue is with vehicles that cannot be licensed or insured, no matter their state of repair. If police stop one of these motorbikes, they can be seized and impounded, according to senior RCIPS officials.

The department’s two senior Caymanian police officers, Deputy Commissioners Kurt Walton and Anthony Ennis, this year called for a ban on dirt bike importation in Cayman.

“Every single day, we’re getting complaints about these bikes on the road,” Mr. Walton said in April. “Why are we continuing to let these motorbikes into the country?”

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  1. I do believe these bikes are coming to the island through the airport or though the dock. Also I believe these persons must have an import permit to bring them here through customs. Who is signing that permission is the person the police Commissioner need to talk with; besides where is the teeth of the legislation pen. Ban them through legislation if they are causing so much trouble. Remember when the stroke of the pen was used to ban spear guns many moons ago. Very few know the reasons behind that; and owing a spear gun was a means of livelihood back then . They were banned almost 20 years ago because of one incident. Not because of anything being done illegal every day, but because of a “One time” domestic incident whereby some one was shot in the neck with one. Friends of fiends had them banned. Cayman has become too political, that is why the police hands are tied in many instances to carry out their duties. But the facts are that we have laws; and the police body must learn them well like a recitation, so when an issue arises they don’t have to buck toe on any reasonable decision.