Anemic enforcement of traffic offenses like speeding, cellphone driving and drunken driving in the Cayman Islands in recent years is about to be put in reverse, according to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service chief of operations.
“Roads policing needs to be more concentrated and it needs to be in a more focused form,” Superintendent Robert Graham said Wednesday. “[The RCIPS] is currently looking to increase our resourcing across the board … and the roads policing will always be at the forefront.”
Mr. Graham said staffing in the former Traffic Management Unit, now known as the Roads Policing Unit being managed under RCIPS Inspector Ian Yearwood, will get a boost in coming months. New Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said last week that traffic enforcement would get additional support, but he did not reveal details.
This month, Mr. Graham said, the RCIPS will put additional patrols on the streets using all three available motorcycle units and additional special (volunteer) constables to bolster traffic enforcement efforts. The annual holiday season crackdown began Wednesday and will continue through new years.
The police traffic enforcement efforts, or lack thereof, have been a focus of criticism from the public for a number of years. The decline, particularly in speeding enforcement, has occurred over a number of years.
According to data examined by the Cayman Compass, the more than 5,700 speeding offenses detected by police during 2007 dropped to just 1,956 by 2011. The numbers continued to decline in 2012 and again in 2013.
By 2014, the number of speeding offenses had dropped below 700 for the entire year.
The relatively new offense of “cellphone driving,” which netted the department more than 1,300 tickets during 2013, fell to 947 tickets in 2014, a drop of 31 percent. Drunk driving citations declined from 248 in 2013 to 153 in 2014, a drop of 38 percent.
It was during the 2010/11 budget year that the RCIPS reorganized its former traffic enforcement unit in an effort to put more patrol officers “on the beat.”
The reform effort came at a time when the police were being overwhelmed by a record number of robberies, as well as several tit-for-tat gang-related murders.
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 police station, giving the department more flexibility in deploying police rather than designating a specific group of officers as traffic investigators.
Mr. Graham said that strategy would now give way to a more focused traffic enforcement effort by a specific unit of trained officers. He said there probably would not be quite as many officers on the Roads Policing Unit as in the old Traffic Management Unit a decade ago, but plans were to staff up and step up enforcement.
Mr. Graham said the effort should also assist with operational policing efforts, as well as making the roads safer.
“If the Roads Policing Unit was to stop a vehicle that is unlicensed and it was used by a criminal to transport … stolen property, for instance,” he said. “A roadblock may be there to look to enforce road safety, but they’re also there to provide visibility.”