More than a dozen Cayman Islands residents will give up their time this holiday season to help keep the rest of us safe on local roads.
Fifteen special constables with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, who are unpaid, volunteer officers, are joining with the regular police traffic unit to staff roadblocks and traffic checkpoints and perform routine traffic stops over the next few weeks.
The RCIPS holiday traffic initiative will last through the first week of January.
Special Constables Commandant Chris Duggan said the volunteer unit has been assisting police officers with traffic patrols over the past year or so, and members have had some training in the use of radar guns and breathalyzer machines.
“We’ve identified about 15 special constables who all went through the training [for traffic enforcement].” Mr. Duggan said, adding it is probably a bit more complex than most people would think. “It’s a whole process, writing up a simple traffic ticket so it can go to court.”
The volunteer constables have been getting some “on the street” experience as well since late last year, but Mr. Duggan said this is the first time they have been used for a holiday enforcement effort.
The RCIPS Traffic Management Unit has conducted some form of holiday traffic crackdown every year for at least the past decade. Newly appointed unit inspector, Ian Yearwood, said the public will notice more roadblocks and other high-visibility interdiction efforts over the next few weeks.
The enforcement effort started Wednesday afternoon during rush hour with a police checkpoint on the southern end of West Bay Road.
The traffic unit has been depleted over the past several years as officers were diverted to other crime-fighting areas deemed to be more crucial at the time.
RCIPS Superintendent Robert Graham said this week that police would look to staff up the unit in the coming months. Until that happens, Mr. Duggan said special constables can help “make up the numbers.”
“Specials are normally used as crowd control at events or other administrative duties, but they have all the powers of a paid RCIPS constable and can be used for things like traffic enforcement while the regulars are out enforcing more serious crime,” he said.
Special constables will not investigate scenes of fatal or serious injury collisions. Those incidents are left to the traffic unit and accident reconstruction experts.
“But I think we’re going to be out there, be a lot more visible than we have been,” he said.
The new leadership at RCIPS, including Superintendent Graham and Police Commissioner Derek Byrne, have both said in the past few weeks that they want to see more “focused” efforts on traffic enforcement.
This month, Mr. Graham said, the RCIPS will put additional patrols on the streets using all three available motorcycle units and the special (volunteer) constables unit to bolster those efforts.
Police traffic enforcement has been a focus of criticism from the public for a number of years. The decline, particularly in speeding enforcement, occurred largely after the RCIPS dismantled its former Traffic Management Unit in 2010/11.
According to data examined by the Cayman Compass, the more than 5,700 speeding offenses detected by police during 2007 dropped to 1,956 by 2011. The numbers continued to decline in 2012 and again in 2013. By 2014, the number of speeding offenses dropped below 700 for the entire year.