A Kia sedan that crashed through a fence on Shamrock Road on Jan. 8 lay on its side for more than three days in the high grass along the busy road before it was removed.

Just down the road, opposite Savannah Primary School, an SUV with its front end missing from a crash before Christmas, sat by the roadside for weeks until it was picked up on Jan. 11.

Although both vehicles were involved in relatively serious accidents, which caused injuries to some of the drivers or passengers, they did not require police seizure for accident reconstruction or court evidence. According to Royal Cayman Islands Police Service policy since at least 2015, it is not the department’s responsibility to tow those wrecked vehicles.

The RCIPS has previously stated that the department has neither the budget nor the storage space to tow and keep seriously damaged vehicles from all of the accidents that occur. In the case of what the police consider to be a “major” accident, with fatal injuries, or a large number of vehicles involved, etc., the police will tow the cars to an impound lot where they are kept as evidence.

However, if the crash is not considered a major incident, even if there is serious damage to the vehicle or vehicles involved and the cars are not drivable, the general policy is to move the cars out of the public right of way, clean up debris left from the crash, and leave the vehicles there.

If the car is left at the crash scene for an extended period, it will eventually be towed by the Department of Environmental Health at the owner’s expense.

Responding to less serious vehicle wrecks, even those where the cars are not being towed, consumes a significant number of police patrol hours, according to Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis.

In instances where vehicles have collided, even if there is significant damage and no one is hurt, the matter can be cleared off the road and dealt with by insurance adjusters. Currently, the law does not require police to respond to minor-damage accidents, though they sometimes do.

“How often are you traveling down the street and a fender-bender is blocking up traffic and they’re waiting for the police to come?” Mr. Ennis said. “Most of the time, it’s just for insurance purposes. Get the car out of the way.”

The police service’s workload, particularly in responding to what the department considered “non-emergency” calls for service, is illustrated in records kept by the 911 Emergency Centre.

In the 2011/12 budget year, the 911 center staff processed nearly 12,000 calls for service, including police, fire and ambulance calls. The next budget year, the number of calls processed by 911 staff exceeded 30,000 – near tripling in one year.

The reason for the increase, according to the 911 center’s annual report for 2015, was that non-emergency RCIPS dispatch calls were added to the reports being processed by the center. The number of calls increased to nearly 32,000 in 2014 and increased again to nearly 34,000 in 2015 – the latest year for which records are available.

RCIPS commanders have spoken of the need to lessen officers’ burdens with routine traffic enforcement issues and other matters, such as serving witness summonses to court. However, the department said it is also planning a public awareness campaign in the coming months to inform residents about when calling for police service is appropriate, and when it is not.

Reducing the need for police service in “non-emergency” situations would free up police officers to perform their primary functions – maintaining law and order – Mr. Ennis said last year.

“I think we have sufficient personnel to get the job done if we can … get rid of a lot of the things that do not require a police officer to do,” Mr. Ennis said.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. That would be a lot more convincing if we saw evidence of the police actually doing things that they do need to do, such as enforcing basic traffic laws on tint, speeding, missing or obscured plates, dirt bikes, etc. Perhaps I should call 911 everytime I see a missing plate or illegal tint – at least that way it appears that RCIPS actually cares enough to respond.

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  2. This is an example how simple things on the 75.68 mi² island have become so complicated that removal of a wrecked vehicle had to reach local media attention.
    For an army of civil workers with its numerous Departments and Ministeries it appears to be an impossible task.
    I looked up “Cayman Islands Government Organisational Chart” online to see which department might be responsible for towing wrecked vehicles…..But the “Last Updated: 2015-02-25” version of the Chart is impossible to read-someone did not do their job right and did not bother to check. An absolutely useless page on the Governmental website and nobody noticed for 2 years.

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  3. Hugh I read you, and although we have some very hard working police; we do have some who just hide behind the uniform until government pay day. Every day we see it; especially in the outer districts.
    One problem I have observed with many officers is that they do not acquaint themselves with the law, and they show little respect and good manners when communicating with the public. If we do not publicly identify these areas they will go on and on. Again I am going to say this is most happening in out districts. So I do hope the commissioner which I know is doing a very good job will have this looked into.

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  4. Why would anyone think that removing wrecked cars is the responsibility of the police. Other than seizing a vehicle for evidence (which will only take place when the incident is serious – death or life changing injury) the responsibility for a vehicle rests with the owner. I cannot think of any other jurisdiction where the police have this job.

    Stick a notice to the owner on it to give them 24hours to remove it and if they fail, get a tow company to do it and charge both the towing company fee and a penalty charge. If the owner refuses to pay, then civil action to recover AND ban them from owning a vehicle until they do. That is one advantage of a small island – this would be very easy to enforce.

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