The theft of vehicle license plates is becoming a more frequently identified concern of Cayman Islands law enforcement officers, who suspect the plates are being attached to unregistered cars which are then used in crimes.
“It’s difficult to prove a negative,” Royal Cayman Islands Police Service spokeswoman Jacqueline Carter said. “But there are instances where stolen vehicles, as well as stolen tags, have facilitated criminal activity.”
On Tuesday, the RCIPS put out another of several recent notices asking the public to keep an eye out for a specific vehicle registration plate: 150-873. These plates, police said, were stolen from a Hyundai parked in Windsor Park, George Town, on Jan. 12.
In another case, a motorbike stolen from the Kimpton Seafire resort parking lot in late December was found in nearby bushes with its license plates removed.
In addition, vehicles stolen in recent months around Grand Cayman are still missing. RCIPS officials said in some cases they are taken on a “joy ride” and dumped somewhere. However, others have been used in serious criminal activities, including recent robberies.
The vehicle and number plate thefts have drawn the attention of government leaders and were the driving force behind the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing move toward installing electronic vehicle tags on more than 45,000 private vehicles in the islands over the next three years.
The new tags, which will be issued starting next month, are “tamper-proof,” according to department officials, and cannot be removed and transferred to other vehicles.
“You cannot take those plates from where they are installed to put them on another car, like some people do now and create all kinds of havoc,” Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said in June when introducing the initiative.
Mr. Tibbetts also indicated that “monitors” would be placed throughout the country when the electronic tagging system is in operation. The monitors allow every vehicle that crosses over them to be tracked.
“We’re working with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. I know they need help,” the minister said. “Once the system is up and running, it means many less times the RCIPS [will] have to chase down a vehicle, because [the vehicle] can’t hide.”
The system is eventually expected to boost revenue from traffic tickets, although this will not occur in the near term because of difficulty in issuing citations to addresses. Cayman’s government postal system does not currently allow delivery to home addresses. However, Minister Tibbetts said one of the benefits of the electronic vehicle registration system is that it can issue tickets automatically.
“The enforcement ability of the RCIPS will be increased tremendously,” he said.
RCIPS officials said they are still reviewing the functionality of the electronic plate system and how police can use it to their advantage.
“We believe it should help,” Ms. Carpenter said.
Illegal dirt bikes
Another police concern in the past year about “untraceable” vehicles is related to the use of illegal, unlicensed dirt bikes in the commission of crimes.
One high-profile example of this occurred at Island Jewellers in Camana Bay in February 2016, when two men walked into the store on a Wednesday night and robbed it at gunpoint.
The pair rode off on a dirt bike after filling a bag with diamonds from the store. No arrests were ever reported.
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne has vowed an island-wide crackdown on the illegal vehicles. Several were seized during an operation late last month.