“Paper plates” are perfect on picnics – but not on motor vehicles in the Cayman Islands.
In December, the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing began issuing temporary license plates (literally, pieces of paper) in anticipation of a new $1.5 million program to replace 45,000 old-fashioned metal plates with electronic tags. That was supposed to start in February … but as evidenced by the growing ubiquity of the black-and-white paper plates on the roads, that launch appears to have been delayed.
As of mid-January, the department had issued paper plates to some 700 vehicles. Assuming that figure has increased over the past three months, we imagine there are now considerably more temporary tags. (Not counting the unknown quantity of “fake” plates, which could easily be produced on a home laser printer.)
A Cayman Compass journalist called and texted DVDL Director David Dixon to ask him the following:
How many temporary paper license plates has the DVDL now issued?
Have the new electronic tags arrived on island yet?
If not, why not? And when?
To his credit, Mr. Dixon did call our reporter back. However, instead of answers, he gave us a promise that his department would send out a press release today (Wednesday).
The issue of the plethora of vehicles bearing paper plates, the possibility of “fake” plates, or – most obviously – no plates at all, has returned to the foreground of public debate via two recent high-profile news items: first, the “plateless” getaway car used in Saturday night’s violent armed robbery of a Foster’s grocery store, and second, the posse of motorbikers (riding vehicles with no tags) who abandoned a “friend” who was lying, seriously injured, in the road in East End.
While those incidents are separate and unrelated, they are not absolutely isolated. Every motorist in Grand Cayman, perhaps on a daily basis, sees (and hears) cars and motorbikes of suspect roadworthiness, typically tearing down the road at twice the posted speed limit and featuring any combination of hallmarks, such as no plates, obscured plates, tinted windows, customized exhaust pipes, no helmets, LED lights, etc.
Toward the end of last year, new Police Commissioner Derek Byrne made overtures that the police were going to crack down on Cayman’s infestation of illegal motorbikes. Apart from a few opening salvos, as far as we can tell, little progress has been made.
If the commissioner is out of ideas, here’s our suggested plan of action:
First, set a daily departmentwide quota for the issuance of citations for vehicles (cars and bikes) with missing or unreadable license plates. With more than 300 police and auxiliary officers, a number of 100 citations per day is not unreasonable (and may be too low). Meet that quota each day, and every day, until the problem goes away.
Second, inspectors at service stations and the DVDL must not “pass” any vehicles with obscured license tags, dark-tinted windows or any other deficiency.
The laws of the Cayman Islands – including ones regarding license plate covers and tinted windows – must be enforced. Or they must be altered in the Legislative Assembly.
The key concern goes beyond the infractions themselves to their implications and the consequences. We cannot allow the lack of consequences for “no plates” and “no-see plates” to enable the commission of serious violent crimes, or to foster an overall disrespect for our police officers and the law itself.