The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has seized 25 illegal motorbikes, including non-street legal dirt bikes, since last December when officers began a crackdown on speeding, disruptive groups of bikers on local roads.
“We are still storing [the motorbikes] pending court matters,” said RCIPS spokesperson Jacqueline Carpenter. “All matters are still before the court [with] no convictions as of yet.
“We have had substantially fewer complaints about motorbikes since December.”
Keith Keller, president of the Cayman Islands Motorcycle Riders’ Association, concurs with that assessment, saying he’s barely noticed any daredevil antics on local roads in recent months.
Mr. Keller was among a number of residents who complained late last year when a Sunday afternoon “ride of the century” event turned into chaos with more than 100 motorcycles, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles – some street legal, some not – took to the streets around Grand Cayman, blowing stop lights and endangering other drivers.
“I haven’t seen very many of them on the roads doing wheelies in a long time,” Mr. Keller said. “[The police] started confiscating bikes … once they did that it kind of shut the whole business down.”
Police strategies of using the RCIPS helicopter to follow illegal bikes to their destination, rather than attempting to chase them down in traffic, appear to have been effective, Mr. Keller said.
Unfortunately, he noted that there has been a recent uptick in motorbike thefts among the association’s members, coinciding with the recent increase in car thefts on Grand Cayman.
One of the reasons Police Commissioner Derek Byrne announced the motorbike crackdown shortly after taking over the RCIPS leadership post was the potential for unlicensed street bikes to be used in criminal acts, and being largely untraceable after the fact. One such vehicle was used in a February 2016 robbery at a Camana Bay jewelry store and the suspects were never arrested.
“We continue to encourage the public to provide any information it may have about illegal dirt bike riding on public roads,” Ms. Carpenter said. The Traffic Management Unit “does continue to run operations, some specifically focused on dirt bikes and others that are general traffic operations wherein illegal motorbikes may be seized.”
A place to ride
The RCIPS traffic unit is aware of residents’ requests for a “safe place” to use dirt bikes off road, but finding a suitable location has been challenging, Mr. Keller acknowledged.
During police operations earlier in the year, traffic unit Inspector Ian Yearwood noted that officers spoke with some individuals who had hitched their motorbikes to trailers and were taking them to the “marl pit” in George Town for some off-roading. Inspector Yearwood said police have no problem with that as long as the vehicles are operated on private land with the permission of the land owner.
Police also spoke to parents of the motorbike riders and discussed the possibility of opening some sort of public space off-road where bike riders can use their unregistered vehicles. “I drive a motorbike myself. I do not want to stop motorbike riders. We just don’t want the reckless and dangerous riding on the streets.”
Talks to this effect in recent months have not borne fruit, Mr. Keller said.
“Nobody wants to give up the land, nobody wants the liability,” he said.