Nine traffic offense investigations involving motorbike riders arrested since last December have been closed due to “insufficient evidence,” the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service reported this week.
Two other matters before the Traffic Court ended in the defendants pleading guilty, with one receiving a two-year driving suspension and multiple fines, the RCIPS said in a statement responding to Cayman Compass questions.
Five other cases involving the use of six dirt bikes or motorbikes remain open at present, police said. Two of those cases are due to go to court on Dec. 4.
According to the RCIPS, police officers have taken possession of 23 motorbikes since the department began a heightened crackdown targeting the vehicles last December. Seventeen of the bikes were taken as a result of traffic offenses; the six others were located as recovered stolen property.
“Of those 17 [traffic offenses], nine of the cases have been closed with no further action due to insufficient evidence,” the RCIPS statement read.
The determination regarding insufficient evidence in the nine motorbike cases was made following review of the various cases by police Traffic Unit officers. [*] The department did not divulge specific reasons as to why insufficient evidence was found in any of the investigations, but generally speaking, police need to prove that the person arrested was operating the bike illegally or dangerously.
A RCIPS spokesperson said this evidence can sometimes be difficult to obtain if police are not there to observe or record the person on the illegal bike. If no other witnesses or recordings can be found of the person operating the vehicle, then often the case will not go forward.
Five of the motorbikes involved in the traffic prosecutions were returned to their registered owners, police said.
Despite receiving just two guilty pleas in the 11 cases investigated thus far as part of the motorbike crackdown, the RCIPS Traffic Unit said its efforts appear to have made an impact on the use of non-street legal bikes around Grand Cayman.
“The RCIPS has seen a significant decrease in complaints regarding the dirt bike usage since earlier this year,” the department statement read. “We believe this to be in part due to our increased visibility on the roads, especially during weekends and our ongoing traffic operations.”
Still a problem
Although complaints to police may have subsided, the problem with illegal bikes being used both on and off-road on Grand Cayman has not gone away. In August, North Side beachgoers, including children, were nearly struck by an illegal dirt bike rider who was attempting to flee police.
Police said six motorbike riders were spotted in the eastern districts on the main thoroughfares earlier in the day, popping wheelies and revving their engines. The group ended up at Rum Point. Police officers were called to the area, but the six riders sped off in different directions after officers arrived.
“One of the riders rode onto the beach, where it is reported that he nearly struck people and children on the sand,” a statement issued by the RCIPS read. “The rider was not pursued onto the sand, but spontaneously rode in that direction on his own.”
Police have previously acknowledged that there is public concern about some of these rogue riders getting their bikes returned following arrest, but Traffic Unit officials said in July that there are legal reasons officers must do so.
“We cannot retain the defendant’s property indefinitely as a given case moves through the entire court process,” a statement from the RCIPS Traffic Unit read. “We have the ability to retain the property while the case is being investigated and the property is germane to those inquiries. Once those inquiries have completed, the property is returned on the defendant’s request.” RCIPS spokeswoman Jackie Carpenter said police are storing the remainder of the seized bikes.
[*] Editor’s note: The original story was updated on Nov. 29 to reflect the fact that police traffic officers decided there was ‘insufficient evidence’ in nine of the cases prior to those being presented to the Crown.