As broken-down vehicles accumulate on the roadsides of Grand Cayman, government has yet to state how it plans to address the growing problem.
For the last week-plus, a growing number of automobiles have been left on or near the roads, some of them posing traffic hazards.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there was a Honda Fit and a Honda CR-V along Esterley Tibbetts Highway in West Bay, a Toyota MR2 near the Burger King on West Bay Road, and a Hyundai H1 on Esterley Tibbetts Highway near Camana Bay – as well as a Honda sedan in a vacant lot adjacent to the Compass Centre. The sedan had been in an accident before being left in the lot and then subsequently stripped of all its wheels.
Government has not formulated a policy to address the derelict vehicles.
“It’s something the agencies need to come together and discuss,” said Edward Howard, the deputy managing director of the National Roads Authority. “We had an issue where we went to the police, but government doesn’t have an impound yard so they’re reluctant to tow … I’ve had discussion in the past with the director of the [Department of Environmental Health]. We’re not sure how we’re going to tackle the issue.”
The Roads Law allows the National Roads Authority to issue notices requiring the owners of discarded vehicles within sight from any public road to remove them at the owner’s own cost.
However, Mr. Howard said that his department generally deals with removing branches and other debris from the road. The Department of Environmental Health is typically the agency that deals with abandoned vehicles, he said.
But the Department of Environmental Health began curtailing the number of derelict vehicles it takes into the George Town landfill since at least last October, and has now stopped accepting them altogether.
Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter, Assistant Director Mark Rowlands and spokeswoman Stacey-Ann Anderson were all out of the office on Wednesday. A staffer who answered the phone – and declined to provide her name – said that the department is not dealing with abandoned vehicles. She suggested that people use private tow companies to remove broken-down cars, and she did not have any advice for property owners who may find other people’s vehicles abandoned on their land.
Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour told the Compass he was certainly aware of the issue and was taking active steps to find a suitable solution.
“We must find a place for these vehicles,” Mr. Seymour said, “and I can guarantee that’s going to happen very soon.”
The minister added that he would be contacting the police to ensure that abandoned vehicles, causing hazards by protruding out into roadways, would be removed immediately.
The police, for their part, reminded people that they should not leave their broken-down vehicles on public property or other people’s private property. Royal Cayman Islands Police Service spokesman Mikhail Campbell said officers have the power to issue littering citations to people who do.
“Property owners who find other people’s vehicles left on their property can also file a police report, and in most cases, we are able to locate the owners of such vehicles and advise them accordingly,” he stated. “Owners of derelict vehicles remain responsible for these vehicles regardless of whether they are able to be scrapped.”
Mr. Campbell added that derelict vehicle owners should contact the Department of Environmental Health for an official update and advisory on how long the current situation at the landfill will persist.
The Department of Environmental Health’s policy of turning down derelict automobiles started last October when the facility for processing the vehicles, before they are shipped off island, became overloaded, Ms. Anderson said around that time.
The number of cars being processed at Cayman’s landfills has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the annual compendium of statistics released by the Economics and Statistics Office, the Department of Environmental Health accepted 71 derelict vehicles in 2014, 402 in 2015, and 832 last year. That is a nearly 1,200-percent increase over the three-year period.
“We have limited space,” Ms. Anderson said last November. “We decided we needed to reassess and find a way to reassure safety and accommodate new [vehicles].”
Ms. Anderson recommended at the time that owners store the vehicles on their own property and not abandon them. She did not provide a timeline for how long the policy of not accepting derelict vehicles would persist.
“It is difficult to say at this point,” Ms. Anderson said last November, adding that there is no target date. “I can’t give you a timeline. We’re working to see how soon we can have this rectified.”
Mr. Carter said last November that his department had not “completely stopped” the collection of derelict vehicles, but reduced the quantity going to the landfill until officials can prepare another area for the safe storage of the autos.
However, the staffer who spoke to the Compass Wednesday said the department had completely stopped taking in derelict vehicles.