Police officers on quad bikes could soon be patrolling Seven Mile Beach in an effort to clamp down on crime against tourists.
Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne hopes to acquire the motorized all-terrain vehicles to give community officers and sniffer dogs better access to the beach.
Mr. Byrne, one of the guest speakers at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association annual general meeting Wednesday, said he wants to bring high visibility policing to tourist areas, including the beach, amid reports of thefts, drug dealing and other nuisance crimes against tourists.
He told business owners during the meeting at the Westin hotel that the Cayman Islands had a reputation as one of the safest destinations in the region and he aims to keep it that way.
He said he was happy with the number of new officers he had been allocated and suggested the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s community policing initiative would help improve “high visibility” policing in tourist zones.
Mr. Byrne told the Compass after the meeting that he was also investigating bringing in “raptors” – a cross between a Segway and a moped – for police officers working along West Bay Road. He said the vehicles would allow officers to move up and down the tourist zone, interacting with people and dealing with issues.
Quad bikes are needed for the beachside, he added.
“They would get us that access and maneuverability that we need. We could get K-9 units on the beach. We receive complaints about people approaching tourists, thefts of property, selling drugs, and we need access to investigate those,” he said.
He said police could also support beach inspectors in dealing with more minor infractions, such as disputes over vendor activity on the beach.
Stran Bodden, chief officer in the Ministry of Tourism; Oneisha Richards, deputy director of the Department of Tourism; Clement Reid, the port director; and Albert Anderson, CEO of the Airports Authority, appeared alongside Mr. Byrne as part of a panel discussion at the meeting.
The discussion was officially off-limits to media, but Mr. Byrne discussed his remarks with the Compass afterward.
Theresa Leacock-Broderick, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said the issue of beach vendors was another topic that had been discussed.
She said CITA members were told at the meeting that the new Public Lands Commission would be appointing inspectors to monitor vendor activity on the beach.
Modifications to the beach area are scheduled to include a vendor village with space for 16 vendors – a variety of water sports, food and beverage and deck chair salespeople.
The inspectors, budgeted from July, will be charged with ensuring they meet a certain set of standards and stay within their designated areas. They will also be tasked with ensuring no unregulated commercial activity takes place on the beach.
Ms. Leacock-Broderick said she hoped the inspectors would have authority to manage the entire beach experience. She said there was a diverse range of issues, from cleanliness to vending activity to crime, and it made sense to have one focal point for tourist complaints.
She said members had also posed questions about the airport, port and the tourism national plan to the panel, and also heard a state of the industry update from Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell.
She added, “The whole point of the panel was to give the members an opportunity to hear from people in key leadership roles affecting the industry, and have the chance to ask them questions.”
She said CITA would be refocusing on its advocacy role, aiming to facilitate regular conversations between members and government decision makers. The association is also aiming to improve “member services” by providing access to shared resources and information for businesses.
New CITA board elected
During the AGM, CITA elected a new set of directors. Though many of the board members retained their positions, there were some new faces.
Ms. Leacock-Broderick said she was pleased to have a broad representation of districts, business types and sectors represented on the new board.
The board of directors will meet in the coming weeks to appoint an executive committee.
The directors are:
Theresa Leacock-Broderick and Anne Briggs of Sunset House, representing hotels;
Danielle Wolfe of Caribbean Club and Lawrence Haughton of Wyndham Reef Resort, representing condos and villas: Steve Shienfield of Duke’s Seafood & Rib Shack and Julie Allan of Rackam’s Waterfront Bar and Grill, representing restaurants and nightclubs; Ash McKnight of Go Pro Diving and CJ Moore of Cayman Islands Boat Rentals, representing water sports; Jay Mehta of Netclues, Inc. and Matthew Bishop of Cayman Distributors Group, representing allied and land-based attractions; and Gary Todd of Budget Rent-a-Car and David Carmichael of Caribbean Marine Services, representing the transportation and airlines sectors. The cruise sector is represented by Raymond Hydes of The Turtle Centre. The appointed representative of the Sister Islands is Mick Maher of the Little Cayman Beach Resort.
The immediate past president is Kenneth Hydes of Dart Enterprises Ltd.