Crunch time for abandoned cars in West Bay

Normally, it goes much more smoothly.

On Monday morning, as Vincent Morris attempted to lift a derelict Dodge Ram van into the back of a Department of Environmental Health container truck, the twisted metal being held by the claw at the end of the truck’s crane arm groaned and the already half-crushed vehicle crashed to the ground.

Unperturbed, Morris smashed down the sides of the van a little more, made a solid grab for the frame and raised the now scrap metal hulk high enough to set it into the bed of the truck.

It was number 126 since the West Bay police station began its part of a campaign to rid Cayman neighbourhoods of junked cars. The Swamp area of George Town has been another focus of the effort.

Campbell said when the police service relaunched its community department about a year ago, “It gave a more focused platform for some of these community issues.”

One of the primary things officials heard was concerns about derelict cars.

Constable Eugene Myles said residents in West Bay were tired of seeing the streets cluttered with abandoned vehicles. Getting rid of them, he said, improves the neighbourhood.

“It’s like a beautification purpose,” Myles said. “I took it on with the help of the community. They seem to be very appreciative and receptive.”

The cars on the street, he said, are “like a sore eye. We have tourists come to the island and they see all these derelict scrap cars and it doesn’t look good”.

Myles said he spends a few hours each week on average, checking on abandoned cars and clearing them for removal.

Most, he said, have broken down and the owners cannot afford to repair them.

“Some of them are in accidents,” he said, “or they’re taking parts off of them and at some point, they’re not repairable.”

Some people, he said, are unwilling or unable to pay the $75 fee to have the DEH come and remove them, so they dump them on the roadside.

In certain cases, such as the van being removed from the backyard of a house on Billy Manderson Drive Monday morning, the car may have become a dwelling.

“If we get information there are people sleeping in the car, I make sure no one’s inside before we remove it,” Myles said.

In the case of the vehicle in Billy Manderson Drive, he said, “We found a drug addict was squatting in the van.”

He walked along the side of the house, approaching the vehicle from behind and peering in the back window. He knocked on the door.

“No one there,” he says.

Sgt. Leslie Laing-Hall is overseeing the operation. He said the removal of the van is a follow-up to a drug bust conducted on the house.

“This is the clean-up,” he said.

Dragging the van into the front yard where the crane arm can manoeuvre adequately to pick it up, created a show for two children in the house next door, who watched from their porch. At one point, an older man opened the screen door and looked on for a minute or two.

Neil Lumley, who has lived in the neighbourhood since 2006, watched from across the street.

“It’s awesome,” Lumley said, appreciating the removal. He said he was hoping the house might get scrapped as well. “It’s horrible, man, that drug house,” he said.

Later, the truck picked up another car sitting on the side of Elizabeth Road.

“Someone was staying in this vehicle as well,” Laing-Hall said before the claw smashed in the roof of the car and latched on below its doors. Lifting it into the truck was quick work. Compared to the half-hour operation on the van, this car was gone in less than 10 minutes.

“People call us all the time about cars,” Laing-Hall said. The police also get emails on abandoned vehicles through the department’s website.

Typically, he said, “We give them direct advice on how to get rid of them,” through contacting the DEH.

Sooner or later, it is likely that Myles will get hold of it. And then it’s crunch time.

To contact the DEH, call 949‑6696 or email [email protected]

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