Dozens of people will be prosecuted for breaching curfew following police action over the past 10 days.
Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne said he was working with Chief Justice Anthony Smellie to ensure that a court could be made available to deal with a mounting number of cases – mostly from Grand Cayman.
“I have directed that everyone found in breach of curfew is going to be prosecuted,” he told the Cayman Compass in an interview.
Though he said the vast majority of the country had cooperated with police and complied with the restrictions on movement, he said there were at least “a couple of dozen” people who had broken curfew.
“We will be sending each and every one of these files to the Director of Public Prosecutions and, in turn, people will be appearing in court,” he added.
The commissioner has been announcing the numbers of people found in breach of the curfew conditions at daily press briefings. He has used the term ‘warned for prosecution’ to describe the action police have taken in most of those cases. That means they will be prosecuted, but an arrest was not considered necessary at the scene.
He said he was hopeful that a court date could be found in short order to begin dealing with the backlog. Most of the cases involve breaches of the ‘hard curfew’ – a total lockdown between 7pm and 5am when only essential workers are allowed on the road.
But, he said, police were also seeing individuals breaching the conditions of the ‘soft curfew’, which allows people some flexibility to exercise or go to the store or the pharmacy.
“People should have the message by now,” he said. “You are to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary.”
He said the majority of the population recognised the reasons for the curfew and were compliant.
But he pointed out that his officers had encountered issues with people using back roads to sneak round to friends’ houses.
There have also been reports of rogue bikers using the empty streets as a racetrack and of truck drivers speeding and driving dangerously.
Byrne said some were taking “terrible liberties” and traffic police would be out in force to put a stop to it.
The 90-minute exercise allocation has also caused some issues, with some interpreting the regulations liberally. He said two people were stopped for playing golf, while others were told to stop paddle boarding.
All marine activity is banned right now and Byrne urged people to use common sense and stick to the guidelines, exercising only for a maximum of up to 90 minutes a day and maintaining social distancing.
He warned that the normal Easter festivities were effectively cancelled and police were ramping up to ensure there were no breaches over the holiday.
Every officer has been put on uniform duty and staff from Customs and Border Control and Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman have been seconded to join the effort. An additional 20 cars have been rented to help police get around the island and enforce the curfew.
Byrne has also split his leadership teams, moving superintendents and sergeants to West Bay and Bodden Town. Meanwhile, a COVID command centre has been set up in George Town.
He said separating senior officers would “build resilience” if anyone got sick, and also put greater command structures in place to lock down the districts.
Roadblocks are in place throughout the day and mobile units are monitoring the streets at night. Officers on ATVs are patrolling the beaches and the helicopter is providing support and surveillance from the sky.
Byrne, who drives the island himself each night to keep an eye on things, said he was grateful for the compliance of the majority of the population.
“A lot of people are acting quite responsibly. They understand – and government has been robust in their message – that they need to stay home.”