PTU denies taxi tensions

| 14/12/2009

Cayman Islands news(CNS): Following recent reports regarding tensions among local taxi and bus drivers and the seizure of several knives by the police, the director of the Public Transport Unit has denied that the unit had reported any particular concerns to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) about drivers carrying weapons in public buses and taxis. Durk Banks told CNS that he believed the police had carried out the stop and search initiative on West Bay Road in November because officers had turned up a weapon on a routine traffic stop.

However, Police had previously said that they had instigated the special operation not only because they had seized a machete from a taxi driver who was pulled over for a traffic violation but because they had heard from the PTU  that the buses and taxis were involved in an unspecified dispute that had escalated, resulting in drivers arming themselves. Superintendent Kurt Walton said that police seized nine weapons from taxi drivers, including a machete and knives, in contravention of the Transport Law during an operation in November.

In the wake of information from the police about the dispute between drivers, CNS contacted the PTU, and the director responded with a brief statement denying knowledge of any specific dispute.

"While the Public Transport Unit works closely with the RCIPS and is in support of measures taken to combat crime, the PTU is not aware of any tensions between the taxi drivers, which caused the police to be concerned and seize knives,” Banks stated. “The stop and search operation, which was conducted by the RCIPS, came about as a result of a routine stop on one taxi, the owner of which was found to be in possession of a weapon."

Responding to the apparent difference of opinion, a police spokesperson told CNS, “There is evident confusion between the parties involved in this matter. Therefore, before we make any further comment we will be seeking a meeting with the PTU to discuss the issue at the earliest opportunity."

After the stop and search operation, a number of drivers had complained that the police conducted the stop and searches when they were carrying tourists, and that officers were rude and aggressive to the passengers as well as to the drivers, giving the wrong impression to visitors to the islands.

Walton insisted that his officers were not heavy handed or aggressive in their approach and were doing their job. "I disagree with that,” he said. “We have taxi drivers who are ambassadors for our country driving around with weapons.”  

He added that the officers involved had used discretion when seizing the weapons and had not taken anyone into custody, though they had a right to do so. Walton said that the RCIPS had not yet made any arrests over the knives, even though several drivers had clearly broken the law by carrying them in their cabs. He did say, however, that one driver was charged for driving without insurance.

He insisted that the operation was about preventing crime not harassing people, and whatever the taxi drivers’ complaints were regarding the tourists’ impressions of the operation, the idea of a full scale all-out fight in the centre of George Town was far more of a concern – something he said his officers had likely averted. The senior officer also said the vast majority of drivers had been very cooperative and the police had succeeded in pushing the message that itis against the law for drivers to carry weapons when driving the taxis.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In reply to Anon at 14:01, actually, I should’ve referred to one inspector in general and if I was allowed to post names here I would be more than happy to do so because this man has humliated me more than once. Sometimes I wonder if he eats bullets for breakfast! It’s sad that the other inspectors, who started out so polite, seems to be adapting his stinking attitude however; it would appear that Mr. Banks must be doing a good job at curtailing the situation and I pray that he is not influenced by the negativity that has been circulating for so long.

  2. what a mess says:

    Maybe it would help if the Police/Govt. allowed taxi’s and any law abiding citizen to at least legally obtain/pocess pepper spray of similar non-life threatening protection gear.

    The real criminals sure have their "life threatening" weapons…and where are the police when one is being attacked? Not anywhere nearby usually.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I do not believe in the old adage that goes that "Tit for Tat".  But remember, Cayman, a few years ago, a taxi driver answered a late night call for a taxi and wound up murdered, so we cannot really blame the taxi drivers for trying o protect themselves.  The offenders seem to have any sort of weapon they desire, while the people serving the public have nothing.  Are the police going to ride in each cab in the island to help protect the cab drivers?  I guess not.WT

  4. Anonymous says:

    they should all be arrested for ripping off the general public every night of the week

  5. Anonymous says:

    No doubt there is a confusion between the parties in this matter and while Mr. Banks has the tremendous task of ensuring that we are finally better served at the PTU, I believe he might be in a position whereby he’s not aware of many more instances. However, my advice to Mr. Banks is to keep a tab on the comments made by his inspector(s) at the wrong place and time in order to avoid further confusion with not only the Government sections but with members of the public.

    • Anon says:

      If you are speaking of inappropriate comments made by inspector(s) I second that.  As a passenger I truly don’t appreciate the bad attitudes the inspector(s) quite often display to the bus drivers in front of us – they treat them like children, very patronising.  They’ve even been noted being rude to some passengers when asking questions or seeking information – do they not realise that they are meant to help and assist passengers not be rude to them? 


  6. Anonymous says:

    With the violence against taxi drivers, I think that they should be able to defend themselves. Remember, Curtis Seymour??? May he rest in peace.