February 16, 2017
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) is being called in to work with police to fight crime in response to a recent round of violence on New Providence that has left many people calling for authorities to take stronger action.
Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage outlined a set of crime-fighting measures in the House of Assembly yesterday, two days after Prime Minister Perry Christie likened the situation in New Providence to "the Wild West".
Between Friday night and Monday morning, seven men were shot dead on the island.
Nottage said that in all cases in which people have been charged with possession of an illegal firearm and/or ammunition, the prosecution will object to bail.
There are also plans for the increase of foot patrols in crime hot spots; the aggressive stop and search of suspicious people and vehicles; and the activation and placement of specially designed mobile police vans to serve as manned police stations in communities where violent crimes take place.
Nottage said the police force has two such specially designed vans.
This was the first time the national security minister has publicly addressed the recent crime spree.
"I want to put it in clear context what is happening so that members of the public can have a better understanding of exactly what is taking place," Nottage said.
"Police officials are fully aware that these incidents mostly involve a small group of prolific, violent offenders, some of whom are on bail for violent crimes.
"Most of these incidents have their nexus in ongoing feuds between persons affiliated with gangs, guns and drugs. In fact, some of these perpetrators may be wanted perpetrators today and become murder victims tomorrow."
Nottage indicated yesterday that the government intends to enforce the anti-gang law that was passed in 2014.
"We had some difficulties with its implementation, but now is the time to ensure that persons who are in breach of the anti-gang laws in The Bahamas, who are convicted of an offense thereunder, will be liable to a fine of $500,000 and/or to imprisonment for 20 years. That is the law, Mr. Speaker," he said.
"Very often we have situations where people receive fines and/or periods of incarceration less than the law permits, but, Mr. Speaker, it is our hope that those who have that responsibility will take into consideration the havoc that gang members, in using guns, in protecting drugs and turf, in malevolently influencing our young men and young women [cause]."
Speaking of the action that will be taken, the minister said, "Purposeful lock-downs of communities and crime hot spots as was done recently in the Kemp Road area, where large teams of law enforcement officers executed search warrants, arrest warrants and searched for illegal drugs and firearms and stolen vehicles will take place," he said.
"Intelligence has shown the type of vehicles that are being used in many of these crimes. Not only the type of vehicles used, but the way they are configured and the number of occupants therein.
"And so, we will have stop and search of such vehicles and of such persons with immediate effect. Periodic road checks at various intersections to ensure that all road users are following the road traffic laws will continue."
Nottage warned members of the public that many of the methods used for the detection and prevention of crime will inconvenience them, but are necessary to curb the recent spate of criminal activity.
He asked the public to exercise patience, cooperation and support as government and law enforcement officials do what is necessary to make the country safer.
On Monday, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade asserted that, though the government continues to spend millions of dollars annually on the electronic monitoring program, it is virtually ineffective in preventing violent crimes.
Nottage told the House yesterday, "We will be petitioning the court to impose restrictions on persons who are being electronically monitored.
"Such restrictions may include geographical restrictions; they may include curfews as to when you can be out in the public, in order to get better control and better surveillance of such persons," he said.
"The CCTV system, which has been a useful crime prevention and detection tool, is to be expanded by increasing the number of cameras throughout New Providence.
"Additionally, with immediate effect, the CCTV system will be manned on a 24-hour basis to enable earlier detection and hopefully prevention of criminal activities."
The minister said the government also intends to establish a violent prolific offenders initiative in which prolific violent offenders will be targeted, swiftly prosecuted and severely punished when they commit violent crimes.
There is also a plan to establish a gun interdiction taskforce mandated to reduce the influx of illegal firearms and ammunition into the country.
"I wish to send a strong message that in all cases in which persons have been charged with the possession of illegal firearm and/or ammunition, we will henceforth be objecting to them receiving bail," he said.
Police revealed earlier this week that as of February 13, a total of 46 illegal firearms and 795 rounds of assorted ammunition was seized throughout The Bahamas.
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News date : 02/16/2017 Category : Nassau Guardian Stories