Bahamas PM pledges to escalate war on criminals
Prime Minister Perry Christie has revealed more than 20 initiatives the Cabinet has agreed to as part of the government’s effort to “escalate” the war on crime in The Bahamas.
However, many of the ideas are already in place or are plans the government previously promised to implement.
At a press conference at the Cabinet Office on Monday afternoon, the prime minister read a statement but did not take questions to explain the crime plan.
Chief among the initiatives are plans to increase police saturation patrols in crime hot spots and possibly reinstating the 12-hour shift for police officers, Christie said on Monday.
The government announced the 12-hour shift in September but it was soon met with resistance from the Police Staff Association.
“Reinstatement of the 12-hour policing shift, possibly on new terms, is now the subject of intense study and discussion,” said Christie, who was flanked by members of his Cabinet.
“A further announcement on this subject can be expected once the necessary consultations within law enforcement have been completed.”
Christie spoke to reporters not long after concluding a special Cabinet meeting on crime.
The meeting came in response to a “heinous” drive-by shooting at a park in Fox Hill on Friday that killed four people and injured seven others.
Christie said the government is satisfied that those responsible will soon be brought to justice.
As part of the government’s plan, Christie said police will also target prolific offenders, especially those on bail, and establish a gang unit.
He said his administration is concerned about the number of people who are charged with serious crimes and granted bail.
“This is a major problem in the war against crime,” he said.
To counteract this, Christie said the government is prepared to introduce legislation that will restrict judges’ ability to grant bail for those charged with violent crimes or gun charges.
Christie said the Ministry of Works has been given instructions to “work around the clock” to complete the refurbishment of additional criminal courts so that 10 facilities will be able to operate simultaneously.
He said this should expedite criminal cases and reduce the number of people granted bail for serious offenses.
“The courts will be properly resourced in additional ways so as to eliminate delays and postponements,” said Christie. However, he did not elaborate on this pledge.
Christie said Operation Ceasefire will mount “aggressive” initiatives which include the expansion of the capabilities of the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Situation Room to collect and analyze data; outsourcing the repair and maintenance of police cars so the entire RBPF fleet is operational; improving the EMT program; appointing new judges and public defenders and improving intelligence gathering capabilities.
The government will also expand New Providence’s CCTV coverage; expand the use of reserve officers; accelerate the training of police recruits; expand the use of plainclothes officers and adopt a “strike force” strategy.
Other plans include the introduction of legislation aimed at career criminals with stiffer penalties for gun crimes and trafficking, witness intimidation and other serious crimes.
The government is also considering a gun amnesty; buy back, exchange or bounty and a special court for firearm cases, Christie said.
The Ingraham administration set up a dedicated gun court in January 2011.
Christie said the Ministry of Works, through Urban Renewal, will clean vacant lots to remove the spaces where criminals hide weapons.
The country has recorded 118 murders for the year and there are widespread worries about other serious crimes as well.
Christie said the government will be relentless in its crime fight.
“The government of The Bahamas will not compromise itself in its efforts to relentlessly fight this scourge of crime,” he said.
“…So we expect therefore on a continued basis to enlarge our reach, both from the point of view of policing and from the point of view of addressing the environmental challenges that possibly act as an incubator for crimes of anger.”