By PAUL THOMPSON
Fmr Asst Commissioner of Police
IT is my love for this country, which has been home to me for the past 62 years, that encourages me to continue to write about some of the issues and offer ideas and some simple solutions.
The Bahamian people gave me the opportunity to be educated in many police schools overseas, and it was discussion with my colleagues from other countries that made me able to provide ideas to be considered for solving some of our country’s problems.
There are persons who think of my writings as politically motivated, which is not true. Both governments of the Bahamas have been recipients of unsolicited advice and ideas. Response was rarely received.
It is my opinion that the Bahamian people must prevail upon their elected representatives to deal with all of the issues affecting the country and to heed the advice being given by many of us who reside here.
The shanty towns are a major part of the illegal immigration problem, in particular as it relates to Haitian nationals. Any person listening to the media discussion of the government appointed committee’s report on shanty towns must register their concerns with their parliamentary representative and implore that immediate action be taken to rid our country of this destructive menace.
It is evident that the law is being flagrantly contravened – the liquor shops and food stores within the shanty towns; the availability of clothing, dry goods, and medicines for sale; and most frightening, the health hazards to which we are exposed.
The medical report on the shanty towns is scary. The immediate solution is to instruct the law enforcement agencies to give notice to the residents to move by a specified date, after which officers will move in with bulldozers. It would be ideal for immigration officers to check the permits of the residents.
Prosecution of owners or landlords could come later.
We should not wait until there is an epidemic or an incident on the scale of the disaster at Mayaguana Airport to move to correct this dangerous situation.
Over the years there have been many other suggestions made to governments which appear to have been ignored.
Following is a list of some of those suggestions, which the public may wish to discuss with their representatives.
• Prohibit smoking
in public places
Doctors in the Bahamas are aware of the dangers of smoking. Some of them wrote to successive governments, but their suggestions appear to have been ignored. I presented a copy of the Act from Trinidad and Tobago to a Minister of Health with my suggestions. No response. Smoking in public places continues.
• Mandatory Breathalyser testing
Again, a copy of the relevant Act from Trinidad and Tobacco was sent to two ministers of government with my suggestions. The Act, which became law in T&T two years ago, has been effective in reducing the incidence of accidents caused by drunk driving.
The police’s ability to detect drunk drivers has been improved. In the event of accidents, drivers have to take the test at the scene. Just recently a junior minister in the Ministry of National Security in T&T was arrested for his refusal to take the test and was later removed from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister.
• Public transportation system
It is long overdue. I have written to governments about the need to have public transportation administered by a Public Transport Corporation organised and controlled by the government, with bus owners as shareholders and members of a government board.
I suggested that government officials visit Barbados and Bermuda and examine their systems. Both governments have been advised of this need.
Such a corporation would provide for timely schedules covering all parts of the island, uniformed drivers, monthly and weekly ticketing, with transfer tickets and everything else that goes with an efficient and effective system. It could only be done under the administration and scrutiny of a government corporation.
• The environment
After decades of majority rule and 40 years of independence, outdoor toilets should be non-existent. The landlords, not the government, should be responsible for installing the required sewerage systems as a criteria for the rental of the premises.
New Providence is presently a dump or junkyard for abandoned or derelict vehicles. Just take a drive through Bain and Grants Town and see the rodents that live and breed in those abandoned vehicles. It is unhealthy and nasty.
In the old days the police submitted monthly reports on derelict vehicles to the Public Works Department. The latter wrote to the owners demanding removal, or the department removed the vehicles and submitted the bill to the owners. Failure to pay resulted in civil action in the courts.
One of the causes of the new situation in the prevalence of roadside and front yard garages.
I was an ex-officio member of a committee representing the Police Department, which presented a report providing information on the location of every such garage on the island, the name and address of each operator; and the condition of each location as it related to derelict, abandoned and other vehicles parked on the streets that were an obstruction to the free movement of traffic or otherwise affected the area.
We recommended that the laws relating to town planning be enforced to have all garages removed; we said Town Planning should issue letters – which the police volunteered to deliver by hand – demanding that these garages cease operations immediately.
The committee recommended that the government provide land in the Industrial Park and build a large open warehouse type building with adequate parking and lighting to accommodate the garages. This was to be done before the service of the Town Planning letters.
Minister Loftus Roker was quite happy with the report and the recommendations. But he was removed to another ministry before implementation and the matter was not heard of anymore. It was just prior to a general election.
• Illegal immigration
Many recommendations have been made to governments on this subject. A paper was done by me and hand delivered to all members of parliament in 2008, with recommendations for consideration – including lookout points around New Providence to be manned by Defence Force personnel equipped with effective night vision; the presence of Defence Force and police patrol craft in the harbour when cruise ships are here; a detention centre in Inagua to reduce the cost of returning illegal immigrants to Haiti by plane instead of by boat; intensive investigations to identify the captain and crews on the boats carrying illegal immigrants for prosecution and imprisonment at Fox Hill Prison; the fingerprinting and photographing of all illegal immigrants and the keeping of records on them. Should they try to return, there must be court action and punishment and imprisonment, not detention and repatriation.
I often remind the public that after the earthquake in Haiti it was reported that at least 350 dangerous criminals escaped.
I was reliably informed that the circulation of fingerprints and photographs was non-existent, even through Interpol.
We do not know how many of them came here. They were described as being political prisoners, gunmen and rapists.
I do not know what efforts have been made to get the required information, if it is available. I usually describe the young thugs involved in the current wave of criminality as terrorists.
Terrorists’ goals, at least two of them, are: (a) to create fear, (b) to destroy the economy.
The police need our help, but more than that they need the help of the government to deal NOW with the invasion of illegal immigrants, many of whom are involved in crimes such as drug trafficking, gun running and car stealing.
• Tracing and Forfeiture Act, 1987
As far as I am aware activity in this area of the law is dormant. This law was designed to give law enforcement agencies, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Attorney General’s Office the authority to target the assets of drug barons, drug dealers and drug traffickers. The assets of all such persons convicted of major drug offences here or abroad are subject to investigation and seizure by the courts.
Investigators are provided with a lot of authority by the Act. We have scores of drug barons, drug dealers and drug traffickers convicted in the Bahamas or overseas. Many of them are non-Bahamians.
I have not seen any action being taken to confiscate their assets. There are millions of dollars that could be targeted.
There appears to be no effort being made in this area of law.
• Technology for police control centres and mobile patrols
This is technology that I have been recommending for decades. A contract was signed between the former government and Motorola to provide the technology here.
All police forces are working towards what is called “Quick response.” Commissioners Bonaby, Farquharson and Greenslade were all aware of what could be accomplished when the police can respond to the scene of a crime and call for help or information about suspected criminal activity.
It is common knowledge that when police respond promptly, it is more likely that criminals will be found at or near the scene, which results in immediate arrests, or arrests shortly thereafter.
It is also good for public relations as it reduces fear.
I have been monitoring and getting information with regards to arrests made on the scene of a crime. Very often it depends on the arrival of the police within three to five minutes of receiving the call.
The Motorola system for which the contract was signed by the last government would provide the following to the police:
• The controller in the police control centre – through the implementation of GPS in all police vehicles and an electronic map of New Providence in the control centre – would be aware at all times of the exact location of police vehicles on the streets of New Providence. Upon receipt of a call for help, he will know which police vehicle is nearest to the scene of the incidents and deploy that car to proceed there immediately.
He would also know which other cars are in the area in the event that there is the need for back-up or a road block.
• The controller would be able to allow the crew of the patrol car to listen to the conversation he is having with the caller. The crew would get valuable information including descriptions of suspects, vehicles, et cetera. They will be aware of the details of the incident on the way to the scene.
• The misuse of police vehicles would be eradicated. The controller will be aware of any vehicle leaving the patrol area.
• There could be a reduction in fuel consumption as patrol cars could park in different locations during the patrol instead of moving constantly.
The chiefs of police in Detroit and Chicago invited police officers on our cricket team, who were visiting those cities, to see the system at work.
I implore the public to ask their members of parliament about the implementation of this system.
• Indoor range
Providing an indoor range for use by all law enforcement agencies to be trained and for practice in the use of revolvers and shotguns would be an asset. I sent information with all the specifics that I obtained from the FBI and a Dade County law enforcement agency to the Ministry of National Security some years ago. I even described locations close to Police Headquarters that could be used.
I suggested that help be sought from the private sector for the financing. In addition to law enforcement using the facility, persons applying for shotgun and rifle licences could be made to qualify at a price.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the indoor ranges are owned by former law enforcement officers who invested in them and got long term government contracts for the training and use by law enforcement agencies.
Most of the officers attending the ranges do so on their own time. Police officers who use them have shot in the Olympic Games.