By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE deployment of Defence Force officers to the Royal Bahamas Police Force has not affected patrol operations, RBDF Commodore Roderick Bowe said yesterday.
However, Mr Bowe admitted that recruitment is a major thrust as the organization tackles an increased attrition rate, and an expanded fleet next year.
The number of apprehensions for the year – 1,399 illegal migrants – has surpassed last year’s total of 1,330 migrants, according to operational statistics.
Figures for drug confiscations, search and rescues, and illegal fishing are lower than last year.
Mr Bowe confirmed that nearly 20 per cent of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force are seconded to other agencies, namely the RBPF and various government ministries.
Mr Bowe said: “There are persons with the police, a small number should be 105, there are another 35 waiting to be deployed. We have persons deployed elsewhere in other ministries. We’ve adjusted, we understand the need to ensure the country remains safe and secure.
“As a result of those persons being moved in to assist the police,” he said, “we have not affected patrol operations. If anyone was moved off the ship to assist, they were replaced, ships are not affected by this.”
Mr Bowe said the first of the new fleet of vessels could be acquired by April, with two more to come later on in the year, once a contract is signed.
An estimated 330 officers are needed to operate and support the new fleet, according to Mr Bowe, who confirmed that there were a total of 1,229 officers currently enlisted.
The RBDF plans to boost numbers by 700 officers over the next five years, added press officer Origin Deleveaux last night.
Mr Bowe said: “Each of those vessels requires personnel to man, we suspect about 330 persons are needed altogether for the vessels and to give support to the vessels.
“In addition to that the rate of attrition has grown over the years, and so we also have to replace those persons who have retired. The first entries of marines that came in are no longer with us: Entry 1, Entry 2, and I think Entry 3, the last of that group is about to leave. The first set of mandatory retirements took place in 2010.”
The FNM criticised the current administration’s rationale after it was revealed that the government planned to review the Defence Force’s role in the fight against crime.
Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis claimed that the outsourcing of Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers for street patrols would cripple border protection efforts.
The Defence Force seized 2,200 lbs of marijuana last year, and 1,800 lbs of narcotics in 2011, according to operation statistics, which put this year’s figure at 132 lbs.
For the year, two non-Bahamian and one Bahamian fishermen were caught poaching. In 2012, nine local fisherman were caught, and in 2011, 10 non-Bahamian and 14 Bahamian fishermen were also arrested.
In 2012, there were 52 search and rescue cases, and this year there have been 42.