By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE a recent spate of murders and violent crime throughout the country, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage said yesterday that crime is “trending downward” specifically in New Providence and within areas that have challenged authorities.
Dr Nottage said saturation patrols, which are a cornerstone of the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s (RBPF) crime fighting strategy, continue to have a substantial impact on the frequency of illegal activities.
“Crime is trending downwards as we have continued to say even though people have challenged that because they are concerned about the number of murders but overall crime is trending downwards and in New Providence,” he told The Tribune. “That is in most categories.
“Saturation is a cornerstone of our programme. We find that as the number of vehicles have increased the people in various communities have acknowledged that they feel safer. Because of it I think the presence is having a very positive impact.”
On Sunday, June 1, the murder count was pushed to 60, according to The Tribune’s records, with the death of 17-year-old Enrico Major. The teen was stabbed to death by a group of men as he walked on Baillou Hill Road south with a friend. Major was the second murder victim that weekend and the eighth over an 11-day period.
Police have also reported a spate of armed robberies and shootings over the past few weeks. Most recently on Wednesday, an off-duty police officer was shot in the chest during an attempted armed robbery.
The officer, who is attached to the Mobile Division, was the second police officer shot this week.
However, Dr Nottage, who is also the Member of Parliament for Bain and Grants Town, said there has been a decrease in criminal activity in his constituency. He attributed that to community outreach which has focused on positive police and resident relationships.
“I have been running a basketball programme for the young people in my constituency using the four or five basketball courts that are present,” he said. “There have been hundreds of young people out on Friday and Saturday evenings, but what’s good about it is that the police are there in relatively large numbers because they are establishing a friendlier relationship with the young people in the area. I think their presence in such a friendly atmosphere and the attitude they have toward the young people is also having a very positive impact.
“What we are finding is that the residents themselves have said crime is down, the violence is down, the arguments are down, but there will be incidents from time to time. What we are hoping is that eventually the atmosphere and environment created by this police presence and by the programmes that we are running will cause this to be a lasting effect.”
His statements on crime came about two weeks after the release of the US Department of State’s annual Crime and Safety Report which again warned Americans of the level of criminal activity against locals and tourists in this country.
The 2014 report warns that despite “formidable anti-crime initiatives” enacted by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) last year there was a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by American tourists in 2013.
“While there has been a slight reduction in 2013 in some crime categories as reported by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), violent crime remains above the 2012 level,” the report said.
The report added: “Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatching and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.
“Many criminals carry firearms, machetes or knives. Unless provoked, criminals engaged in property crimes do not generally engage in gratuitous violence. There have been several reported armed robberies using a knife where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim fought back and resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewellery and gold necklaces.”
Dr Nottage could not provide recent crime statistics yesterday but assured The Tribune that the information had been requested from the relevant authorities and would be presented during his contribution to the 2014/2015 budget debate.
Dr Nottage is expected to speak next week in the House of Assembly. The latest crime statistics were revealed by Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade in January.
Attempts to reach Mr Greenslade about the recent crime figures were not successful.