By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Free National Movement has outlined its goals to fight crime should the party win the next general election, noting in its recently released Manifesto plans to establish a national neighbourhood watch programme in every community, re-institute term limits for the commissioner of police, establish a sexual offenders register and enforce Marco’s Law.
The FNM also plans to create a Guns and Gangs Unit in Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) and undertake a “comprehensive audit” of the RBPF to review the pay of police officers and determine whether the crime fighting agency has the “requisite manpower to effectively execute its mandate”.
The party’s Manifesto was recently posted on the FNM’s website, ourfnm.org.
In the two pages dedicated to crime, the FNM said it believes that it is the right of every citizen to live and work in a safe and prosperous community.
“We believe that crime is a societal and not a political problem and hence we are committed to collaborating and working with all community partners, parents, church leaders, youth leaders, social workers and all relevant agencies of the government to arrest the crime epidemic that out country faces,” the document noted.
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has heavily criticised Prime Minister Perry Christie and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for “failing to adequately address the crime epidemic” in the country. Dr Minnis had previously pledged that the Bahamas would be “safer” under his administration.
According to The Tribune’s records, there have been more than 580 homicides in the Bahamas since May 2012, when the PLP assumed office. While the PLP was in opposition, the party posted billboards around New Providence, which read that there had been more than 490 murders under the last Ingraham administration.
The murder total last year was the lowest since 2012 however 2015 was a record-breaking year for homicides.
In the FNM’s Manifesto, the party lays out 20 ways it plans to decrease crime and improve the effectiveness of the police force.
The party said during its next term in office it will enforce a zero tolerance for crime; develop a modern, efficient crime fighting machine; establish, build and equip an independent forensic lab; work with community based partners; eliminate habitats where criminality flourishes; enact legislation to establish the National Intelligence Agency; enforce Marco’s Law and establish the sexual offences register; use state of the art technology; establish a national neighbourhood watch consultative council; establish a public sector anti-corruption agency; conduct a comprehensive review of police officers compensation and re-institute term limits for the commissioner of police, commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the commissioner of corrections.
As it relates the to the police force and the other armed forces the FNM pledges to: reorganise the police reserves; strengthen the RBDF satellite bases; implement aggressive measures to arrest the trafficking of narcotics and firearms; arrest gang violence through educational programmes; establish a Guns and Gangs Unit; undertake a comprehensive manpower audit of the police force and identify an external inspector for our law enforcement agencies whose responsibility will be to review the efficiency and effectiveness of our enforcement agencies.
On Friday, while speaking at the final night of the FNM’s Torchbearers youth convention, Dr Minnis tied the recent arson attack at the Magistrate’s Court Complex on Nassau Street to the government’s terrible performance on crime.
“(Last) week’s firebomb at the Magistrate’s Court Complex on South Street off Nassau Street is a sign of the troubling times under the PLP,” Dr Minnis said.
“If that court complex had burned down, our criminal justice system would have been crippled. There would be an even greater crisis of law and order. That firebomb was an attack on the Bahamian state. It is another example of the spread of criminality on the PLP’s watch...The level of gang violence and membership in the country is frightening.
“There is too much school violence. Quite a number of high school and junior high students regularly bring weapons to school. Just (last) week we heard of a seventh-grade student who reportedly brought a gun to school. Gangs are growing up our children, where they learn skills no young people should have, such as how to use a gun or how to steal.”
Dr Minnis said the FNM will “not make wild and outrageous promises which cannot be kept, like the PLP did last time, and will do again during this election” but he said the FNM “will put our shoulders to the wheel and we will turn our Bahamian ship of state in a different direction, the right direction.”
Some of the FNM’s crime plans were outlined by former Deputy Commissioner of Police Marvin Dames on Friday at the final night of the FNM’s Torchbearers youth convention.
In response, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts criticised Mr Dames and the FNM.
“When the PLP entered government in 2012, we were faced with an underfunded police force, an underfunded education system, coupled with a court system burdened with a huge backlog of cases,” Mr Roberts said.
“This was what Dames and his FNM party left us to clean up. The PLP government worked hard to make our communities safe and beat back the scourge of crime. We took an aggressive approach with massive investments in technology and a new fleet for RBDF, more boots on the ground, establishing an anti-gang unit, more courts in operation, the disposal of more cases, the doubling of the conviction rate and a massive reduction in the time to trial.
“We need our young people to join us in changing the course of our beloved country for the better. That’s why we empowered young people to serve their communities through visionary programs such as Urban Renewal 2.0, the Citizens Security, and Justice Programmes. Education is the most powerful tool we can give our youth and that’s why the Christie administration doubled the investment in scholarships and established the University of the Bahamas.
“But big changes like these take time. The government remains painfully aware that more must be done to touch the lives of more of our people in socially challenged communities; one life lost is one life too many. In our fight against crime, we have always been on the side of the people.
“We wish Mr Dames, Dr Minnis, and the rest of the FNM would start rooting for The Bahamas and not against it. We are not done and have much more to do to fight crime. But with the foundation we’ve built, we will continue to empower our youth and make the Bahamas safer,” Mr Roberts said.
Yesterday, Mr Dames responded to the PLP chairman, saying Mr Roberts should be the last person to give advice on crime.
“He is delusional and lacks credibility,” Mr Dames said in a statement. “While our schools and communities are under siege by gang violence and armed criminals, Bradley Roberts and the PLP continue to cast blame in a desperate attempt to remove the focus from their own failures as the government. Who if I may recall before coming to office convinced Bahamians that they had the answer for crime.”