By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
OVERALL crime is down 14 percent, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said yesterday, adding Bahamians can rest assured criminal activity in the country will continue at reduced levels, lessening fear among citizens.
He said the reduction accounts for crimes against the person and property.
The minister said this was achieved despite an audit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s fleet of vehicles finding only 126 cars of 538 operable. Of the remaining 412, he said 273 vehicles were inoperable and 139 experienced chronic repairs. The majority of the fleet, he said, was used in New Providence, thereby exposing the Family Islands to vulnerable and substandard police performance.
The electronic ankle monitoring system also offered very little help in the fight against crime, Mr Dames revealed, telling parliamentarians in some instances criminals who were being monitored removed the device and placed it on their pets to evade police and commit crimes. In other situations, he said, offenders disabled the monitoring bracelet.
And while most of the challenges with the RBPF’s Closed Circuit Television have now been resolved, Mr Dames said the former Christie administration spent $659,981 to purchase and install the analytics system, but no one sought to follow-up as to why it was never installed.
The video analytics software was to perform real-time analysis of video stream, identify and generate alerts for a variety of user defined events relating to people, and monitor vehicles and static objects. However, the Bahamian vendor stated the US vendor has closed its operations and was unable to provide the necessary support for the software.
In addition, a manpower audit of the RBPF, now complete, identified an oversaturation within the senior ranks, a lack of transparent and suitable protocols during the last two promotional exercises, the lack of a strategic recruitment and professional development plan to increase productivity.
The force also lacked proper collection and use of statistical data to better inform crime fighting initiatives, the audit found.
Faced with these challenges, Mr Dames said the government is prepared to rebrand the police force and infuse the organisation with civilians into specialised areas of law enforcement.
It is also the RBPF’s intention to recruit 100 additional officers. This process, the minister said, will not be driven by politics, sexism or nepotism.
He said: “Unlike our predecessors, who interfered incessantly in the recruitment process of the RBPF, our government has committed itself to be different. The recruitment process will not be driven by politics, sexism or nepotism. Unlike years past, 21st century candidates will have to meet a higher standard for eligibility and will have to successfully complete a battery of tests to be considered.
“These tests will include physical fitness assessment, medical examination, mental health screening, drug testing, written assessment and other vetting criterion.
“To build a RBPF that is capable of dealing with the complexities of the 21st century, it is imperative that the agency place value on the educational achievements, physical fitness and socialisation skills when making hiring decisions.”
He also tabled the commissioner’s policing plan for 2018, which comes three months into the New Year.
The plan was not saturated with details, but listed six priorities of the RBPF.
These included crime prevention and reduction, public and road safety, interaction with youth and young adults, optimisation of technology, professionalisation of services and effective management.
The commissioner plans to focus on crime hotspots and repeat offenders, disrupt organised crime groups involved in drugs, firearms fraud and other relation criminal activity, increased police patrols and pay special attention to at risk youth.
Using technology, the RBPF is expected to expand the CCTV programme in other high crime areas, expand the DNA laboratory and continue testing body cameras among other things.