By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames confirmed yesterday the Mandatory Action Rescuing Children Operation (MARCO) Alert system re-launched seven months ago is still in the testing phase.
According the minister, the regulations to accompany this system have also not been presented to Cabinet.
Notwithstanding this, Mr Dames insisted officials were “right on track” concerning its roll out.
As officials are still working out logistics, the system had virtually no bearing on alerting the country about the disappearance of three-year-old Shavar Bain Jr over the weekend.
Shavar was abducted as he rode his bicycle outside his home in South Beach Estates shortly before 6pm on Saturday.
The public became aware of the incident thanks to social media site Facebook as posts from relatives went viral.
While the toddler was left at a washhouse on Joe Farrington and Fox Hill Roads early Sunday morning, questions remained over the status of the Marco Alert system.
“So we have just completed our testing phase and so now the company that has been working that, which is a local company are in the process of submitting a proposal with the view of us moving it forward,” Mr Dames said yesterday in an interview with The Tribune.
“We are right on track and hopefully we go to the next phase now with the view of implementation. We’re hoping that certainly (and) I would suspect that we will have it taken care of shortly because we await the proposal and then we’ll have to take that Cabinet and then we’ll move to the next phase.
“We’re also working on the regulations. I should be taking that to cabinet within the next few weeks and so we’re right on schedule.”
Asked pointedly if this meant the system was not functioning, Mr Dames said: “Remember before you acquire a system you have to run through test and so we had to conduct a series of testing and put it out there to make certain that what was being proposed will actually work.
“Then as a result of this testing phase the police were able to put together a number of…after running it through the testing… going out there live they were able to make some additional recommendations to tweak it. Now that all of that has been completed we’re now in the proposal phase where a proposal is being finalised/submitted for consideration.”
Last July, Minister Dames announced the launch of the Minnis administration’s version of the MARCO Alert.
He made this announcement during a press conference at the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s headquarters, telling those gathered it was at that point in the pilot phase. It was intended to act as the first step in a series of moves intended to stifle sex crimes across the country.
At the time Mr Dames said the revamped version of the alert flowed directly from the original 2013 initiative, adding features which allowed the alert to stand “in line” with the Minnis administration’s effort to fully enact Marco’s Law and establish a sex offender registry.
“As a government, we are committed to that cause,” he said during that press conference back in July.
Unlike the original alert which was almost exclusively tied to traditional forms of media, the new alert system will operate via a web-based platform which allows for broad dissemination across any phone, pagers, emails, internet pop ups, fax, loud speakers, RSS feeds and secure encrypted messages through mobile applications and radio.
The alert will feature crime, weather and traffic updates and various community notifications.
The new alert also features two unique protocols.
The first operates along the lines of closed-circuit communication. Via this version, specific units - police teams, neighbourhood watch groups or select communities - will receive all notices being disseminated related to any ongoing matter.
As a part of protocol two, notices will be disseminated across all platforms to everyone signed up for the alert.
Additionally, its platform designers Multimedia Technology noted at the time that the system is equipped with a feature that will allow for any alert to be sent to all electronic devices nationwide, regardless of whether or not that device applied for the service.
According to the design team, the feature can only be used if authorised by the national security minister or commissioner of police.