By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
BISHOP Simeon Hall yesterday accused the government of stalling the full implementation of Marco’s Law, including the alert system for missing children.
The outspoken clergyman called on National Security Minister Marvin Dames to fast-track its implementation and underscored the failings of both the former and current administration regarding the matter.
“Indeed,” Bishop Hall said, “to better equip the Bahamian public to assist the police in the protection of children should rank high on our national priorities. Persons convicted of harming children do not belong in civilised society.”
“Bahamians most times are too passive and we sometimes allow the problems of crime to make us indifferent to crime.”
Last week, Mr Dames said the Cabinet paper for a proposed sex offender registry is completed and will be submitted soon. He also said testing for the Mandatory Action Rescuing Children Operation (MARCO) Alert was done but adjustments still had to be made before it could be fully implemented.
At a press conference yesterday, Mr Dames defended the implementation track, telling the media it will take more than the MARCO Alert to address crime and related social issues.
“We all would like to see thing happen immediately but there is a process,” Mr Dames said, “and we have been working to achieve that.”
“It’s going to take more than just the MARCO Alert to address the issues that we are facing. Often times we get caught up in this business that it requires a police response.
“We are taking a multi-faceted approach to these issues and we have been introducing other initiatives to work hand in hand to address the issue of crime, to address the social issues that are impacting this country in a very negative way.”
Renewed calls for the swift implementation of the alert system and sex offender register were brought to the fore after an eight-year-old girl was abducted from her home early Sunday morning and sexually assaulted.
The child was found a short time later by a passerby, who took her to a nearby police station.
Her abduction follows an incident in February when a three-year-old boy was taken from his yard and then left frightened and alone outside a Fox Hill washhouse several hours later. The incident sparked a manhunt for two women believed to be the assailants.
For his part, Bishop Hall said: “Both governments slow with Marco’s Law, the implementation of the proposed Marco’s Law is taking far too long to be enacted.
“I call on the minister of national security to do all in his power to fast forward this promise, and give right thinking members of the Bahamian public the ammunition to aid children who might be traumatized on any level and in any way.”
The Minnis administration’s version of the MARCO Alert was announced last July. This came after the Christie administration launched the alert in 2016, however the system never appeared to have been used in the case of missing or abducted children.
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, officials have said.
Yesterday, Mr Dames added: “I’m certain at the end of the day what you can expect is an initiative that will be very easy to use, easy to apply and easy to execute.”
The plan for a sex offender registry was introduced in 2013 with an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act after the murder of 11-year-old Marco Archer by convicted child killer Kofhe Goodman.
However, it was never created by the previous administration. Marco’s murder also sparked amendments to the Child Protection Act, which established the MARCO Alert system for missing children.