By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday defended the police crime statistics for Abaco, insisting the crime decline cited by Police Commissioner Paul Rolle “is quite correct”.
His comments come after the police chief told a local daily earlier this month that crime on the island had decreased by 39 percent compared with last year’s statistics.
The statistics were revealed amid heightened calls for more officers to be deployed to Abaco as looting and theft continue to persist on the island, hindering the rebuilding efforts there more than a year after Hurricane Dorian hit.
“Prior to Dorian, there were 48 police officers on the island and some 30 police reservists, many of whom were inactive,” the commissioner told The Nassau Guardian.
“Today we have 67 police officers on the island of Abaco – 45 percent more than prior to the storm. The police force took all of the available rental accommodations that they were willing to rent to us.
“So, while there is this great focus on the dysfunction of the police and the fake rise in crime, I believe that this is a great time for all concerned to ensure that the police have adequate living accommodation.”
Many Abaco residents have since criticised the Commissioner’s remarks, branding the statistics as “false”, “misleading” and not an actual representation of what’s happening on the ground.
Some observers have even noted incidents of theft and housebreaking to be an almost daily occurrence for the island and its surrounding cays.
On Sunday an Abaco resident posted footage on social media of two unknown men entering his property, as he appealed for public assistance to identify the individuals.
“It’s rampant. Theft is rampant here. It’s absolutely an epidemic,” the island’s Chamber of Commerce president, Ken Hutton told Tribune Business last week.
“You have to literally tie everything down in the night and hope it is there in the morning. My businesses are still getting broken into on a regular basis… It’s not that crime is down; it’s that people have lost faith in the system.”
However, yesterday Mr Dames defended the statistics, suggesting the decline does not mean officials believe crime is entirely absent on the island.
“Again, crime could be down and you could still have an issue,” he told reporters ahead of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. “Policing is more than numbers you know. There are quality of life issues.
“Abaco and essentially to the same extent Grand Bahama that were impacted by Dorian, there are a number of other issues too and oftentimes, the police are put at the front and centre of those and so the commissioner is quite correct from a statistical standpoint, crime is down.”
He added: “But again, it’s the quality of life issues and it’s the feeling of being safe and when you are in such an environment where infrastructure would’ve been totally impacted, and the normal cause of life would’ve been disturbed significantly.
“That brings added pressure to this overall situation so as in our discussions, it’s a matter of keeping the communication lines open with law enforcement and whenever someone is experiencing an issue that they know exactly where to challenge that and how to get results.
“And so, it’s more than just focusing on a number and the commissioner understands that fully right as I said before, police is more than numbers.”
On Sunday, Mr Dames, Mr Rolle and Defense Force Commodore Raymond King along with other officials travelled to Abaco to address concerns by islanders in regard to crime and other issues.
Yesterday, the minister told reporters that the trip was “a very productive one.” He added that officials have been revising its strategies to ensure that the public is safe.
“We have a good number of officers on Grand Bahama, police and defence force and the commissioner and the commodore are looking at their strategies and looking on how they can improve on it,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s more than manpower, sometimes it’s more than that. In Abaco, for example, there was a lot of destruction and so it’s managing within a disaster as is often the case. You have to adjust from time to time and that’s what is currently being done.”
Asked if the new strategies will address the theft concerns of Abaco residents, the minister replied: “Listen, this is the normal course of doing business and so I don’t want to continue to beat down on that. The police and the defence force have been revising their strategies and not changing their strategies, making adjustments where necessary.”