EDITOR, The Tribune.
Issue: The Smuggling of Guns of various types into our country. Gun violence exposing the public to grave danger. Government, Public and Law-enforce response.
The Jerome Avenue Massacre has prompted me to discuss the issue of illegal guns and the presence of vicious, savage and devilish criminals in our country. These are the terrorists that our law-enforcement officers are likely to encounter daily. At least 90% of the murders, the victims are unarmed. Innocent persons become targets. Children are shot and killed. It is a scary situation, that must be frightening to our police officers, who must take precautions when making a simple traffic violation stop. Our law enforcement must be very alert and ready to “Shoot to Live” is my suggestion, that the Ministry of National Security approach Corporate Bahamas and provide a substantial Reward Fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the tyrants responsible for these killings.
The nation must provide the support needed to solve these murders, etc. The rewards must be published and the persons providing information must be assured of secrecy. Police performance relative to arrests and recovery of illegal guns and ammunition is commendable. Each day mobile patrols using their authority to arrest, question and search persons reasonably suspected of committing crime or about to commit crime. The results have been encouraging. Police patrol visiting Arawak Cay at night have observed packages being loaded on to a pickup truck from a mail-boat from Cat Cay. The officers stopped the vehicle and a search disclosed several guns and ammunition. Investigation exposed a gun smuggling operation in which guns were shipped to Cat Cay, where, as I understand, the security chief was a former police officer. Two guns, I am told, were then sent to New Providence on the mail boat.
A police patrol stopped a trailer truck with cars that arrived from the U.S.A. A search disclosed packages of assorted ammunition totaling 2,000 rounds. The owner of the imported vehicles, a prominent resident and political crony was arrested. He was acquitted in the Court. The Attorney General’s office has appealed the result. The appeal has been pending for years. Bahamas Customs officers have also been active with discoveries of guns and ammunition hidden in tyres, vehicle engines and in cakes. A Gun Court established by a government on recommendation of the Police was discontinued by another government. The Court heard gun/ammunition cases promptly, The cases took an average of 30 minutes. The public is sometimes critical of the Police and Customs in their ability to eradicate the gun trafficking. Our borders are wide open to smuggling. Boats from Florida, Jamaica and Haiti, the cargo ships and the cruise ships. We know from experience and intelligence, that some unscrupulous crew members are involved in the gun trafficking.
There is information, that many of the high-powered rifles are intransit here through Haiti. There are also American boat owners involved in the traffick. A few years ago a boat left Miami for Marsh Harbour, Abaco. The boat was stopped and searched by Federal ATF of the USA. Several automatic rifles and revolvers were found. I received the information on Miami News early that morning. I called the Assistant Commissioner for Crime Management early and provided him with information. I suggested, that he consider sending staff to Miami to interrogate the crew on the boat. I suggested having the records of Bahamas Customs checked to determine dates of previous visits. I suggested, that discreet inquiries be conducted to identify associates of the captain and crew and that search warrants be executed for guns and ammunition. I am unaware if my suggestions were carried out.
There was an arrest in Abaco of an American boat owner, who shot at Police. He had several guns on board. His associates should have been subjected to the execution of search warrants for guns and ammunition. Any person arrested with guns and ammunition consigned for delivery in our country must be interrogated and an aggressive investigation of his associates here must be undertaken. Reasonable grounds of suspicion to have committed crime or about to commit crime. It is the law. It is very important, that persons arrested for possession of guns and ammunition be extensively interrogated in an an effort to ascertain the source, that supplied the guns and ammunition.
It may assist in getting cooperation if the Police would make recommendation to the Court for lighter sentence as a result of cooperation. The need for an Indoor Shooting Range for our law enforcement officers has been recommended since the Pindling administration. With the huge increase in the number of law enforcement personnel armed there must be a place for practice. The initial training is not enough.
I have written several letters to the Ministry of National Security on the subject and had even found donors. Police Officers have to deal with many violent criminals. It is time for Tasers to be considered. I have faith, that our Police Force will arrest the persons involved in the Jerome Avenue Massacre.
PAUL THOMPSON Sr
April 29, 2021.