By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
NEWLY appointed Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander has announced several anti-crime strategies to tackle gun violence in the country, including the establishment of a special anti-gang and firearms unit.
During the official handover ceremony at police headquarters yesterday, Commissioner Fernander also promised to review gun-related legislation to levy tougher penalties for people found with illegal weapons.
His comments come as the country faces a rash of homicides in recent days, with 75 murders recorded so far for the year. Just last week, some eight people were killed.
About 41 of the victims were suspects out on bail for pending murder cases, according to police officials.
Noting the loss of one life as one too many, Mr Fernander vowed to take bold actions in the fight against crime, adding that officials are now reviewing its intelligence unit to restructure their approach to the issue.
For his part, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis acknowledged the crime problem, telling those gathered that tougher police measures could not alone bring resolution. He said a propoer response is also conflict resolution, prevention, intervention, punishment, and rehabilitation.
“In recent times, the Bahamian public has become incensed by the loss of so many of our young men with the resurgence and proliferation of illegal firearms and gang related violence in our communities,” the new police chief said yesterday.
“To stem these criminal activities, we moved swiftly to establish Operation Ceasefire for immediate impact for immediate impact under the mantle of flooding our streets with strategic saturated patrols, particularly in hotspot areas, targeting and disrupting prolific gang members.”
He added: “Today, I can say to you that Operation Ceasefire is in full effect, and it has been yielding successful results by removing drugs, firearms and ammunition off of our streets.
“Effective today’s date, Operation Ceasefire shall function as a separate unit under the name Ceasefire Unit to stem the activities of prolific offenders. As the weeks and months unfold, our bold response to crime will become more evident and impactful.”
He also announced the establishment of a special anti-gang and firearms unit “with immediate effect” in response to recent spate of murders.
He said the specialised unit will be situated at the RBPF’s headquarters.
“It will operate as a standalone unit for a more focused approach to disrupt criminal activities involving firearms and ammunition,” the commissioner noted.
“Simultaneously, a request will be made to have a court dedicated to fast tracking illegal firearms and ammunition cases for swift justice. Our research, statistics and intelligence is telling us that firearms are used in the commission of the most serious crimes recorded, and therefore we must act swiftly to seal all avenues of this moral decay in our society by removing these offenders.
“In that vein, we want to review the laws to add tougher penalties in cases where persons are found in possession of an illegal weapon and the use of a weapon in the commission of an offence. Tough times call for tough measures”
He also spoke about a specific police task force that was created to focus on gun trafficking, saying the group had their first meeting last month.
Other initiatives, he added, includes planned monthly meetings with all law enforcement heads “with a view of exchanging ideas” and coming up with solutions to deal with the escalating crime rate and the implementation of a stand-alone domestic violence unit.
The unit will include the department of social services, religious leaders and private entities, according to Commissioner Fernander.
He also pledged to improve policing relations with the community.
“We are in the process of reviewing our community relations initiative to merge the tasks and responsibilities of our National Neighborhood Watch Council Program and the Urban Renewal Program to operate under one umbrella. We will be focusing on crime prevention initiatives, and we want everyone involved to be effective, including community leaders, religious leaders, and private entities,” he said.
For his part, former commissioner Paul Rolle said he came into the post with his integrity intact, and he left the post with that integrity remaining.