CRIME FEARS: Businesses bracing for spike as country reopens

CRIME FEARS: Businesses bracing for spike as country reopens

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Businesses throughout the country are preparing their establishments for an expected spike in crime as the country prepares to reopen after three months of lockdown.

Mike Wells, owner of Rubis West Bay Street, told Eyewitness News that while he and the Petroleum Dealers Association had already braced for an uptick in crime, he did not expect it to happen so soon.

Two men robbed Wells’ station shortly before 11 am yesterday, according to police.

Surveillance footage purporting to show brazen morning robbery was widely circulated, showing the men walking through the isles of the gas station before pulling a gun on a customer and the cashier at the register.

Both men were wearing masks – now mandatory for public use.

Wells said while his employees were shaken up, no one was injured and only a small amount of cash was taken given that they don’t usually keep much at the station.

“We already talked about that, that this was going to happen,” he said, referring to the state of the economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They will target the gas stations because they know we have cash.

“I didn’t expect it so early or that time in the day.”

“…We expect to have more when they open up fully.”

Wells said while he has been moving to increase security at his business, but “you only could do so much”.

Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation CEO Jeffrey Beckles said yesterday that the confederation continues to advise business owners to safeguard their properties and take steps to mitigate vulnerabilities.

Beckles noted that this will be even more important given the continued fight against the COVID-19 virus.

“In this particular environment which we are living in now post Dorian, now with COVID-19, as we transition back to our sense of normalcy and have our businesses going, it is going to be even more of a focus point for business owners, particular now that everyone is wearing a mask, where masks are required,” he said.

“It is going to make it increasingly difficult to really determine who is entering places of business. Just by the fact that we are transitioning through this pandemic with the use of masks and the inability to properly identify individuals is going to make it increasingly difficult.”

But Beckles noted that the public must be reminded that it takes a community effort to ensure that “we are looking out for each other, particularly now that the environment has changed so drastically”.

“It does us no go to allow a few individuals to create this kind of havoc in our community,” he said.

“…These are the same businesses that are needed to put people back to work, to ensure that providers can put food on their table and to ensure these same businesses pay taxes to help keep the social network strong, so that those persons who may be out of a job can still actually be able to get support to put food on their table”.

The BCCEC CEO said the business community will have to take extraordinary steps to secure businesses, which may have a trickle-down effect on customers.

“All this means is that business owners will incur additional expenses, which means you and I are going to be paying more for their services and in a shrinking environment, that passing that cost of hardship on to me and you…It’s a vicious cycle.”

Over the past week, police have reported several cases of robberies in its daily reports.

On Monday, shortly after 9 pm, police said a man was in the area of Anderson Street when he was accosted by six masked men – one who was armed with a cutlass and another, with what appeared to be a handgun.

They robbed him of cash and other personal items.

On Sunday, two men were arrested for shop breaking shortly after 5 am on East Street and Balfour Avenue.

On Thursday, a woman was robbed shortly after 10 am while entering her vehicle at a business establishment on Wilton Street.

Police reported four separate incidents of armed robbery last Wednesday, occurring between 11 am and 4 pm.

There were about seven cases of armed robbery reported by police last month, according to daily crime reports.

In April, police-reported three incidents of armed robbery, two on April 14 and one of April 2.

Last week, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said that crime is down and it will continue to trend downward because officials have a plan in place.

The country is expected to reopen its economy on July 1.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced that weekend lockdowns will come to an end this week but the nationwide curfew will remain “for a period of time”.

“We are doing this in order to continue to open in a gradual and sustained manner,” he said.