“Surge” of school armed robberies in 2016/2017

Education report stresses need for more security, expanded CCTV

There was a “surge of armed robberies” on school campuses in the 2016/2017 academic year, according to a Ministry of Education, Science and Technology annual report for the period, which lamented the inadequate communication and monitoring equipment in schools, underscored the need for additional security staff, and pointed to inadequate lighting on many campuses.

The report, tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday, was completed by the Planning and Research Section in the Ministry of Education.

It largely focuses on a statistical analysis of the education system; academic performance; initiatives undertaken by the ministry, and financing of education in The Bahamas.

According to the report, there were nine armed robberies on school campuses in the 2016/2017 academic year.

“Due to limited adequate communication and monitoring equipment, handsets and telephones, security officers face sever challenges in times of emergency, the report read.

“A major objective of the security division has been to upgrade technology required to carry out its duties, particularly close-circuit television (CCTV) system.

“The security division requested that a control center be established connecting all schools and satellite stations to the main control center.

“Recommendations were submitted regarding employing an 18-year veteran security officer to oversee the maintenance of all schools and property equipment and provide training for CCTV system upgrades.

“Once in place, the CCTV system will be manned seven days a week and 24-hours a day by means of handheld radio sets tied in the police control room which will aid in the prevention and detection of crime.”

In October 2017, thieves ransacked half a dozen classrooms at Claridge Primary School after midnight, taking laptops, desktop computers, microwaves, among other valuable items.

In September 2017, three gunman gun-butted and tied up a security guard at Temple Christian High School, off Shirley Street shortly after 5 a.m. and robbed him of a Nissan Note.

At the time, the school’s principal, Rev. Perry R. Cunningham said the school had an alarm system, and a camera system and recently added additional lighting on campus.

It is unclear what steps the ministry has made to improve security on campuses based on the recommendations of the report.

When contacted, head of the Planning and Research Section, Sharmaine Sinclair, said, “We’re gathering all of our data from that was requested from the various sections and units of the ministry and Department of Education. I would be able to verify the update according to the reports that have been sent to our section and hopefully that will be done in the next four weeks.”

As it relates to staff, the report said the need for additional security officers was of the utmost importance to ensure all shifts are manned: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 4 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 8 a.m.

Some shifts were left unmanned due to insufficient staffing, according to the report.

“In some cases, there are officers who work from morning to midnight, resulting in burnout and illness.

“Training has been a priority in respect to on-the-job training for junior security officers who will replace those offices who have left due to retirement of death.

“Such training has occurred for the smooth transition of officers, however, officers employed for more than 20 years have still not been made permanent and pensionable.

“The current staffing remains inadequate due to the absence of promotions and appointments to fill the roles of retirees.”

According to the report, there were numerous attempts to resolve the staffing challenges to ensure proper scheduling.

Lighting was also raised in the report as an “inadequate” in many of the schools.

It said this was paramount to the safety of security officers, school personnel and visitors to the respective campuses, particularly when meetings are conducted after school hours.

“Light poles in many areas must be checked for shortages or changing of light bulbs,” the report said.

“A list has been submitted comprising all schools with lighting issues.

“Also, a request was made for additional vehicles for officers in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Exuma to patrol areas to make regular checks of areas and maintain the safety of properties.”