While much of Police Commissioner’s Anthony Ferguson’s policing plan for 2019 encompasses similar or largely the same initiatives outlined previously, the document tabled by Minister of National Security Marvin Dames Wednesday calls for the establishment of a tracking system where the National Crime Prevention Office (NCPO) and school liaison officers can “monitor youth offenders within the school and justice system”.
Speaking to Eyewitness News Online earlier this month, Dames said the government has to consider introducing “technology, innovative” changes within the public-school system to increase safety and security in the wake of Rolle’s killing.
“I have had any number of conversations with the minister of education,” Dames said.
“[We’re] looking at strategies and looking at how we can work on and improve in presence and visibility, but also improving and training teachers; private security personnel that work the area; and looking at technology as a means to enhance safety and security around the schools.
“This is an ongoing [process].”
When asked for specifics on the technology and whether metal detectors were also being considered, Dames said, “The world that we are living in today, you know — and I don’t want to get into the metal detector conversation — but the world that we are living in today it calls for some real innovative, technological changes coupled with well trained personnel to deal with these issues.”
The plan did not elaborate on the tracking system.
It also called for an increase in the number of school liaison officers.
In August 2018, Dames said police visibility will be increased in and around school zones.
He said the Royal Bahamas Police Force would enhance initiatives already in place, increased visibility, use more resources “within the school zones from officers on foot patrols to traffic officers”.
There have been a spate of violent incidents in schools in recent months, including a murder of a 15-year-old T.A. Thompson Junior High School student on Pitt Road.
In the wake of the incidents, Ferguson said there were no plans to place additional police officers at school.
Perry Rolle, a ninth-grade student, was stabbed in the chest during a brawl with another student from C.C. Sweeting Senior Highschool less than a mile away from the campus by a student of a neighboring school.
The commissioner told reporters the fatal stabbing had no bearing on officers’ presence in the schools, but more to do with behavior and the need for children to be trained better on how to conduct themselves.
In September 2012, more than 200 police officers were assigned to senior and junior government high schools in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco.
The program was implemented as part of the Christie administration’s relaunched school-policing program and Urban Renewal 2.0, shortly after it assumed office in 2007.
The last Ingraham administration discontinued the program.
Officers were stationed outside of schools during peak hours.
The plan also calls for the police force to acquire body cameras for officers and first responders.
The government recently issues a request for proposals for body cameras in February.
Six companies responded, Eyewitness News understands.
A final bidder was expected to be selected in by April 9 and an agreement signed by April 23.
The plan also calls for the implementation of shot spotter technology.
The government signed a $1.9 million contract for 92 sensors in January.
Ferguson pledged to expand closed-circuit television program to include other crime hot spots, implement the use of drone technology in “appropriate areas”, expand the DNA laboratory and capabilities, and create a digital media department which “collates useful crime information from social medial platforms.
The force will also focus on crime hotspots and repeat offenders, disrupt organized crime, heighten police visibility particularly in inner-city communities, and strengthen activities to discourage corruption.
According to the plan, the police force will also focus on prevention and reduction of sexual exploitation and abuse, noting that there is a greater need for the RBPF to raise public awareness and “employ appropriate methodologies to prevent and reduce incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse”.
“In 2018, I prioritized six key areas necessary to garner more meaningful and sustainable results for safety and security,”
“With keen knowledge that crime is fluid, I remain committed to last year’s priority areas.
“However, I felt it necessary to expand and prioritize sexual exploitation and abuse.
“While the police force has always viewed such criminal acts as sensitive matters, prioritizing these areas garners a more national platform in which all stakeholders can collectively strive to generate awareness and reduce or eliminate such incidences.
Sexual assaults increased six percent last year — from 52 incidents in 2017 to 55 in 2018.