“WE TAKE CRIME SERIOUSLY”: PM & COP outline plans to tackle gang warfare

“WE TAKE CRIME SERIOUSLY”: PM & COP outline plans to tackle gang warfare
  • Majority of Illegal firearms traced to south Florida

  • Deputy Commissioner says 8-10 gangs operating in New Providence

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the nation grapples with an unprecedented level of bloodshed, Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis and senior officials of law enforcement yesterday outlined plans to tackle the scourge of violence that has resulted in 44 killings for the year so far.

“We are building a shared framework for solutions that include the police, civic organizations, churches, courts and our communities,” Davis said at the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Reports of every new loss weigh heavily on our hearts. The lockdowns and curfews of the previous years did not end violence. In many cases, the violence was merely postponed. There is evidence that many of the murders we have seen in recent weeks were related to gang activities and retaliation.”

Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis

Davis said immediate steps will be taken to reduce the proliferation of illegal weapons, which Deputy Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander said have been traced in large part to emerging courier companies in southern Florida.

To this end, the prime minister said police will increase its presence in hotspot areas for “as long as they are necessary”; create a specialized task force focused on decreasing gang-related crimes and apprehending firearm traffickers; and expand Urban Renewal to strengthen community-based policing and programs.

The prime minister also pledged to increase access to mental health services.

He said in the next few days a national security council will be constituted to support increased sharing of intelligence and allow authorities to “confront our security challenges jointly and with the best information possible”.

Additionally, the prime minister said he was considering enacting an anti-gang bill.

As Davis acknowledged that Bahamians deserve safer streets, schools and communities, he called on every to get involved, volunteer and report matters to authorities.

Addressing the media, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) takes crime “very seriously” and police will do “all that we have to do to address crime”.

Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle

There have been 43 murders for the year so far, with 22 murders recorded in March alone — the deadliest month on record in The Bahamas recorded history.

The last record was set in May 2012 with 21 murders.

Of the total murders for the year so far, the majority (23 murders) have occurred in areas between Bain and Grants Town and Coconut Grove, according to Rolle.

Rolle said the prevalence of illegal firearms in the nation continues to be a “grave concern to us”,

According to the commissioner, with the assistance of the RBPFs international partners, authorities have identified that the majority of illegal firearms, have been coming from south Florida where a number of courier services have sprung up in recent months.

Authorities have found firearms in cereal boxes and children’s food, placed in boxes labeled as groceries, Rolle said.

Asked about a gun amnesty, the commissioner said it would be good, but that is not his jurisdiction to initiate.

He said last week alone authorities interdicted five firearms in Miami that were destined for The Bahamas.

Deputy Commissioner Clayton Fernander

As it relates to firearms, Fernander said he will recommend that a court be established to handle matters related to firearms.

The RBPF has seized 109 illegal firearms off the streets of The Bahamas, not including the more than a dozen guns intercepted in the US.

The police force also recovered 1,719 rounds of illegal ammunition, some of which belong to high-powered assault weapons such as the AK-47, and AR15 — “the type of weapons they are using in Ukraine in warfare”.

The deputy commissioner said of the 22 murders recorded in March, police solved 11 of them thus far.

Of the six murders in the last five days, Rolle said the majority were retaliations and one was a domestic incident.

Fernander said that based on the victims in the month of March, police found that four of them were on bail for murder and were being monitored.

According to Fernander, eight to 10 gangs are operating on New Providence, including a gang that has become more organized in the Grove.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.