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No participation from FTIU in gun seizures this year

The Firearms Tracing and Investigation Unit(FTIU)did not participate in any of 76 firearms seizures this year, according to crime reports released by the Royal Bahamas Police Force(RBPF).

In response to a reporter’s question during the force’s annual Meet the Press event in January, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade agreed that it is time for the FTIU to become an autonomous body given the high number of gun-related crimes.

The FTIU operated as an independent body from 1992 to 1999 when it was subsumed under the Central Detective Unit. Some police officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the unit worked better as a separate unit. Superintendent Leon Bethell, the commander of the Central Detective Unit, has said there are six officers in the FTIU. However, sources allege that those officers are often diverted from the unit to perform other duties.

At the press conference, Bethell said the FTIU collaborated with the Select Enforcement Team(SET). However, according to information released by police, SET seized one firearm this year-on January 12.

The other seizures resulted from searches conducted by the uniformed branches, the Drug Enforcement Unit, the mobile unit and the newly-formed Operation Rapid Strike.

According to police statistics, firearms were used in 69 of the 94 murders that occurred last year. All branches of the force seized 351 illegal firearms and 2,624 rounds of ammunition in 2010.

Last year, criminals used firearms to commit other serious crimes.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Glenn Miller, who heads crime management and operation, said recently:”We are extremely concerned about the high incidence of illegal firearms being used in other criminal offenses in The Bahamas, such as armed robberies, house-breakings and burglaries, and in many cases threats of death.”

According to the force’s web site, police took 76 firearms off the streets as of March 12. Of that number, 13 weapons were found through track roads, in abandoned buildings, dumpsters and cemeteries. Two additional gun seizures did not result in arrests as suspects ditched their weapons as they evaded capture.

And the public did their part in getting guns off the streets as well. A concerned citizen turned in a handgun and a bulletproof vest found in bushes through Wellington Street, and workers at a barber shop detained a 17-year-old male whom they disarmed during a robbery attempt until police arrived, according to police reports.

The force relaunched the FTIU in 2007. At the launch, police spokesman Hulan Hanna, who was then a chief superintendent, said,”It is the commissioner’s intention that we look now at the tracing(of firearms), so that we can look now at the point of origin where these weapons are coming from into The Bahamas.”

The FTIU has also not intercepted any gun shipments this year.

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