Vendors blame policeArawak Cay restaurant owners say there has been an uptick in crime in the area
The Arawak Cay Conch, Fish, Vegetable and Food Vendors Association yesterday claimed petty crime and robberies have proliferated at the popular strip of cultural restaurants on West Bay Street due to a lack of police presence, despite a police station centrally located at the site, and another a short distance away.
According to the association’s president, Rodney Russell, a stakeholder in the restaurant ‘Red Snapper’, it was regrettable that a foreign entity has had to point out problems at the Fish Fry that the association has sought to address for more than a year.
“The police [station] at Arawak Cay is undermanned,” Russell claimed.
“We have asked for police support. We have not received police support.
“We have received harassment of our guests and visitors from the police by moving cars and impeding the roads, creating a problem for businesses in Arawak Cay.
“…There is not sufficient police in Arawak Cay, especially on the weekend and holidays or during the night.
“The reason why I mentioned the night, from the previous hurricanes, the lights were destroyed.
“It’s been two years now we have been asking and begging for lighting.
”I have asked the ministry responsible to put temporary lights until such time as we have our proper lighting, and nothing has been done.”
However, when contacted, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames pointed out there is a superintendent with direct oversight of Arawak Cay.
He said this is a “major undertaking” given superintendents of the police force are divisional heads, and Arawak Cay is being treated like a division onto itself.
The minister foreshadowed that the police commissioner will have more to say on the matter in due course.
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday warned U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting The Bahamas due to crime, and urged visitors to avoid areas including the inner city, south of Shirley Street and Fish Fry at Arawak Cay at night.
Russell said the owners and stakeholders took progressive steps to address the matter, forming the association and advocating for the government to increase police presence, among other measures, to curb crime.
Russell said the previous and current administrations gave assurances, but nothing has been done.
“In July 2017, the Arawak Cay Conch, Fish, Vegetable and Food Vendors Association met with the minister of Agriculture and Fisheries where we aired our concerns about safety, illicit activities, lighting, security and the harassment of our guests to this date,” he said.
“In July 2017, we met with Mr. Patrick Johnson, chief superintendent of police, concerning illicit activities and harassment of our guests and soliciting in Arawak Cay.
“We also discussed the impediments that hinder stakeholders’ businesses.
“To date, we have not received any support from these two agencies that would propel us forward.
“It is very sad that it takes a foreign entity to shed light on a problem that the Arawak Cay association was being proactive with.
“[It is] also degrading when a responsible president took the initiative to address these concerns that impedes growth and development of our people and erodes the structure of our culture.”
Alfred Butterfield, the owner of Anchorage Seafood Haven, said he, like many of the owners at Fish Fry, has put everything into his business to make it a welcoming and attractive venue to experience a taste of The Bahamas.
He said the 32 restaurants at Arawak Cay are tenants, and the government, as the landlord, does not appear to have a shared interest in protecting and allowing the businesses to thrive as they should.
“I don’t how much longer I can fight and put up with this,” Butterfield said.
“I have been impeded. I’m way on the very edge by the water.
“When you lock the two gates no one comes to me.”
The owners employ a combined 300-plus employees, contribute to National Insurance and consistently pay utilities, according to Butterfield, who said Fish Fry contributes to the economy of The Bahamas and must be protected.
The association pledged to continue its efforts to protect business and the enjoyment and safety of patrons.