Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said yesterday that crime is down overall for the first half of the year in categories “that you are really, really concerned about”, including murder, when compared to the same period last year, though he did not put a figure to the decline.
During a press conference at police headquarters, Ferguson was expected to provide statistics on crime between January 1 and June 30, as well as update the public on key initiatives in his 2018 policing plan.
However, only select categories of crimes were discussed and even fewer were statistically presented.
When asked for the overall trend of crime in The Bahamas and to provide the percentage increase or decrease, Ferguson said, “Overall crime is down, and I think you can see it.
“It can be seen. It’s not where we want it to be, but each day, each minute, each hour, we are working at it.
“Hopefully at the end of the year we will have a much better report for you.”
He said, “This meeting is not really to go into the statistical side as such; I give you the action side that you saw.
“These are the things that you went to court and [saw], those persons being taken before the courts.”
Pressed for the percentage decrease overall, the commissioner continued, “Crime is dynamic. If you understand crime and criminality then you will understand that you cannot put a number to where crime [is]; you cannot put a number to where a thief will [steal]. All you have to do is prevent him from stealing.”
In years past, police and/or the minister responsible have often presented the percentage increase or decrease in crime overall.
As recently as March, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames noted that crime was down overall by 14 percent at the time, compared to the same period in 2017.
The double-digit reduction was consistent with the downward trend authorities recorded in 2017 compared to 2016.
In January, Ferguson released statistics that reflected that crime was down 14 percent compared to 2016, despite an increase in certain categories of crime such as murder, which rose by 10 percent year on year.
Yesterday, Ferguson did note, however, that murders have trended downward in the six-month period – from 54 as of June 30, 2017 compared to 73 the year before – a decrease of 26 percent.
It was pointed out that as of February, murders were down nearly 50 percent compared to the same period in 2017 – 10 as of February 5, 2018 compared to 19 up to that point in 2017.
That means, while murders are down year on year, the level of the decrease has been shrinking as the year progresses.
“You keep watching, keep watching,” said Ferguson, when asked if authorities had any particular concerns about the murder count.
Ferguson added that his organization will make it very difficult for criminals as it seeks to increase the safety of communities across the country.
Pressed for data relating to rapes and armed robberies, among other key crime indicators, Ferguson said those categories have trended downward, but again did not evidence these trends with data.
He suggested that at a later date, those statistics could be provided.
Ferguson was also asked whether police had observed new areas becoming crime hotspots.
“Break-ins are also down. You have to keep on these things,” he said.
Speaking to armed robberies, Ferguson said the police force has made good progress in this area.
He said the number of people put before the courts is evidence of this.
“This police force must and will rise to the occasion,” Ferguson noted.
Asked for data with respect to armed robberies, the commissioner said, “There are numbers and we can make them available to you, no problem.”
Ferguson attributed the overall decline in crime to increased police presence, the targeting of night clubs and intelligence-based operations.
“In huge numbers, police officers, along with our partners who are operating with us – defense force officers – we [have] converged on those trouble night spots and made our presence felt,” he said.
“People who are on the streets late at night, we are up and down like a hawk watching them and looking to see what they are doing as they leave – those persons who usually pull out guns as they leave their night spots and firing. We’re right on them.
“Speaking to the team, the team understands this and recognizes that we have to keep very close on them.
“And then you have members of the public, who have been extremely watchful and they have been giving us information, and we have been acting.”
Earlier this year, authorities said the targeting of prolific offenders and gangs contributed to a decrease in crime, particularly murders.
Ferguson said the police force will continue to tackle those groups, and has made good progress to date in that regard.
While the commissioner also said his organization has exceeded expectations relating to his policing plan for the year, he was unable to provide details on several initiatives such as the introduction of body cameras for officers, the expansion of CCTV or the acquisition of drone technology.
To each of these programs, Ferguson said the force was “very close” to executing them.
He added that the expansion of CCTV surveillance was being “addressed as we speak”.
However, Ferguson pointed out that the police force has launched its planned neighborhood watch [program] in May, which has seen 208 citizens trained.
“So far, at the half we have exceeded what we expected,” he said.