A prison study by the University of The Bahamas released earlier this week said that the emphasis on increasing police force numbers in The Bahamas is “misplaced”, and downplayed its significance in crime reduction.
The report, “Our Prisoners: A Collection of Papers Arising from a 2016 Survey of Inmates at The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Facility at Fox Hill”, said despite a high number of police per capita, The Bahamas faces significant difficulties with crime control in the country.
The report said that The Bahamas has one of the highest police-to-population ratios in the world, at 846 per 100,000, while the global average is 366 per 100,000.
“Despite the high police-to-population ratio, detection rates for violent crimes are only about 50 percent for homicide and decreasing,” it said.
“The continued emphasis of governments on putting ‘more boots on the ground’ and ‘saturation patrols’ as a means of controlling crime appears to be misplaced,” the report said.
Asked about the report’s claim that police force manpower is not a significant issue in the country, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said it was inaccurate, noting that the geography of The Bahamas must be taken into account.
“I don’t know how they are measuring that,” Dames said following a press conference at police headquarters.
He added, “We are a country of some 700 islands – very different dynamics – a country of some 700 islands spread over some hundred thousand square miles of sea.
“The mandate of the police force in this Commonwealth of The Bahamas is very, very broad, unlike many countries.
“As the police force, your focus is on prevention and detection and arrest.
“That’s different in this country. This is an archipelago, so we have to manage.
“We carried out a study.
“We are confident in the study that we carried out, and our obligation is to the people of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and those who visit our shores, and if the level of safety is a concern, then we, or any responsible government, has a vested interest to ensure that they do all that is humanly possible to execute this mandate.”
He noted that there is a need for higher police force numbers in order to lower the country’s crime rates.
“We’re looking at response times as a measurement as we continue to work towards reducing the level of crimes in this country,” he said.
“Since coming into office, we met a police force that was totally depleted of resources and that was significantly undermanned.”
He added, “We would have already last year graduated over 135 officers for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, and we’re about to go to Cabinet again for an additional maybe 135, 140, somewhere in that area.”
Dames noted that this decision was based on an audit of the police force.
“As you know, we would have done a manpower audit of the police force, and we are using that audit to improve the effectiveness of the Royal Bahamas Police Force,” he said.
However, the UB report noted that The Bahamas’ average police response time is good compared to other countries in the Americas.
“The estimated average response time for the Royal Bahamas Police Force is faster than the average in the rest of the Americas,” it said.
“However, violent crimes such as assault and threat of assault are far less likely to be reported to the police than property crimes.”