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Dames and NNWC attend neighborhood watch conference

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames along with members of the National Neighborhood Watch Council (NNWC) and police liaisons attended the Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) conference in Palm Springs, California. The purpose of the conference is to bring together neighborhood groups from throughout the United States and other parts of the world to share best practices as it relates to community residents, law enforcement and other community partners with the intent to foster safer communities.

For The Bahamas specifically, the Blair Citizens Association is the first known neighborhood watch group and it was formed in 1975. Since then many more neighborhood groups have followed, however, the groups lacked standardization and existed in silos. Since coming to office in 2017, Minister Dames envisioned and has facilitated the development of more comprehensive and purposeful neighborhood watch groups. In July 2018, the National Neighborhood Watch Council was launched. The council serves as the overarching body to coordinate activities among the respective groups throughout The Bahamas. The new and progressive initiative seeks to encourage and assist communities wishing to form neighborhood watch groups.

Despite its short existence, there are now 112 neighborhood watch groups, of which 90 are in New Providence, 16 in Grand Bahama, and six in Abaco. For the first time police liaisons were introduced and they serve to provide a direct link and partnership in the fight against crime. The liaisons also serve to provide training, guidance and support for their respective groups. Minister Dames and representatives from The Bahamas hope to garner and share best practices with NUSA’s presenters, strategists, practitioners and citizens. There are over 700 delegates from throughout the United States inclusive of The Bahamas, which has the largest international delegation in attendance. The objective for the Bahamian delegation is to gain extensive knowledge on how the Ministry of National Security, NNWC, law enforcement and concerned citizens can build stronger communities in The Bahamas.

Another underline purpose of the neighborhood watch groups are to inspire young people, especially young men. Neighborhood watch groups are not only concerned with fighting crime but on building stronger communities through partnerships. Of the 21 persons who travelled to the conference, Watson Castin is the youngest member of the group and one of the youngest to join his neighborhood community group. He resides in the Bain and Grant’s Town constituency and instead of allowing the challenges of being in a community with a high propensity for crime to decide his life choices, he has chosen to live a crime and drug free life.

This conference in Palm Springs represents many first for Castin as this is his first time travelling internationally. He hopes to increase his knowledge base and provide the necessary support to help him develop into a responsible contributing member of society. He hopes one day to become a member of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

During the opening ceremony, Minister Dames acknowledged that the respective neighborhood watch groups are pivotal to the success and development of communities. He noted that governments are not responsible for creating crime and more often than not there is a heavy reliance on them to reduce crime rates.

Upon their return to The Bahamas, the NNWC of The Bahamas will travel to Exuma and Eleuthera to introduce the concept of neighborhood watch groups. This will be followed by committee members of the NNWC preparing for The Bahamas’ first neighborhood watch conference, which is scheduled for October. The conference hopes to expand the work of the council and respective groups.

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