While Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle downplayed reports of rampant crime on Abaco, residents on the island said it remains a major issue and a roadblock in efforts to recover from Hurricane Dorian.
Christopher Berner, the pastor at New Vision Ministries in Marsh Harbour, said the church was broken into for a third time on Sunday, and the burglars took sound equipment that was donated in the aftermath of the hurricane.
“This is the third time our church has been broken into,” he said.
“And we’ve installed solar lights, but without power, it’s hard to do an alarm. We’re working on a solar-operated alarm system, but even with that, we’re going to have to do our own response if the alarm goes off. We really can’t rely on the police to come by.”
Berner said that while it has seemed that things might be slowing down in terms of crime, he isn’t so certain anymore.
“I have heard of numerous break-ins recently,” he said.
“It almost seemed like it picked up again and, you know, that is definitely a big issue and a huge concern for people here on the island. It just seems like you can’t adequately secure anything.
“And there is always that fear of the building supplies that I got to rebuild my home, I hear stories of people that they keep the supplies on their property and they’re stolen. So, you’ve got people afraid to buy building supplies and have them because of that. And, of course, that hinders the recovery.”
Crime has been a significant concern for Abaconians since the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the island in September 2019.
Krista Albury, director of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce, said that while there appears to have been some improvement recently, the situation on the ground is still concerning.
While she noted that her home near Sunrise Bay hasn’t been broken into in months, others haven’t been so fortunate.
“Theft is still rampant here with many residents burglarized so many times that they have given up reporting,” she said.
“Although it has slowed down some, it is a nearly daily occurrence with little to no arrests made.”
In September 2020, a number of Abaconians raised concern over a crime problem on the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
In response, however, Rolle provided statistics indicating crime was down 39 percent on the island compared to 2019. The commissioner’s comments that there was a lot of focus on a “fake rise in crime” on Abaco prompted ire among residents there.
Addressing the Abaco crime figures on Monday, Rolle downplayed concerns, noting that traffic accidents are the biggest issue facing Abaconians.
He said police on Abaco have stepped up their efforts and said that, while there have been incidents, there has not been an increase in crime on the island.
Amos Weatherford, another resident, said police presence is still not felt in Marsh Harbour, except during ticketing exercises.
“There is still no police in Marsh Harbour, they drive through Marsh Harbour or come in time to time to give people tickets for uninsured cars, but no continuous presence to fight crime,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the third-largest city in the country to have one police car on patrol in Marsh Harbour 24 hours.
“Just like there are always police on Bay Street in Nassau, there should always be one visible in Marsh Harbour.
“[There are] some 3000 police on the government payroll. Just three out of that 3000 on eight-hour shifts stationed on the ground in Marsh Harbour would be a massive improvement.”
Dayna Hill said her family’s business, Rental Wheels, was vandalized numerous times.
“They’ve stolen supplies out our yard, my grandfather’s new boat motor and they continuously vandalize [the] business – for the fourth time yesterday,” she said.
“There’s no police action, no police patrolling. This is ridiculous.”
Hill added, “They only want to ticket people for license and insurance.”