Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said that despite complaints of a lack of security on Abaco, crime on the island is down 39 percent compared to last year.
Rolle said there seems to be a lot of focus on a “fake rise in crime” on the island.
“I wish to advise that overall crime on the island of Abaco is down 39 percent when compared to last year,” he said.
“There was a surge in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and these were addressed and perpetrators [were] arrested, charged and placed before the courts. I am completely lost as to the veracity of the claims being made.”
On Wednesday, Abaco Chamber of Commerce Director Krista Albury claimed that the island remains plagued by theft and burglaries as residents try to recover from Hurricane Dorian.
Albury said little has changed since the immediate aftermath of the storm and said rebuilding efforts are being hampered by frequent break-ins.
According to the 2019 and 2020 statistics Rolle provided, there was a 75 percent decrease in armed robberies, with four in 2019 and one in 2020. There was also a 67 percent decrease in burglary; a 47 percent decrease in shop breaking; a 50 percent decrease in stealing from vehicles; and a 33 percent decrease in stolen vehicles.
However, housebreaking incidents increased by 39 percent – with 23 in 2019 and 32 in 2020.
Rolle said there are more police on the island than before Dorian, but he still wants to increase the numbers. However, he said a lack of housing has hindered those efforts.
“The residents claimed that they wanted more police on the island,” he said.
“Prior to Dorian, there were 48 police officers on the island and some 30 police reservists, many of whom were inactive. Today we have 67 police officers on the island of Abaco – 45 percent more than prior to the storm.
“The police force took all of the available rental accommodations that they were willing to rent to us.”
He added, “There were very little accommodations as the police station in Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay, Cooper’s Town, Hope Town, Green Turtle Cay and Fox Town were all destroyed. That remains the case today, and I have made arrangements to have temporary homes and accommodations for the police officers, and that is yet to be realized.
“So, while there is this great focus on the dysfunction of the police and the fake rise in crime, I believe that this is a great time for all concerned to ensure that the police have adequate living accommodation and accommodation to house the police stations as we seek to increase the numbers of officers on the island to 100.”
While Rolle acknowledged there was a recent incident in Hope Town, he said reports of housebreaking on all the cays are inaccurate. He said that he attempted to post officers in Hope Town, but they could not stay due to a lack of housing.
“I wish to point out that after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, it was discovered that the police accommodations on Hope Town, as were other areas of Abaco, was destroyed,” he said.
“I dispatched two officers to replace those officers that were there and they were sent back to the mainland as the residents stated that they are able to care for themselves. We were not provided [with] any accommodation. As a result, we still dispatched officers there daily and they returned to the mainland at night.
“About three weeks ago there was an incident on Hope Town which resulted in some residents going to the residence of a male and plundering it. In the immediate aftermath, I began receiving claims that crime is out of control and they wanted a police presence on the island 24 hours.
“We could not accommodate at the time because there was no accommodation. They began sending a series of emails with wild accusations that crime is out of control and that they want more police on the island. I ran our statistics and they do not support those claims. I stand by those statistics and the reports received by the police.
“There were a number of incidents that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but assuredly that is not the case today. There were a few complaints received by the police and they were all investigated properly to my satisfaction. The police have no such reports of housebreaking all over the cays…”
He added, “Once I became aware, and after much discussion about Hope Town, the administrators we were able to source for the police. That trailer was placed at Hope Town and I transferred three additional officers to Abaco, two of whom were posted on Monday of last week.”
Rolle admitted that police have not always been able to deliver the service Abacaonians desire, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also said police on the island need to interact more with residents. He said the police force will do its best to improve service and maintain a good relationship with those on Abaco.
“For the record, the Royal Bahamas Police Force will continue to do its best to deliver the service desired by the people of Abaco,” he said.
“I contend that in every case this was not possible as much as we would like to. The emergence of the COVID-19 emergency has impacted policing and I have to take into account the safety and security of officers, some of whom are still living in tents since the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
“I am personally concerned that the police on Abaco need to be more interactive with the people whom they serve and protect.
“We are concerned for the safety and well-being of all residents and visitors alike and will continue to improve our service and do our best to maintain a good working relationship with the people of Abaco in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration.”