After Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle released statistics indicating a decrease in crime on Abaco in 2020, more and more Abaconians detailed their struggles with crime on the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Many say they have experienced home and business break-ins and the theft of their building supplies, generators, vehicles and personal items.
Some on the island claim the statistics are inaccurate because some people have given up on reporting crimes.
Andrea Berner, a Marsh Harbour resident, said that even with decreased percentages in the statistics from Rolle, the numbers should be considered alarming when taking into account the drastic decrease in people on the island since Dorian.
“Those percentages the commissioner gave were very misleading,” she said.
“It was reported that shop break-ins are down 47 percent. They should be down 80 percent to 90 percent because we probably only have 10 percent of the shops that we used to.
“It’s not comparing apples with apples.
“If I said Nassau was having two break-ins a week then that would be good. But if Cherokee was having two a week, that’s bad percentage-wise. So, to make comparisons like this is very skewed because the population of Abaco is very different than pre-Dorian. It’s like comparing two different places.
“House break-ins have increased by 39 percent. Abaco does not have anywhere near the number of houses it used to before Dorian. And yet it is up significantly.
“And this does not account for those that were not reported. So the actual number is even higher.
“The police have told me they can’t investigate if a report is not made. This is true, but in trying to call various police offices over the last day or two I had to call over and over again to get an answer. I probably got an answer after about eight to 10 tries. This is part of the reason why people give up on reporting thefts.”
New Vision Ministries Pastor Chris Berner said the church was broken into roughly six weeks ago and again two weeks ago.
“They went through every room searching and leaving things in disarray,” he said.
“They came in a window and stole fans, extension cords, a water cooler and some electronics. About two weeks ago, they pried open a side door and stole a few more fans and a generator that belonged to an NGO.”
The stories poured in from Abaconians after Rolle provided statistics indicating crime was down 39 percent on the island compared to 2019. He was responding to Abaco Chamber of Commerce Director Krista Albury, who told The Nassau Guardian that crime is one of the biggest challenges on the island.
Rolle’s comments that there has been a lot of focus on a “fake rise in crime” on Abaco prompted ire among residents there.
Following the backlash, Rolle, along with Minister of National Security Marvin Dames and Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Raymond King, visited Abaco yesterday, where they met with officers stationed in Marsh Harbour and island administrators to address concerns on the island.
Many residents say the crime problem has to be addressed for the island to be able to better move forward.
Ian Carroll, whose business, Auto Marine Professionals, an automotive and marine repair shop near Marsh Harbour, was broken into three times in one week, likened the situation on the island to the “wild west”.
Carroll said the crime, combined with the other issues faced by the island, including a lack of reliable electricity, the COVID-19 pandemic and the generally slow rebuilding process, has been discouraging.
Since the storm, he said, looting has been a huge challenge on the island.
And while Carroll said it seemed like it was settling down a few months ago, the incidents picked up again.
“It’s challenging, and it’s discouraging for sure,” he said.
He added, “In general, some of the stuff that you can almost expect is a lot of these abandoned houses, you know, where people aren’t working on it yet and people are scrummaging for supplies and anything you can use.
“That you can almost expect. But when you see someone rebuilding and they just got their building supplies in, trying to get their roof closed in, that’s when it’s the hardest – when you’re trying to move ahead and you just keep getting kicked in the mouth.”
Carroll said the first incident at his business happened last week Saturday when someone broke into the building and took equipment and some customers’ vehicle keys. He said the following day, a customer’s vehicle was stolen from the premises. Some days later, he said, a number of vehicles in the yard were broken into and rummaged through.
“One Honda is basically sitting on the ground because they carried all the wheels,” he said.
Carroll said all the incidents were reported to police, but that was almost not the case.
“I think some of it is not getting reported,” he said. “I, for one, almost didn’t report on Saturday. My partner saw I was tied up and said he would go down and speak with them. And they came and got the information and so on. I don’t know if anything will ever come out of it, but at least it’s reported.”
Carroll said he understands why some people may not be reporting crimes.
“The police weren’t always easily accessible,” he said.
“They seem to be more accessible now, which is a good thing. But when I was up in the office on Monday making my statement about the vehicle that was moved, you could tell there was a lot of activity in the office.
“You can tell they’re probably a bit overwhelmed. And I think there’s more being reported than they’re letting on.”
The incidents are only some of the many that residents say they have been dealing with in recent months.
Charmaine Albury said her car was stolen from the Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel yard in February, before she had even made her second payment on it.
“I reported it to the police and never heard anymore,” she said.
“I’m having to scrape when I can to make whatever payment I can on a car that is being driven by a dirty thief.”
Donita Hill said she returned to Abaco in July to try to repair her home, but only weeks later, some of her supplies were stolen. She said she did not report the crime because she had heard there was little use in doing so.
“I came home in July of this year to fix my house and do some repairs with what little money I had,” she said.
“We had to go back to Nassau because of the lockdown and my family was still there. I got a message from someone that they broke in my house on August 29. They stole two air conditioners, one of which was brand new. [They also took] a lot of tools, a pressure washer, power tools, drop cords worth hundreds, two electric saws, a pickaxe and also new comforters.
“I did not report it cause everyone says it doesn’t make sense because they are not checking for us.”
John Fallin, who owns a home in Treasure Cay and another piece of property, said the crime issues are making some second homeowners reconsider coming back.
He said personal items, building supplies, generators and power tools are among the items that have been stolen from homeowners in the community on a regular basis.
“We see the pretty in the beautiful island,” he said.
“So, we’re trying to dig in. But my neighbors, they don’t have the gumption we do. And they’re watching what’s happening and they’re holding off.”
He added, “It’s depressing.
“The hurricane is one thing, wiping out all of your investment in Abaco. And then being looted; as if the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, people are going and ripping through your pillowcases and private envelopes and basically ransacking your house.”
Fallin said he never reported any incidents because there’s little hope that anything will be done.
“We never reported anything,” he said.
“It was fruitless to even talk about or go to the police to expect anything to change because they’re not around.”
Fallin said he has decided for now to only send things for his home that can be bolted to the walls.
“It got so bad that we started to give up,” he said.
“It didn’t make sense for us to ship things in for the house and invest more into the properties because anything we send is getting stolen, from fuel to our neighbors’ generators.”
He added, “Treasure Cay is one of the largest expatriate communities in Abaco.
“So, there’s a lot of property taxpayers there, but no police. I mean nowhere to be seen.”