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Police and RBDF adjusting crime fighting strategies on Abaco, Dames says

Following outrage from Abaco residents over their struggle with crime in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, fresh off a visit to the island, said yesterday that adjustments were made to the policing strategy on the island.

Residents became irate after Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle recently said crime was down nearly 40 percent on the island. 

On Sunday, Dames, Rolle and Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Raymond King visited the island to meet with officials and residents. 

“…We had some very very productive meetings and we’re all on the same page,” Dames said outside Cabinet. 

“These adjustments will continue. It’s no different anywhere else the world over.”

Dames said policing must be dynamic, noting that strategies are being reviewed.

“…For law enforcement and for every other agency, we have to continue to look at how we’re operating,” he said.

“Things are dynamic on the ground. [We have to] make adjustments when necessary.”

He added, “This is the normal course of doing business.

“So, I don’t want to continue to beat down on that. The police and defense force have been reviewing their strategies and not changing strategies, but making adjustments when necessary.”

Last September, parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama were obliterated by Hurricane Dorian. In the wake of the storm, there were widespread reports of looting on the island of Abaco. Many said theft on the island never stopped. 

The national security minister noted that policing is more than numbers.

“Crime can be down and you can still have an issue,” Dames said.

“Policing is more than just numbers.”

Dames noted that there are quality of life issues on Abaco and Grand Bahama. 

“…Oftentimes, police are put at the front and center of those,” he said.

“And so crime, the commissioner is quite correct from a statistical standpoint, crime is down.

“But again, it’s the quality of life issues. It’s the feeling of being safe. And when you are in such an environment where infrastructure would have been totally impacted and the normal course of life would have been disturbed significantly, that brings added pressure to this overall situation.

“So, you know…it’s a matter of keeping the communication lines open with law enforcement whenever someone is experiencing an issue that they know exactly where to channel that and how to get results. And so, it’s more than just focusing on the numbers and the commissioner understands that fully.

“As I said before, policing is more than just numbers. It’s also about working with the citizenry to improve their quality of life, understanding that theirs is not normal given what they would have gone through.

“So, there is any number of variables impacting some people’s responses to certain situations. And we understand that and, as was promised, we will do whatever we can to work with the good people of Abaco in these very difficult and trying circumstances. But you have Dorian and on the back of that, COVID-19, and so we have to be sensitive to that.”

Following Rolle’s comments, Abaconians shared numerous personal stories of their experiences with crime, especially theft, on the island. Many say that the issue is hampering rebuilding efforts and discouraging some people from returning. Residents also said that oftentimes crime is not reported due to a lack of faith in the response from police or that there is a lack of manpower on the island.

Dames said he does not believe a lack of manpower is the issue on Abaco.

“Sometimes it’s more than manpower,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s more than that. Abaco, for example, there was a lot of destruction.

“And so it’s managing within a disaster. As is often the case, you have to adjust from time to time and that’s what’s currently being done.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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