National Advisory Crime Council Holds First Meeting

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National Advisory Crime Council members pose with Minister of National Security the Hon. O.A.T. “Tommy Turnquest, at Ministry of National Security, “Church House” Complex, on the corner of East Street and Sands Road. Pictured in the front row, from left, are Carlos Reid; Council Chairman Bishop Simeon Hall; Minister Turnquest; Arlene Nash-Ferguson and Marie Scott. Standing, from left, are Percentie Roberts; Frank Camito; Chief Superintendent of Police Hulan Hanna; Felix Stubbs; Dr. Ivan Butler, Jr., and Michael Neville. (Photo/Raymond A. Bethel)

By: Matt Maura

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Senior Pastor of the New Covenant Baptist Church Bishop Simeon Hall, was appointed to serve as Chairman of the National Advisory Council on Crime (NACC).

Bishop Hall will be assisted by Mrs. Arlene Nash-Ferguson, Dr. Vicente Roberts, Mr. Felix Stubbs, Mr. Carlos Reid, Reverend Dr. Ivan Butler, Mr. Frank Comito, Dr. Michael Neville, Chief Superintendent of Police Hulan Hanna, Ms. Maria Scott (Representative of victims and families of victims) and Ms. Anastarcia Huyler, President of the College of The Bahamas Union of Students.

Minister of National Security the Hon. O.A.T. “Tommy” Turnquest said, on December 19, 2007, that the establishment of the NACC was one of the principal recommendations of the National Assembly on Crime.

He said the Council is not “seeking to reinvent the wheel” but will be responsible for ensuring that the wheel “is properly oiled so that it will function at the optimal level.”

The National Security Minister said the NACC’s role will be to provide direction for the implementation of the recommendations of the National Assembly on Crime; to review and incorporate into its work the previous and ongoing initiatives in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice and to sustain public dialogue nation-wide on strategies for a more peaceful and stable Bahamas.

It will also be responsible for providing input on national policies and programmes to reduce crime and criminality, particularly in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice; to work together with Government and stakeholders to bring forward new and practical proposals and approaches for halting and reversing current crime trends in The Bahamas, and to spearhead the development of a National Strategy to tackle crime.

“The persons selected to the National Advisory Council on Crime are persons who are widely known and respected in The Bahamas and abroad because they have distinguished themselves in critical aspects of nation-building and have taken decisive and courageous stances on matters of importance to our country and our people,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Mr. Turnquest said the Crime Council is expected to be “an important bridge” between the work of the National Assembly on Crime and the many invaluable initiatives – past and ongoing – in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice.

He said the Council will also be responsible for ensuring that the public “has a voice in the initiatives we take” in the areas of crime prevention and criminal justice.

“The public dialogue, which took place at the National Assembly and through other national initiatives, is being kept open throughout the islands of The Bahamas,” Mr. Turnquest said. “The public is urged to bring its concerns to the attention of the Council. Stakeholders are urged to provide input and data to underpin its discussions and decisions.”

Mr. Turnquest said such public dialogue and stakeholder input will be “critical” to the Crime Council fulfilling its mandate to provide input into national policies and programmes in all areas that impact crime and criminality and the prevention of crime and criminality in The Bahamas.

He said it will also make the Council’s cooperation with Government and stakeholders “more dynamic and effective.”

“In particular, it will ensure that we are able to bring forward new and practical proposals and take new and innovative approaches to halt and reverse current crime trends in The Bahamas,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Minister Turnquest said the NACC already has within its purview, the convening of the National Youth Anti-Crime and Non-Violence Forum, which will be held in February 2008. He said the hosting of the Forum is another key recommendation of the National Assembly on Crime.

“We urge all young people of The Bahamas to participate in this Forum and to make their necessary contributions to measures aimed at preventing crime and violence among our young people,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Mr. Turnquest said the Council will also “provide guidance” to the National Anti-Crime Public Relations Campaign, which is expected to be rolled out in early 2008.

He said it will be “unrealistic” to expect that the current initiatives, including the appointment of the Council, will lead to “an immediate and dramatic turnaround” in crime trends in The Bahamas.

“Regrettably, there are many factors both national and international that continue to challenge us on a daily basis,” Mr. Turnquest said. “Only last week, for example, a CARICOM/United States of America Seminar on Combating Illicit Trafficking in Arms was held here in Nassau. That seminar emphatically underscored the profound impact guns illegally smuggled or trafficked into small-island and archipelagic States, such as The Bahamas, is having on the crime situation.

“We know only too well that illegal guns account for much of the violence and murders in our country,” Mr. Turnquest continued, “we expect the Crime Council to keep this serious problem in view.”

Mr. Turnquest said officials at the Ministry of National Security understand that they must put in place a long-term National Strategy to tackle the problem of crime in all of its aspects. He said they further understand that sometimes their initiatives may only yield incremental results.

“What we do have working in our favour, however, is a national consensus that the crime rate in our country is too high and that we are not prepared to accept this (and) so we will be seeking to put in place measures that will have immediate effect on the crime problem,” Mr. Turnquest added.