NASSAU, The Bahamas — In the area of citizen security, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Perry Christie said that his Government has sought to modernize the nation’s law enforcement system through the provision of additional officers and equipment to the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
He added: “We have sought to modernize our prison system with legislation to address recidivism and improve rehabilitation; to reform our judicial system with the addition of ten new courts and additional legal officers to reduce system backlogs; to modernize our national defence system with investments of over $250 million on new fleet and bases for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; and to modernize our immigration system with investments of over $20 million.”
He was making his 2016/2017 Budget Presentation in the House of Assembly, May 25, 2016.
Prime Minister Christie stated that his Government’s Swift Justice initiative is also “bearing fruit” with conviction rates more than doubling — from 31 per cent in 2012 to 63 per cent in 2015.
“One hundred and ten more cases were tried in 2015 compared to 2012,” he added. “Seven murder cases were tried within one year of charge; and the backlog continues to steadily decrease.”
Prime Minister Christie noted that 21st century technology is being used to link witnesses from the Family Islands and internationally by video, saving time and money, and new witness anonymity protections allow for witnesses to testify by disguising their voices and obscuring their faces over video link. Also, he said, the Office of the Attorney General had a “most productive year” in 2015.
“Tracking and monitoring improvements and inadequacies have enabled strategic response and planning,” Prime Minister Christie said. “In addition to providing for the 10 criminal courts to sit concurrently, resources have been provided for a revamped court reporting unit to improve the timely provision of transcripts as well as to establish an Office of the Public Defender.
“The public can expect continued improvement in outcomes as we all work together to eliminate inefficiencies in the system.”
Prime Minister Christie said that the Government of The Bahamas has also expended significant sums of money to acquire and install cutting edge technologies in our fight against crime. These investments, he explained, were made in Ballistics, Digital Biometrics, Long Term Evolution Communication Technologies, Collaborative Enterprise Solutions, Integrated Justice Solutions, Electronic Monitoring Solutions, and Closed Circuit Television Solutions (CCTV), and other “cutting-edge” technology.
To date, he added, the new technology includes a state-of-the-art, multi-agency Smart-Net Integrated Trunking Communication System, which is designed for Public Safety.
“The system is shared among 18 government agencies and also serves as an emergency communication system for the National Emergency Management Agency,” he said. “In 2014, the ASTRO Digital Trunking System was further upgraded at a cost of $6.1 million. This allowed for a significant decrease in power consumption as well as the proper tracking and updating of one of what he termed the most important crime-fighting tools: the patrol cars.
With all the upgrades and enhancements, Prime Minister Christie said, further investments to maintain safety and security were necessary.
“There is now the ability to text to 919, and send videos directly to the Police Control Room. Currently, the systems are segmented and are standalones,” he said. “The new system will integrate the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), Dispatch and 919 platforms for use and operation from a single point.”
“The Government has also invested $4.5 million to install 243 cameras, mainly in the downtown area and hot crime spots of New Providence. All video feeds are sent either wirelessly or via fiber optics to a secure server located at the Police Headquarters.”
The camera feeds, he noted, are integrated with other incoming data sources, such as behavioral analytics systems and computer-aided dispatch (CAD), creating a common real-time operational dashboard.
“This offers the ability to easily integrate with third-party data and camera systems — public or private,” Prime Minister Christie said. “These additional systems can enhance law enforcement’s visibility into key areas of the city without large investments in additional assets.”
The base platform can be expanded and has the ability to add multiple smart function items, including Facial Recognition, Gun Shot Detection / location and License Plate Recognition,” he noted.
He added that there has been “much success” thus far with the CCTV system.
“The Government is currently in discussions to expand the system to over 1,000 cameras, which is expected to cover essentially all the exit/entry points in Nassau,” he said.
To further protect the borders of The Bahamas and enhance national security, the Government is actively pursuing the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with high-resolution imagery, Prime Minister Christie announced.
This technology is intended to improve upon the interdiction of drug traffickers, poachers, smugglers, human traffickers and illegal migrants,” he said. “It will also improve upon the search and rescue missions.”
As well, he continued, a state-of-the-art police and fire Station is “well on its way” to completion in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Expanded and newly refurbished facilities are being made available for a Police Station in Lower Deadman’s Cay, Long Island, he said.
“An Agreement has also been reached with the New Providence Development Company Limited for the purchase, by the Government, of properties at a cost of $2.1 million to establish a Police Station in southwestern New Providence,” Prime Minister Christie said. “In addition, the number of Police Reservist Officers has been increased by 200; and the maximum number of hours worked by Police Reserve Officers, for which they are paid, has been increased from 150 to 200 hours per month.”
“We expect that the additions of the expanded use of technology by our law enforcement officers will significantly improve their crime-fighting capacity, as well as prove to a deterrent to crime.”
As for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Prime Minister Christie said, the Government, in 2013, earmarked some $232 million under the Sandy Bottom Project towards equipping and decentralizing the Defence Force to increase its overall efficacy. This investment — the largest capital outlay of its kind in the history of The Bahamas — was well-received and necessary in light of the myriad threats confronting the nation.
“These security threats were compounded by an aging fleet, shortage of personnel, and limited bases, to name but a few,” he said. “To resolve these issues that dilute the effectiveness of the Force’s efforts, major changes are being implemented within the Defence Force.”
These changes include, Prime Minister Christie said, the decentralization of the Defence Force; the augmentation and modernization of the Force’s fleet and bases under the Sandy Bottom Project; and the accelerated rate of recruitment of personnel.
The final two of nine patrol crafts are slated to arrive in The Bahamas in August of this year, and the agreed completion date for all civil works, including the construction of buildings and quay walls in Coral Harbour, Inagua and Ragged Island, is scheduled for October 2016, he noted.
The people of The Bahamas are reaping positive returns on this “sizeable” investment, he said.
“HMBS Lignum Vitae and HMBS Lawrence Major have both intercepted and apprehended undocumented migrants and have provided vital 34 assistance in bringing relief to persons affected by Hurricane Joaquin in the Family Islands,” Prime Minister Christie said. “More specifically, Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ship Lawrence Major, for example, apprehended over forty undocumented migrants in February of this year.”
“This 185-foot vessel has also assisted with disaster management efforts in delivering relief supplies and reconstruction materials to islands that were adversely impacted by Hurricane Joaquin,” he continued. “The 17-container Mobile Base with disaster relief equipment was also deployed to Crooked Island where it provided food, water, technical and medical support to residents on that island for a four-month period.”
The strategic deployment of the new patrol crafts has resulted in the significant reduction in poaching incidents. Indeed, our fishermen have reported increases in their catch/harvesting, Prime Minister Christie noted.
“Finally, the Defence Force has implemented Operation Secure Shores with increased patrols of the borders of New Providence such that there has been the detection and apprehension of persons suspected of planning criminal activities and/or criminals have been apprehended with the assistance of the Police Force,” he added.