ROME, Italy, Tuesday November 6, 2012 – The Bahamas has called on the international law enforcement community to help the Caribbean deal with the illegal drugs trade , warning that despite regional efforts to curb the shipment of illegal drugs the trade has left behind a culture of dishonesty, disrespect, and urban violence in the country.
National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage, addressing the International Police (INTERPOL) General assembly here, said that The Bahamas, for example, has not been able to escape being a transit country for cocaine and marijuana destined for North America.
He said as a result, many Bahamians, who were accustomed to the benefits which they derived from the drug trade and a false economy “must now face the harsh reality that they must legitimately work.
“Many of them, predominantly our young men, are ill prepared and as a result have turned to other forms of crimes. These crimes include human smuggling, illegal gambling, robberies, a myriad of other property crimes, and fraudulent activities. “
Nottage told the international gathering that the transport, sale, and use of illegal drugs continue to fuel crime in many countries and that a consequence of the drug trade is the possession, trafficking, and use of illegal firearms to commit serious crimes.
He said while the United States and Mexican authorities have sought to deal harshly with the situation, those engaged in the illegal trade are now turning their attention to softer targets and will demonstrate an aggressive exploitation intent.
“Suffice it to say, we feel that the Caribbean region will attract the attention of these organizations. We therefore, support the view that proactive and urgent attention must be directed to our region – the Caribbean.
“We must not be caught napping nor should we repeat the mistakes of the early 80’s. We must carefully assess the current risks to our countries and move hastily to build capacity to discourage and negate any attempt to exploit our region.”
Nottage said that The Bahamas, in the last decade, has experienced a new gun culture where more illegal weapons were ending up in the hands of criminals.
“Consequently, serious crimes have increased in The Bahamas and a significant amount of serious offences such as murder, armed robberies, and serious wounding are being perpetrated with illegal firearms. “
He said so far this year, a total of 415 illegal firearms have been recovered in The Bahamas and that “our statistical data tells us that 99 per cent of these weapons are traced to United States of America, particularly the state of Florida”.
He said that soon after he was appointed National Security Minister he immediately undertook to provide all of the necessary resources, and support to law enforcement agencies in the country.
“I also gave my support to existing mutual legal assistance treaties between my country and other countries and renewed our commitment to working even more closely with regional and international law enforcement agencies to make our countries safer places to live, visit, work, and play.
“To date, all categories of crimes are trending downward in The Bahamas. For the year to date murder is down by 14 per cent over the same period for last year and our detection rate is up significantly. I am very pleased with the work being done by our law enforcement agencies and I am optimistic that we will continue to make good gains as we seek to keep our country safe for visitors and residents alike”.
But Nottage said that in the face of new and emerging threats, “all of us in law enforcement must adapt our policing strategies to move ahead of organized crime groups and criminals”.
He said these strategies should include but not be limited to leveraging existing partnerships with Interpol, Europol and other regional and global law enforcement organizations.
He said there was also a need to work with governments and their public safety and law enforcement organs to build capacity and to improve communications and cooperation.
Nottage has pledged to continue participating in INTERPOL and other global law enforcement activities, adding that The Bahamas anticipates hosting a meeting of the International Police Executive Symposium during 2014. (CMC)