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What will it take to reclaim our country from the unrelenting scourge of violent crimes?

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Ed Forbes 

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk 

 

#TurksandCaicos, August 16, 2022 – With the news cycle moving at such a rapid pace, too often we tend to overlook or forget the pain and suffering some families are still going through from the senseless loss of their love ones to gun violence.

As a resident of Grand Turk, I am still angered and heartbroken over the loss of so many young lives and the senseless acts of aggression within our communities across these islands.

We are seeing a disturbing and significant increase in violent crimes primarily among our young men. Many  of the crimes appeared to be gang affiliated, pent up anger or some score that needed to be settled.

Now is high time we come together to find solutions to eradicate violent crimes. Rather than casting blame or pointing fingers let us stand alongside each other and our elected leaders with determination and power to actualize change.

Yes, we need to hold our elected and appointed leaders accountable for their actions or lack thereof, but I dispel this notion that having x number of additional police officers on the streets would have prevented these unfortunate incidents from happening. In addition, we cannot expect law enforcement nor the government to have all the answers.

Our communities need to become more proactive and we cannot rest until we see more positive results because this is what our citizens deserve.

With that being said, what progress if any has been made on the crime prevention initiatives for Grand Turk? Such proposal stemmed from a town hall meeting held nearly 6 months ago, following a devastating fire on an apartment complex in Grand Turk that left residents temporarily displaced.

Such initiative is what helps to keep the communities more engaged. Make no mistake about it, with the easy access between Islands, it could only be a matter of time before we see a spill over of criminal related activities.

Criminals are becoming more stealthier and lawyers are becoming savvy. Therefore, if our policing strategies are not regularly re-evaluated and revised, one of the challenges we will continue to face is suspects will be arrested but the evidence will be lacking to prosecute them.

And again, we are not telling law enforcement how to do their jobs, just offering what we see as viable solutions.

These are unprecedented times; therefore, we must take bold and sometimes costly steps to affect the desired results.

The most practical and effective way to impact armed violence is a relentless effort to stem the flow of illegal guns into TCI, and inter island transport of weapons.

If the escalating gun violence is largely in part due to the result of compromised boarders, then put the necessary resources in place to fix it.

For example, a dedicated marine vessel in Grand Turk.

Border control is one of, if not, the most important benefit of Turks and Caicos Islands being a British overseas territory. As such, they have an obligation to properly protect our boarders, provide adequate support and enhanced technology in this area. Henceforth, let us hold their feet to fire to help get the job done.

If we fail to properly protect our borders head on, like many third world countries, there is a clear and present danger of TCI becoming the next heaven for illegal weapons trade.

One may never grasp or understand why these good upbringing young individuals do what they do. Maybe they have lost hope in the system of justice, struggling with mental illness and are now embracing their new twisted beliefs with a fervor that is, perhaps, not understandable or comprehensible to others.

Thereby, this may be the driving force that push them to commit these heinous acts of violence against one another and our citizens.

Either way, their actions impacts every single one of us in some form or fashion. The question that will always remain is, are these really heartless criminals or are they just seeking social mobility and trying to make progress for themselves for which they now deem as acceptable norms?

In my professional opinion, what we are seeing in this young generation in terms of their behavior, is simply a shift in attitudes. Some of these individuals become very frustrated because they are not finding any routes to making real progress, they find their paths blocked and frustration can lead to aggression. As a result, they are now classifying violence as a justified means to an end.

What we need are long-term and short-term public policies to address these issues, to include a strong focus on neighborhoods suffering from socio-economic inequalities. We have got to find ways to avoid our youth from becoming expandable in the wrong areas of life, because in the end, no one wins.

Below are some suggestions of a 7 point short-and long-term solution and a framework which we can continue to build upon to help curb crime and improve outcomes.

  1. The formation of an active tactical police unit geared specifically toward gang related crimes. This should include the necessary training and expertise in this area. Let us try to nip this in the bud before it gets way out of hand and more innocent bystanders or unintended targets become victims.
  2. Focus on creative ways to rid illegal guns off the streets, coupled with data-driven deployment of officers.
  3. Implement a focused deterrence approach geared toward high-risk repeat offenders to include increased visits from their probation officers and providing available resources to assist them.
  4. Increase the existing budget for CCTV cameras for both Grand Turk and Provo, to include additional placement and quality of equipment to improve video footage.
  5. Conduct close review of law enforcement salaries compared to other departments and agencies. This will determine equitable compensation and cost of living regardless of Belongers status. This will also help to improve officers morale and loyalty and minimize any thoughts of corruption.
  6. Based on in-depth analysis and crime data, set up police substations in high crime ridden areas or communities that are suffering from spatial displacement of police presence.
  7. Real rehabilitation and mental health treatment for incarcerated criminals, because they are not serving life sentences and will eventually be released into society.

We are certainly at a crossroad here and what brought us to this point is certainly not for a lack of effort on the part of our dedicated men and women serving on our police force.

What we must demand at every level, is accountability of performance and results driven leadership. I am still confident, that collectively we can come up with some viable and effective solutions to this growing madness. It’s a must, as our lives and our livelihood are depending on it.

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Bahamas News

Statement on Road Traffic Department 

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#TheBahamas, September 26, 2022 – As an integral agency under the Ministry of Transport and Housing, the Road Traffic Department is responsible for the collection of revenue from vehicle licensing and inspection fees.

On an annual basis, the revenue from the Road Traffic Department exceeds 60 million dollars.

This revenue is critical in supporting the programmes and initiatives of the Government of The Bahamas and covers the operating costs of the Road Traffic Department.

The revenue must be protected.

To ensure the integrity of revenue collected, numerous processes and procedures have been implemented. Additionally, several audits have been undertaken to ensure that employees act in accordance with the established protocols of the Department.

The Ministry is aware of allegations and discord in the public domain between two employees at the Road Traffic Department.

While it is not the policy of the Government of The Bahamas to publicly comment on internal staff matters, the Ministry takes grave exception to personal allegations against employees being made public while the allegations remain under investigation by independent parties.

Public Officers are reminded of the provisions of General Orders which disallows public statements on any matter.

The Ministry continues to foster and encourage a harmonious and respectful working environment at the Road Traffic Department and all agencies under its remit.

The Ministry remains strongly committed to strengthening the audit and compliance oversight of the Road Traffic Department and will not be deterred its efforts to safeguard the Government’s revenue stream.

 

September 26th, 2022 

Ministry of Transport & Housing

Commonwealth of The Bahamas

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Bahamas News

NEMA Director orders activation of shelters in GB, Bimini

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – Director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Captain Stephen Russell, Wednesday, ordered the activation of shelters in Grand Bahama and Bimini as a precautionary measure against potential impacts from Tropical Storm-Force conditions associated with Hurricane Ian.

 Six shelters were activated in Grand Bahama (two in Freeport, two in Eight-Mile Rock, and one each in Pinedale, Seagrape and Holmes’ Rock) and one in Bimini (Gateway in Bailey Town) at 10am. Captain Russell also announced that Floodwater Rescue Teams have been pre-positioned in West End and Alice Town as yet another precautionary measure.

 The National Emergency Management Agency’s National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) remained on Partial Activation Wednesday and will remain Activated throughout the response phase. Teams from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, The Bahamas Department of Meteorology, the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Local Government, have been in communication with Island Administrators, Local Government officials and Disaster Consultative Committees in the north-western Bahamas.

 During Partial Activation, certain NEOC Team Members (known as Emergency Support Functions) are activated to monitor certain risks and/or hazards in areas that could be impacted by weather conditions associated with the passage of a storm, and as a means of communicating with/supporting disaster managers and planners and disaster consultative committees on the ground in those areas.

 The NEOC is responsible for executing emergency management and ensuring the continuity of operations for the entire country.

 Meanwhile, a Tropical Storm Warning remained in effect for the north-western Bahamas as at 12noon Wednesday with residents of Grand Bahama and the Biminis being advised to prepare for the possibility of sustained Tropical Storm-Force winds tonight through Thursday. Residents in the remainder of the northwest Bahamas, including Abaco, the Berry Islands, North Andros, New Providence and Eleuthera, could experience winds gusting to gale-force during this period.

 (A Tropical Storm Warning means that Tropical Storm conditions could be experienced in the mentioned islands within 36 hours.) 

 Forecasters at The Bahamas Department of Meteorology said rainbands associated with Hurricane Ian, will continue to affect the islands of the northwest Bahamas today and Thursday. Residents in these islands are asked to exercise extreme caution as the rainbands will bring severe thunderstorms, gusty winds and possible tornadic activity.

 Total rainfall amounts of 4 to 6 inches are expected with isolated amounts of up to 8 inches through Friday. As a result, severe, localized flooding is possible in low-lying and flood-prone areas.

Residents of low-lying, flood-prone areas of the north-western Bahamas, are asked to take special precautions during any heavy and/or prolonged rainfall event, and to exercise extreme caution in the event there is flooding. One such precautionary measure is to avoid driving in or through floodwater, where possible, or playing in floodwater (children) as floodwater can contain numerous hidden hazards. These include:

  • Downed power lines.
  • Sewage and other contaminants.
  • Large Holes.
  • Sharp objects that can cause injury and lead to infections.
  • Objects such as lumber, vehicles, debris.
  • Carcasses of dead animals, in addition to rodents and snakes.

Exposure to contaminated floodwater can result in:

  • Wound infections.
  • Skin rash.
  • Gastrointestinal illnesses.
  • Tetanus (Lock-jaw).

If you do come into contact with floodwater, you are advised to:

  • Wash the area with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you do not have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizers.
  • Wash clothes contaminated with floodwater or sewage water in hot water and detergent before re-using them.

If you must enter floodwater, protect yourselves by wearing rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles. The same goes for Standing Water.

The National Emergency Management Agency reminds residents to pay close attention to the Alerts, NEWS ITEMS, Public Forecasts, Severe Weather Warnings and/or Special Weather Statements issued by The Bahamas Department of Meteorology.

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Bahamas News

Glass Window Bridge envisioned as a symbol of resilience and sustainability says Works and Utilities Minister

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By KATHRYN CAMPBELL

Bahamas Information Services

 

#ELEUTHERA, The Bahamas, September 27, 2022 –  A new bridge design that incorporates opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs was presented at a Town Hall Meeting Thursday, September 22, 2022 at St. Patrick’s Lodge Hall, Hatchet Bay.

During the livestreamed event the Minister of Works and Utilities, the Hon. Alfred Sears; the Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs; island administrators, representatives of the Ministry of Works, Town Planning Board, the Bridge Authority, Local Government, Lambert Knowles and other consultants, and residents of Eleuthera discussed plans for the proposed replacement of the Glass Window Bridge (GWB) in North Eleuthera.

Minister Sears termed the meeting very “successful” consultation and attendance by local stakeholders and virtual participants.

He said Mr. Knowles has assembled a world-class team of bridge designers who have put together a design that will turn the GWB “into a symbol of resilience, sustainability and also a place of entertainment and relaxation where Bahamian businesses can come and share in the wonderful goods of Eleuthera to the international travelling public as well as the residents in Eleuthera.

“We’re speaking now with Caribbean Development Bank with respect to funding; the design is now completed, there is also interest in PPP’s. Within the next two months we should have a funding pathway and then of course we will move on the procurement. Once the funding is in place we will announce a date.”

“It is not only a look out point, we are approaching this project as an enterprise where the people who live in Eleuthera would have the same opportunities that the people in South would have as the Disney Project would have, but it would be more significant than Disney because this project would be owned by Bahamian people — entrepreneurs, performers and culinary artists.

“Eleuthera is one of the places in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas where development is taking place very rapidly. It is one of the most unique communities in our country; it is the fifth largest economy within the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. We have some of the wealthiest industrialists with homes in Eleuthera; we also have booming Bahamian business resorts throughout Eleuthera.”

The GWD represents a place where we “can build opportunities for Bahamian businesses, Bahamian entrepreneurs to showcase the imagination of the Bahamian crafts persons, also to showcase the culinary skills as well as the extraordinary culinary dishes of Bahamian cuisine,” he said.

Although “spectacular” Minister Sears said the current one-lane bridge is “dangerous” and unable to facilitate the transport of freight from the north to the south of the island because its carrying capacity is only 12 tonnes — anything over 12 tonnes cannot be transported over the bridge.

He noted other challenges and informed that the bridge is not fulfilling the potential that it has for the development of Eleuthera.

Using a Power Point presentation, Mr. Knowles introduced the design team, technical aspects of the built design and various options considered for the new bridge.

He said the proposed bridge will be unique; a picture opportunity and a venue to host an event. It will have a park, security, rest rooms, parking, a location for food trucks to sell crafts and food; and topography with different elevation.

During the question and answer segment, Minister Sears said a decision has not yet been made regarding a bridge toll on the major undertaking.

“It is a project which multilateral bodies and private sector investors have expressed an interest in participating in the funding. It is a project that once we have the community by-in the government is committed to building a world class production at this location.” Construction is expected to take place on the proposed bridge from 2023-2026 at an estimated cost of $50-$60 million.

The GWB was built in 1990 and provides the only vehicular link between North and South Eleuthera.

 

(BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)

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