By Krystel Rolle
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Bahamas’ crime problem continues to be a cause of concern for the United States Department of State, which has an obligation to report possible threats to its citizens, acting US charge d’affaires John Armstrong said on Wednesday.
Armstrong, who was speaking to The Nassau Guardian following a press conference at the US Embassy, said there can be no doubt that crime is a major issue here.
“I will be perfectly honest, Bahamian officials, average Bahamians, American diplomats and other diplomats have noticed that there’s a serious situation,” he said referring to crime. “The murder rate has recently dropped some and that’s a good sign but with some other crimes, based on what the media said and Bahamian law officials, basically the trend has been in a different direction.
“When we warn our citizens we look at the situation. We have an obligation to tell them just as the Bahamian government would tell its citizens if there was a situation in the United States or anywhere else in the world.”
He added: “Prime Minister Perry Christie and National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage have all expressed concern. It would be strange to expect that we would not express a similar concern to our own citizens.”
While the murder count is down compared to this time last year, it is unclear whether other categories of crime have recorded a decrease or an increase. Nottage told The Guardian recently that crime is down overall and said on Wednesday that he would provide the data soon.
Last year the United States Department of State rated the crime threat level in New Providence as “critical” and “high” in Grand Bahama.
“New Providence Island, in particular, has experienced a spike in crime that has adversely affected the traveling public,” said the Bahamas 2012 Crime and Safety Report, which was released last May. “Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes against tourists. There has been a dramatic increase in general crimes in 2011.”
It added: “In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in ‘Over-the-Hill’ areas, which are not frequented by tourists.
“However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations. These incidents have specifically occurred in the downtown areas, including the cruise ship dock (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach commerce areas.”
And while the country hasn’t made much strides as it relates to fixing the crime problem, Armstrong said the US Department of State has noted the successes in relation to drug interdictions and human trafficking.
“I have to say the great successes by Bahamas law enforcement supported by US law enforcement in the first three months of the year have been noted, both here and in Washington and we want more of this,” Armstrong said.
In the past few months police made two major drug busts, taking in nearly $3 million worth of cocaine from two Haitian vessels. The drug finds resulted in the arrest of 11 men and the confiscation of 177 kilos of cocaine.
In its latest report, the US Department of State said Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organizations continue to play a major role in the movement of cocaine.
The 2013 International Narcotic Control Strategy Report said, “Investigations of these organizations are hindered by a lack of trusted and appropriately assigned Creole speakers within the RBPF Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU). Investigations reveal that Bahamian drug trafficking organizations are using the Turks and Caicos Islands as a transshipment point.”
Police this year also arrested nine Colombian nationals at Lynden Pindling International Airport after they were found in possession of liquid cocaine in two separate incidents.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian