Nassau, The Bahamas – During his first broadcast public statement for 2024, on January 14, Prime Minister and Minister Finance the Hon. Philip Davis noted that he would have preferred to have taken that time to “set out the plans we have in place to further lift our national development in 2024.”
“Instead, with the country having witnessed 11 murders over the past 14 days, I want to speak to you about the things we are doing to reduce the incidence of crime, and the plans we are beginning to implement ultimately to prevent crime being committed in the first place,” he said.
“Over the past year, and in the past few weeks in particular, New Providence has been the scene of senseless carnage, much of it attributed to persons already on bail for serious offences,” Prime Minister added. “Most murderers and victims have also been connected to those associated in some way with gangs.
“Gang-related activity has plagued our country for far too long.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, over the years a number of initiatives had been launched to try to deal with that issue. He added that his Government was, at that time, preparing the “most comprehensive approach yet.”
“Our frontline response to the present crisis is to bring forward a strategy which is already in the advanced stages of planning,” Prime Minister Davis stated.
He added: “Our approach lies in three stages: ‘Clear, Hold and Build’. We’re going on the offensive. Put simply, our first phase is to ‘Clear’ out the gangs from our neighbourhoods.
Our police, armed with new resources and resolve, will strike hard against these gangs. We’re not just disrupting them, we’re dismantling them. We will show no mercy to those who have shown no mercy to their fellow citizens.
“If you choose crime, you will face the full weight and might of the law.”
Prime Minister Davis stated that, after clearing those neighbourhoods, they are not “just walking away”; and will move to phase two, which is the ‘Hold’ phase. The police, he added, will ‘hold’ these communities by maintaining an “ongoing, relentless presence.”
“This is an area which we think has not been addressed fully in the past,” Prime Minister Davis pointed out. “We’re sending a clear message to any criminal who thinks they can make a comeback: we’re here, we’re here to stay, and we’re not going anywhere.
“This phase is about constant vigilance and strength.”
Lastly, Prime Minister Davis continued, his Government will ‘Build, adding “not just buildings and roads, but building opportunities, building futures, building hope”.
“This is about investing in our communities, creating opportunities that didn’t exist before, and ensuring that crime is never again seen as a desirable option.
“We’re not just reclaiming our streets; we are revitalizing them,” he added. “‘Clear, Hold, Build’. It’s an approach which has been used in some form or another in other countries, with significant degrees of success.
“We are adapting it to suit the situation on the ground here in The Bahamas, and we are fully resolved to do what is necessary to succeed.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that most of the killings in The Bahamas were gun-related; and that there were “far too many” firearms on the nation’s streets.
“In fact, we have already begun to take more aggressive actions against those found in possession to support our zero-tolerance approach,” he said. “Our Anti-Gang and Firearm Task Force is in full swing.
Prime Minister Davis added: “Last year the Judiciary designated a magistrate specifically to deal with firearms offences. We now have quicker prosecutions, with stiffer penalties being imposed. From the date of first appearance in court to conviction or acquittal, it now takes an average of two months rather than a number of years as was previously the case.
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that the backlog was also being cleared. Swift Justice was at work, he added; and he noted that his Government “will build on this success”.
“Friends: You won’t believe where we’re finding these guns: stashed in cereal boxes and tucked away in snack packets, buried in innocent-looking surroundings,” he continued. “Guns are also being hidden by girlfriends, parents and grandparents.”
“Most worryingly, children and young people are being used to hide weapons near schools or even attempting to smuggle them in their underwear – and this is true of both girls and boys,” Prime Minister Davis added.
He said that it was clear evidence of the lengths criminals will go to.
“But let me tell you, no matter how clever these gangs think they are, our task force is smarter, tougher, and more determined,” Prime Minister Davis stated. “We’re uncovering their tricks, and we’re putting an end to their game.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that guns are not made in The Bahamas, with firearms coming from abroad, primarily from the United States.
“I’ve been straight with the US Government about the need to step up their game, and they have, as a result, tightened their response,” he said. “Our partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is strengthening.”
“We’re not just talking; we’re taking action,” Prime Minister Davis added. “We’re tracking down Bahamians with dual citizenship who have been buying guns in the US and trafficking them here.
“And it’s working – we’ve already busted some major operations.”