Although the crime statistics for January 2010 are looking "rather favourable" compared to January 2009, Senior Assistant Commissioner Quinn McCartney says he has warned his commanders that it is still too early to get comfortable.

McCartney was addressing members of the Rotary Club of Freeport during their weekly meeting at the Ruby Swiss Restaurant yesterday, and shared some of the strategies that will be implemented to help deal with the crime situation on the island.

Referring to the broken windows theory that was the catalyst to solving New York City's crime wave in the 1990s, McCartney said in the

coming months officers in the district will pay greater attention to "taking care of the little things."

The broken windows theory in essence suggests that little actions, considered nuisances and minor crimes, can lead to bigger and more serious crimes.

"While there was much criticism, this initiative and forcing greater accountability of precinct commanders resulted in crime rates dropping significantly in New York," he said.

"It is our belief that this somewhat old but effective strategy can have positive effects here in The Bahamas. We have seen The Bahamas and New Providence in particular, develop into a society where the respect for law and order has declined."

McCartney noted that the same nuisance crimes that plagued New York in the 1980s and 1990s are now commonplace in The Bahamas. Roadside vendors are appearing everywhere, he said, and there is a general disregard for no parking zones.

"There seems to be a general decline in the orderliness that we were once known for. In Grand Bahama, it is our belief that if greater attention is placed on taking care of the little things, we will be able to minimize the larger crimes."

The traffic division will be increasing the number of road checks conducted, divisional commanders will be encouraged to pay greater attention to the communities that they have responsibility for, and neighbourhood policing units will work in conjunction with government and nongovernmental agencies to pay attention to certain issues, he stated.

"Our strategy will include community walkabouts where commanders and their officers can get an up close and personal look at the communities under their charge. You will see more foot patrols and a greater police presence on a consistent basis on our streets."

McCartney said he remains cautiously optimistic that 2010 will be a better year than 2009 in terms of crime statistics, even though the 2009 figures were already lower than 2008.

"As occurred in 2009, the offences of housebreaking, shopbreaking, stealing and stealing from vehicles continue to present a challenge for us in Grand Bahama."

In 2009, he revealed there were a total of 541 housebreakings reported in Grand Bahama, with the majority of these occurring in the central and eastern divisions, These 541 break-ins account for 21 percent of all housebreaking for the entire Bahamas, and there you can see our cause for concern. Similar statistics are recorded for the other three crimes mentioned, he noted, with the percentage in Grand Bahama accounting for between 18 and 20 percent of offences recorded for the entire country.

"Our strategies will therefore place additional focus on these crimes."

The district's chief of police said a disturbing trend that has been observed in relation to those crimes in particular is the age of the persons who are involved.

The majority of persons who have been arrested and charged for the offence of housebreaking, for example are persons under the age of 25 years, he pointed out.

"Joint efforts by all partners must be geared to target these at-risk youth, who seem to find a life of crime as being attractive," he said.

"The challenge for us as a community is that even if caught, these young men only spend a few years in prison, only to be released after serving their sentences to return to their communities. If not properly rehabilitated... they will return to their lives of crime."

McCartney noted that Rotary International has a number of programs geared toward youth. It is hoped, he added, that through organizations such as the Interact Club, Rotaract and the Rotary Youth Exchange, alternative programs for young people can be provided that will encourage them to lead wholesome and productive lives.

"As you no doubt are aware, the more young people we have involved in positive activities, the less we have to worry about. And the more positive role models we have in our schools and in our communities, the more influence they can have on their peers," he said.

"I believe that change is achievable. While we expect quick solutions to long-standing, deep rooted problems, we must recognize that it is unrealistic that we will solve the problems over-night. However, I am convinced that if we work hard to remove the negative traits and trends, and replace them with positive alternatives, change will come."


Freeport News Reporter