Categorized | National News

Drug Flow Reduced by 70 Per Cent

Government officials announced yesterday that Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) the multi-agency, international drug interdiction group has, to date, reduced the flow of cocaine through The Bahamas by 70 per cent.

While delivering opening remarks at OPBAT award ceremony and “Narcotics Trafficking Trends and Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean” Roundtable Discussion Thursday Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said based on work done in the region, OPBAT is considered to be one of the most successful counter drug enforcement initiatives in the region.

“The OPBAT initiative is vitally important to reduce the flow of illicit drugs into The Bahamas, as our porous borders, afford individuals the opportunity to traverse the country illegally in an attempt to make landfall in the United States to deliver their illegal cargo,” he said.

“The Bahamas, in recent years, has seen a significant growth in violent crimes due to the movement, and distribution of illicit drugs. The movements of these drugs act as a bridge to organised crimes such as trafficking in human beings and in weapons. It has been found that criminals not only attempt to transport one particular item independent of the others, but rather, it is the trend to transport the three together.”

OPBAT was established in 1983 in an effort to stop the flow of illegal drugs from South America and the Caribbean to The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and the United States.

The OPBAT Operations Centre is located in the American Embassy in downtown Nassau, and is responsible for initiating and prosecuting law enforcement cases in the Bahamian area of responsibility.

Minister Mitchell said as The Bahamas looks toward the future, it recognises the vast amount of good occurring as a result of the OPBAT initiative, evident in the reduction of illicit drugs and irregular migratory flows.

“The initiative has been proven to be beneficial and has become a virtual necessity in the fight against the transport of illicit drugs, an initiative that should be continued,” he added. “While the primary focus has been counter drug efforts, the OPBAT assets have also been utilised for natural disaster response as well as search and rescue exercises.

“Truly this is a mammoth task by any measure, and the tripartite agreement is currently exceeding all expectations.”

Officials also announced that in 2013, OPBAT seized one metric ton of cocaine and over 28 metric tons of marijuana which led to 154 arrests, 181 saved lives and over $4 million in U.S currency ceased.
Deputy Director for Supply Reduction in the Office of National Drug Policy Marilyn Quagliotti explained why OPBAT was so deserving of the award.

“We have people and teams around the world doing drug intervention and this award is given annually to the teams that have impressed us the most by improving the most or by putting the most effort into their jobs or achieving the most,’’ said Quagliotti.

Members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, International Law Enforcement Affairs and many other law organisations were also recipients of the award which was presented by US Charge’ D’affaires Lisa Johnson.
Some recipients of the award were Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade, Officer-in-charge of the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) Chief Superintendent Samuel Butler Ambassador William R. Brownsfield of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs among several others.

U.S. Commander Mark Diver expressed his appreciation of being chosen for the award after he received it this morning.
“I’m incredibly proud of the men and women who serve alongside me in this fight. It’s an important fight that we all need to be a part of and put our resources towards and to see the men and women i serve with be recognised in this way makes me very honored,” said Diver.

He said that he and the other recipients and all of their teams have worked extremely hard in their efforts to cease drug related crimes and though the task may be a bit difficult, the teams never ceased in getting the job done.

“We partner and the Coast Guard is a very proud partner of this group of folks that work every day to stop the illicit flow of narcotics in to the United States, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. It’s a cooperative effort; we use a combination of surface assets and aircrafts. It entails many hours of investigative activity and ultimately the interdiction of narcotics keeping our streets safe for our citizenry,” he said.

The recipients say they look forward to working even harder in the efforts against drug trafficking next year.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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