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Regional Ministers of Security Urged to be Innovative in Crime Fighting

Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage urged his colleagues to continue to explore innovative policies to arrest the high level of crime and violence he deemed a challenge to the progress of developing countries.

Dr. Nottage gave his colleagues that message as he addressed the Caribbean-United States High-Level Citizen Security Dialogue held last Thursday at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.

Prime Minister Perry Christie delivered the keynote address at the one-day dialogue. Also addressing the opening ceremony were Roberta S. Jacobson, US assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere (WHA), Lisa Johnson, Charge d’Affaires, United States Embassy, Nassau, and Adriel Braithwaite, Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs of Barbados; Chair of CARICOM Council of Ministers responsible for National Security and Law Enforcement.

Dr. Nottage said he was pleased to host ministers of national security from the region and US officials to the “very important dialogue,” the purpose of which was to strengthen relations in the fight against crime and other forms of violence plaguing the region.

“High crime and violence present a paramount challenge to the progress of developing countries as it directly affects human welfare in the short-term and economic growth in the long-term,” he said.

He observed that there are three major security issues facing the Caribbean region, namely: the illicit drug trade, firearms trafficking and at-risk youth.

About the illicit drug trade, Dr. Nottage said the Caribbean region is particularly vulnerable to the illegal drug trade as it is situated between the world’s largest source of cocaine – South America – and the primary consumer market – North America.

“Hence, the Caribbean has become the main transit point for a torrent of narcotics. Compounding our difficulties, Caribbean countries have large coastlines and territorial waters that make interdiction efforts extremely tedious,” he said.

The drug trade has also resulted in increased levels of violence ranging from petty theft to murder and the war on drugs continues.

According to Dr Nottage, a major focus in this regard should be geared toward the protection of the youth, as there is a growing trend of drug and tobacco distributors focusing efforts on marketing their products to young people.

“Greater effort in drug education and intervention strategies must be realized to discontinue this trend,” he said.

Regarding trafficking in firearms, Dr. Nottage said the drug trade drives crime through violence associated with trafficking and contributes to the widespread availability of firearms.

He referred to a United Nations study on world murder rates, which states that the region has the highest murder rate at 16.3 per capita, compared to Europe at 3.0 per capita, Asia at 2.9 per capita and the entire world at 6.2.

“Clearly, a strategy designed to reduce and control the number of illegal firearms in our region will have a profound effect on the high regional murder rate,” Dr Nottage said.

The third security issue, at-risk youth, he said are “disproportionately” represented in the ranks of both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence.

Moreover, in many Caribbean countries, violent crimes are being committed at younger ages. Injuries from youth violence constitute a major public health, social and economic problem across the Caribbean.

“Locally, the Urban Renewal Programme is a direct response to past and current problems facing a number of inner city communities in The Bahamas such as crime, poor housing conditions, joblessness, illiteracy, homelessness and other social ills that contribute to crime and anti-social behaviour among youth,” Dr Nottage said.

He mentioned that the recently introduced “Shock Treatment” by his ministry was developed to help young Bahamians who have strayed down the wrong path to become more sensitized to the consequences of deviant behaviour.

“While these programmes are good, more of them need to be subject to rigorous impact evaluation and follow-up, he said.

“As security leaders throughout the Caribbean region and the United States acknowledge the gravity of the problem, let us continue to reflect and explore innovative policy responses both nationally and regionally,” Dr. Nottage said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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