The Government of The Bahamas is spending millions of dollars to upgrade law enforcement agencies throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in the war on crime, but Bahamian communities must commit to “getting off the sidelines” and joining the fight against crime if all of those measures are to have the desired results, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security and Immigration, Mrs. Missouri Sherman-Peter said Wednesday.

Addressing a Panel Discussion on crime and criminality hosted by the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention Mrs. Sherman-Peter said communities must fully realize “that the game is on the field, and not on the sidelines.”

“We cannot lay blame for our crime and immigration problems at the feet of the police, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Department of Immigration, the politicians, or at the feet of church leaders or others,” Mrs. Sherman-Peter said. “These problems are society-wide problems for which we must all take responsibility. We must all get off the sidelines and get onto the field.”

PS Sherman-Peter said “getting off the field” means to stop encouraging and protecting sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters and other family members, members of the community and friends in their illegal activities by accepting monies and/or gifts from those persons, or by allowing criminal acts to go unreported to the relevant authorities.

Mrs. Sherman-Peter also pointed out Bahamians complain about illegal immigration, but are prepared to employ persons without the requisite permits. She said it is also imperative that Bahamians honestly swear affidavits or other documents that would give persons status in our country.

“Stop swearing an affidavit that says a person was born in The Bahamas when you don’t have a clue as to where they were born, or you know that they were not born here,” she advised. “It is also imperative that Bahamians and legal residents of The Bahamas do not abuse the privilege of citizenship or residency to move illegal immigrants into and through our country. Marriages of convenience, introduce people whom we do not know into our communities – it is imperative this does not happen.”

Mrs. Sherman-Peter meantime acknowledged that there is a positive side to what appears to be a negative picture; in that there is optimism among Bahamian citizens and residents that the current situation regarding crime and illegal immigration “is not one of permanence.”

She said that civil society, including the churches, neighbourhood watches, crisis centres and others are proactively seeking to reshape the country and to bring back the morals, values, ethics and integrity on which they are built.

She pointed out that this has augured well for critical law enforcement initiatives of the Ministry of National Security and in particular, the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

“The Neighbourhood Community Policing Initiative and the Live-able Neighbourhoods Programme are particularly exemplary in that regard,” Mrs. Sherman-Peter added.