The Government of The Bahamas views the proposed electronic monitoring of persons granted bail by the courts as “one feasible option” among several other initiatives it will undertake to respond to the “complex and multi-faceted” crime challenge facing the country, Minister of National Security the Hon. Tommy Turnquest told Parliament Monday.

Minister Turnquest announced that the Government has agreed to purchase 1500 additional bulletproof vests for all frontline officers at a cost of $517,000 and will upgrade the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Control Room as part of the new initiatives. He said the upgrading of the Police Control Room is expected to further improve the Force’s efficiency in responding to matters.

“The Government is presently in discussion with Motorola Inc., to build on the capacity of the current Control Room,” Mr. Turnquest added.

Mr. Turnquest said other initiatives are included in the introduction and installation of the CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) Pilot Project at the Prince George Dock which has been so successful that a second programme is expected to be launched in the southeastern division within the near future.

“CCTV has been extremely effective in jurisdictions where it has been launched,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Mr. Turnquest said national security and law enforcement officials have also intensified their focus and efforts on intelligence-led operations. He said the Commissioner of Police has reactivated the Intelligence Liaison Officers Unit at each Division whose role is to filter information to the Central Intelligence Unit (CIU). The information they forward, he said, will help Divisional Commanders to develop strategies for tackling crime in their areas.

“The Police have also increased patrols – both mobile and foot – in specified areas and have aggressively pursued stop and search initiatives that have resulted in significant drug and firearms arrests,” Mr. Turnquest said.

“The Police have, and will continue to, work closely with international law enforcement agencies with regards to firearms and drug interdiction. There is a dedicated intelligence-led team that is focusing on the interdiction of illegal firearms,” he added.

The Minister of National Security said the Government of The Bahamas is “under no delusion” that electronic monitoring is a “panacea” for the crime and criminality with which The Bahamas – like so many other developing countries – is grappling, but said it is “another initiative” in the Government’s overall Anti-Crime Fighting Strategy.

He said the Bill for an Act to Amend the Penal Code is a “progressive” step forward in the war on crime, criminality and violence.

“This Bill is another tool in our crime-fighting arsenal and allows us to set out sound measures to strengthen the hand of our law enforcement officers and the criminal justice system,” he added.

Mr. Turnquest said the Bill proposes a “reasoned response” to crime, criminality and violence in the country through the amendment of critical areas of the Penal Code and the introduction of other “significant measures” in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice.

The Bill provides for the electronic monitoring of accused and convicted persons as ordered by the courts and seeks to provide an alternative to imprisonment for less serious offences and first time offenders and for less serious offenders to remain employed, and by extension, be able to support their families while also assisting with the reduction of the prison population.

It also provides for the courts to impose this sanction as a condition of bail which will allow for the monitoring of such persons, thus enhancing the opportunity for such persons to appear for trial.

“Electronic monitoring could have far-reaching consequences for our criminal justice, law enforcement and penal systems (as) it, potentially, could keep first time offenders out of the prison environment and consequently reduce the chances of recidivism.

“It will also allow less serious offenders to remain in their communities and their jobs so that they can support their families,” Mr. Turnquest added.