The House of Assembly Select Committee on Crime held a press conference Wednesday to outline its strategies and goals in examining crime in the country.

The Committee is headed by Dr Bernard Nottage, MP for Bain and Grants Town. Other members are Kwasi Thompson, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and MP for Pineridge; Kendal Wright, MP for Clifton; Branville McCartney, MP for Bamboo Town; Frank Smith, MP for St Thomas More; Glenys Hanna-Martin, MP for Englerston and Kenyatta Gibson, MP for Kennedy.

The House of Assembly approved the appointment of a Select Committee on Crime in February to examine the “unacceptably high” criminal activities in The Bahamas, particularly on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama.

“One of the very important tasks we have set for ourselves is to conduct a review of the reports of the various commissions and committees which have been appointed by successive governments of The Bahamas over the years as they have grappled with this problem,” Dr Nottage said from the Committee Room at the House of Assembly.

The Committee was also mandated to investigate to what extent social conditions have impacted levels of crime, to evaluate the impact if any that the conclusions and recommendations of commissions and committees appointed by governments have had on crime, and to make recommendations with respect to solutions.

The committee also has the power to call persons to give testimony before the seven-member panel, which has already commenced its work. The first formal report is to be tabled in the House of Assembly in October. The final result is to amend existing laws or institute new laws impacting the level of crime.

The first hearing will be held Thursday, May 29 and the first witness is Acting Commissioner of Police Reginald Ferguson.

The committee has held a number of meetings to discuss the approach to the task, “having regard to the serious adverse impact the commission of crime has on the society, and our desire to see the continuing trend reverse,” Dr. Nottage said.

“Our intent is to compile a list of the many recommendations which have been made and to determine whether they have been implemented and to what effect,” he added.

In this vein, the committee will examine the following reports, amongst others:

· The National Task Force on Education Report – 1994
· The Consultative Committee on National Youth Development Report – 1994
· The National Crime Report – 1998
· The Prison Reform Commission Report – 2003
· Citizen Safety Diagnostics for The Bahamas Report – 2004

Last year the Ministry of National Security held a Crime Symposium at which a number of organisations and personalities from a cross section of the public, “made what we thought were very significant submissions.”

“It is our intention to study those presentations thoroughly as well and to seek the assistance of the Crime Council, which was established as a result of that effort,” Dr. Nottage said.

The committee also intends to utilise the annual crime reports produced by the Royal Bahamas Police Force in its assessment of the overall crime situation in the country.

“It is also our intention to evaluate the efforts which have been made by the numerous non-governmental organisations and by the Civil Society and determine what impact if any they have had or are having on the incidence and the types of crime,” Dr. Nottage said.

The committee will call on agencies and individuals, especially those in the crime fighting sector, to be examined and make presentations before the panel. Interested persons are asked to submit in writing to the clerk of the House of Assembly.

The hearings will be conducted in open sessions; some in committee rooms at the House of Assembly, others at more accessible settings. The committee will also travel to the Grand Bahama and other Family Islands to conduct hearings.

Procedures for the hearings are as follows: the chairman will make an opening statement and the witness will make whatever presentation he or see deems appropriate. The presentations will be followed by questions from members of the committee. And where necessary, witnesses may be required to provide documentation or other information to assist the committee in its deliberations.