I recently attended a meeting the police held with the public. A lot of business owners were present and many were not very encouraged with the outlook of crime on our island. Many of them have witnessed the growth of Abaco, if you will call it growth, from a carefree environment to a city where many business owners have to be on edge when locking up evenings.
It really was discouraging hearing the frustration, confusion and, in some cases, resignation that was being expressed. The room was full of people, myself included, who were not quite sure what to do. Abaconians have a fighting spirit, but it is hard to fight against something as intangible as “crime.” Crime only makes itself vulnerable to discovery when it is in the act, as it were.
And that’s the tricky bit.
The officers that night did their best to inform us, the public, about their different initiatives and steps we could take to prepare for increasing amounts of crime. And I truly believe many of them are putting in their best effort. Sleepless nights and consistent threats of danger must take its toll. It’s no secret that they need more resources, which if Nassau truly believed that Abaco is worth investing in then they would find those resources. And it’s also no secret that better lines of communication can be established.
So I listened quietly and took notes like a good reporter. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something more could be done: that we, together, could do something more. It did not sit well with me and the faces I saw in that room told me they felt the same thing. Citizens stockpiling guns is not the answer. But neither is it a reasonable assumption that sitting back and expecting the patrol cars making their rounds will completely protect us.
So let’s find a middle ground.
First, we can use technology to better protect ourselves. A Facebook group has been created, called Abaco Crime Watch, whose purpose is to be a community message board that anyone can post to. Hopefully we can keep track of suspicious activities in our communities and warn neighborhoods across the island.
If you know about a string of attempted burglaries in Spring City you can post and anyone connected to the group can see that this activity has taken place. Your neighbors in Marsh Harbour, Dundas Town and elsewhere can see that and be on alert. Abaco Crime Watch is also intended to be a tool for the police to keep citizens informed.
Obviously this is not a perfect system. And many, many people are not connected on Facebook. But this is intended to be a first step in perhaps a more thorough and comprehensive system Abaconians can keep each other informed by. The key is talking to each other and listening.
I have a second suggestion for my fellow business owners and managers. The risks accompanying your position, such as being a target and late night shop closings, are becoming more and more real. We should realize this problem and work together to create a web of prevention. A network should be established among business owners and employees in each town where, if you feel threatened in any way or know you’ll be closing up later than usual, you have a network of contacts who will be willing to meet you at your place of work. There is safety in numbers and most criminals will not attempt to risk it.
I volunteer myself now as a Crime Watch Contact in Marsh Harbour. My number is 577-2723.
It is my sincere hope that small networks can build across Abaco to prevent crime in this manner. Watching out for each other. Being our brother’s keeper. This is how we push back the fear of crime.
The next steps aren’t crystal clear to me. But I know unless we venture to take steps we will be outrun by those who learned to walk in the dark.