The Ministry of Works and Urban Development officially launched its Urban Renewal 2.0 Abaco Community Based Policing Programme on December 21. The ceremony was held in front of the Urban Renewal Office / Former National Insurance Building in Dundas Town. This is one of the most ambitious crime prevention programmes in The Bahamas and was begun several months ago on Abaco.
Despite a cold front rapidly moving in bringing heavy squalls and the late arrival of the Prime Minister due to another engagement in Nassau, the spirit of Urban Renewal triumphed and the programme received its official launch during a well prepared and uplifting programme. Several persons spoke from the heart about the Urban Renewal project.
Following an opening prayer by Pastor Stephen Knowles and the singing of the National Anthem, led by Constable 3051 Oliver, welcome remarks were brought by Renardo Curry, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for North Abaco, who expressed his pleasure in joining with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to address the social ills of the community and he stated that he is looking forward to working with the people of Abaco.
The Honorable Cynthia Mother Pratt, Co-Chairperson of the Urban Renewal Project, stated how excited she is about Urban Renewal. “It is about building, not destroying, lifting up not tearing down, about construction and arriving at the point when all feel good about each other. Putting people in a better environment is what it is all about. The Prime Minister’s heart is in the right place and he demonstrates this. We will be able to identify people on Abaco who need help and many professional and corporate sponsors have come on board to see what they can do to assist,” she informed.
Algernon Allen, Co-Chair of Urban Renewal 2.0., told the audience that he is sure the Urban Renewal Programme will go down as one of the most significant programmes in history, second only to the National Insurance Programme. “The programme should be about building one country, one Bahamas and we are seeking to enhance, uplift and transform marginalized areas,” he stated.
Mr. Allen mentioned the formation of the Urban Renewal band to bring the talent of young people to the fore stating that, “The goal is to build a band of 600 in the country with young people from different settlements all playing together.”
The Honourable Dr. Bernard Nottage, M.P. Minister of National Security, expressed his concern regarding the number of repeat armed robberies and other serious crimes now taking place on Abaco and also the high number of traffic fatalities, many of which are the result of speeding. “Many social ills lead to crime. We want to prevent crimes on Abaco and we need to encourage friends and associates from committing crimes. We have a responsibility as citizens to share information with Law Enforcement.; we can all do more and we must,” he warned.
“We will see a tremendous difference in the community when Urban Renewal is fully fledged. The Prime Minister wants government agencies to really find out what is happening in the communities. He has targeted the police to be significantly involved since they are a disciplined organization. Police are going house to house talking to residents and removing derelict cars which are a hiding place for criminals to conceal contraband and themselves. Many people are sleeping in derelict cars and they can be directed to some form of assistance,” he continued and closed by urging people to give of their time and talents to the programme and to develop positive relations with the police.
In his introduction of the Prime Minister, the Honorable Philip Davis, M.P. , Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development described the power of the dream of Urban Renewal 2.0 as being to “build a kinder, gentler and prosperous country.” He stated how happy he was to be on Abaco for the official launch of Urban Renewal 2.0 on the first island outside of New Providence and Grand Bahama and urged the people of Abaco to work together so Urban Renewal reaches its pinnacle.
He also touched on the subject of the airport, saying that there are challenges which must be met to bring the new terminal up to international standards and that a mid-year opening is being looked for. Also, he promised that work will begin on the roads of Central Abaco and Dundas Town early in the New Year.
Key note speaker, the Right Honourable Perry G. Chrisitie, M.P. Prime Minister of The Bahamas, stated that history was being made and that the day should be used as a reference point for all we do. He stressed how he and his team were there to make Urban Renewal an integral part of the fabric of the Abaco community.
He placed special emphasis on those on Abaco with children with special needs of whom he said there are many. He is himself the father of a special needs child; but while he has been able to afford a special teacher for his son he knows that there are many parents who cannot afford that and who do not know how to manage.
“The country has not caught up with the need for facilities for so many such children,” he admitted. “Urban renewal is the effort of a government whose members represent disadvantaged people without the means to do for themselves. Urban renewal is an attempt to cut through the bureaucracy of government and lack of knowledge and try to bring in, in a real way, strategies to make lives better.” He praised the indomitable spirit demonstrated by the people of Abaco.
Mr. Christie mentioned Abaco’s excellent sportsmen with their potential to be gold medal winners but without any facility here in which to train. He announced the good news that, as a result of a request to Baker’s Bay, they have made a major commitment to join with the government in providing a sporting complex in Marsh Harbour for Abaconians to become world leaders in sports and he is asking Urban Renewal to “put the pressure on to bring it about”.
“Social Services is a vital strategic partner with the police’” stated Mr. Chrisite when introducing Melanie Griffith, Minister for Social Security. She stated that she and her Social Services team are on board and that she will put extra people in the offices to assist.
In closing, Mr. Christie asked Urban Renewal to help re-sensitize and reconnect people one to the other, but added that UR can only thrive with the participation of the community. He thanked his team and directed the Deputy Prime Minister, who is responsible for Urban Renewal, to officially open the Urban Renewal Programme on Abaco.
Other dignitaries accompanying the Prime Minister were the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, Minister for Tourism; Keith Bell, Minister of State for National Security; Khaalis Rolle, Minister of State for Investments and Senator Gary Sawyer.
During the proceedings the Abaco Police team of W/Sgt. 2483 Jocelyn Smith, P/C3203 Kenton Clarke and WPC 3278 Vanessa Moss was introduced and a short power point presentation illustrating the work of Urban Renewal on Abaco was shown.