Members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, led by Abaco’s new Officer in Charge, Hilton Cash, held a town meeting at St. James Methodist Church in Hope Town on September 8, 2016 to address the concerns of residents.
At the top of the list for residents was boat theft and particularly the desire to know the names of those apprehended in relation to the thefts.
Officer in Charge of the Central Detective Unit (CDU) Inspector Ewing said that since January, nineteen boats have been stolen and fourteen recovered. He said that four persons have been charged, two of whom were sentenced to jail time. They are presently seeking four more persons of interest in relation to boat thefts.
Mr. Cash reiterated the RBPF’s commitment to reducing crime and the fear of crime as mandated by the Chief of Police, and noted that breaking the boat theft ring is a priority to the police in Abaco.
He added that after a person has been charged in court their name becomes a matter of public record; however, a person held for questioning is still protected and their name will not be released.
A resident asked if the police were looking at where the stolen engines from the boats were being taken to and sold. Mr. Ewing noted that the police are following leads throughout The Bahamas on where the stolen property ends up.
Mr. Ewing said that, based on the judge’s discretion a person charged with boat theft can get anywhere from two years up to five years in jail.
Other concerns came up regarding a rise in home break-ins and that the incidents are taking a toll on tourism as they are often targeted. One resident recounted a story of thieves coming into a rental cottage while persons were there.
While the police are working to deal with the break-ins it was said that unfortunately persons in the community need to better secure their property, as one way to reduce criminal activities is to remove opportunity.
It was also brought up that the officer on the island needed better transportation as a golf cart is too slow to rapidly respond to an incident outside of the main settlement. Further it was felt that there should be two officers on the island, not only one.
While the issue of transportation was a budgetary matter, Mr. Cash did note that in his recent talks with Chief of Police Ellison Greenslade, that there was agreement to send an additional officer to Hope Town. He then made an appeal for an apartment to rent as it is required in order to send the officer.
There was also a discussion regarding reinstituting a crime watch program as the community was encouraged to work closely – hand-in-hand – with the police in order to make their town safer.
Vado Bootle, head of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce who assisted in facilitating the meeting, said that the Chamber wants to see the community come together with the police department to help reduce crime in Abaco, and that it will only work if we support our police and communicate with them.