Public National General Council Meeting
‘Voices of Hope From The Urban Renewal Experience’
BCPOU Hall, Farrington Rd.
4th July, 2007
Last week Thursday, while I was speaking to the issues concerning Urban Renewal, a young man was being killed in the precincts of the Nassau Village Urban Renewal Office. Some members of that community stated that if the office - staffed with police officers - had remained opened, the young man may not have lost his life.
It was particularly sad for me because the office in Nassau Village was opened because of a major social upheaval some time ago; and the police had worked hard at establishing an excellent working relationship with the community.
Whatever our personal views are, we must appreciate that this is the chilling reaction of members of that community to the suspension of the Nassau Village Urban Renewal Programme.
We therefore agreed to host this forum ‘Voices of Hope From The Urban Renewal Experience’ for Bahamians who have participated in and benefited from Urban Renewal; who have seen or experienced the value of the positive impact of Urban Renewal on the community to share their experiences with the Bahamian people.
This evening, you have heard from real time participants in the Urban Renewal Programme.
We especially thank Canon Basil Tynes, who tonight laid out his concerns on the School Suspension Programme.
We thank all of the others who came out tonight to share their compelling personal stories which have truly reinforced the intrinsic value of Urban Renewal to our communities.
In establishing Urban Renewal, I recognized that for the programme to be successful the Royal Bahamas Police Force had to be full participants.
They had to be a full part of a co-ordinated and integrated approach to launching and sustaining the programme.
It was of critical importance that a more creative and innovative dimension be added to the arsenal in the fight against crime and the fear of crime.
I held the firm view that the presence of police officers in the leadership of a myriad of the Urban Renewal programmes was vital.
The police presence represented the strongest effort we could make to attract and sustain the confidence of the community.
The Commissioner of Police himself demonstrates a deep understanding of the fact that the Police in their efforts to stem crime and the fear of crime must take the holistic approach evidenced in the Urban Renewal Programme. And I now quote the Commissioner:
“…the face of crime is getting younger. Hence, the importance of a good relationship between the Police and the community cannot be over-emphasized, as it is well established that the Police cannot work in a vacuum to solve crime. It has therefore long been recognized that the Police must maintain close relations with the community to effectively serve and protect that same community.
“The establishment and expansion of Urban Renewal Projects in ‘over-the-hill’ communities has become a viable tool to reduce and control crime. I submit that Urban Renewal is perhaps the boldest initiative to crime fighting in recent times.
“The purpose of Urban Renewal in the Bahamas remains:
1. “To reduce the levels of crime and the fear of crime;
2. “To improve the physical environment of communities;
3. “To enhance housing provisions for residents;
4. “To foster relations between government and non-government agencies and the community; and
5. “To encourage residents to create, participate and maintain activities that seek to shape and develop their communities.
“The overall objective is the development of improved
systems of governance by delivering social services closer to the community.
The ability of government agencies to take services into the heart of broken areas and transform them into communities where order is being restored and the value and respect for human dignity is soundly being acknowledged is to be commended.”
That is the community policing in The Bahamas brought about by the Urban Renewal Programme.
Given the impact and importance of these programmes, one would not expect any government to suspend such programmes without even assessing their worth.
Upon the government’s election they must have known about the strength and impact of this widely heralded programme. When they came to office, they should have properly reviewed and assessed the Urban Renewal Programme and measured its successes.
Whatever is the government’s explanation for the current stoppage and suspension of Urban Renewal Programmes, we believe that it represents an extraordinary failure to act in the best interest of Bahamians and our communities. And we demand that they reinstate and resume the Programme immediately.
The Urban Renewal Programme was never intended to be politicized.
At the outset, I took great pains to say and to ensure the practice that Urban Renewal was not and would not become a political football.
In fact, the Programme was driven by wide ranging public support from the church and the business community.
A public private partnership was supported by professional agencies within the government, including the Police and the Social Services.
The Urban Renewal Programme was accepted by all segments of the community.
Now it is adrift for lack of vision by this new government who simply do not understand how the programme should work and is misguidedly intent on changing important elements of it.
The government's failure to adequately explain why they have stopped such positive Urban Renewal programmes is confusing.
The government's failure to adequately explain is discouraging to the country and to communities that have invested four solid years in this initiative.
What is mind boggling is that the government does not
yet appear to understand and appreciate the inestimable value of the Urban
Renewal Programme and its many benefits to the full community.
There are (or were) successful programmes of positive intervention for the elderly; the young; mentoring; community musical bands; District Constables; School Policing; Juvenile Court Sentencing; and School Suspension, just to mention a few.
The Programme in its brief four years has received many international awards and I quote from just one such international recognition by a judge of the Awards Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police:
“I have read and scored hundreds of community policing
submissions from around the world. Serving for many years as a judge
has given me great insight into the state of, and value of, community policing
in the world. To say that the Royal Bahamas Police Force is a leader
in community policing is an understatement.
“Their success in involving citizens, criminals, youth, police and government in addressing community issues has been phenomenal and an inspiration to police agencies and communities around the world.
“If the factors that have contributed to the Royal Bahamas Police Force fantastic success in community policing can be replicated in other communities, the world will be a better and safer place.”
It is tragic that this government and more particularly the minister for national security has to be reminded that major incidents in Nassau Village and Kemp Road led to the establishment of their Urban Renewal Offices.
In The Tribune of Tuesday 3rd July, Tommy Turnquest; the Minister responsible for the FNM’s fight against crime revealed major differences between the FNM and the PLP on crime and the value of Urban Renewal.
Part of the minister’s response in the newspaper to the incident in Nassau Village was that “…Police can’t be everywhere. Police have to do police work.”
I say to you that up until the police were moved from Nassau Village, they were there and they were doing police work.
In Englerston the very offices that served as the instrument of community enrichment have been broken into and burglarized Monday and Tuesday; twice. Computers, televisions and other equipment were stolen.
This disgraceful state of affairs has come about because criminal elements know that the police have been withdrawn from these offices.
Someone should tell the minister of national security that police work embraces and includes Urban Renewal.
The newspaper article says that the minister believes that through the relocation of police officers out of the community centres and back to the police stations, the Royal Bahamas Police Force will be allowed to focus on the swift detection and apprehension of criminals.
The minister completely missed the point. He also completely missed the vital component of prevention.
Minister here is the point: crime doesn’t often happen in the police station. People do not – as a general rule – get robbed, raped or murdered inside the police station. The place to prevent crime is in the community; and that’s where the Urban Renewal Programme places the police.
The government cannot hide behind clichés and double talk. This matter of the preservation of the Urban Renewal Programme is too serious to the communities which have benefited from it and for the nation at large, which also benefited from a reduction of crime and an increase in safety.
Tonight I say to the partners in Urban Renewal: do not surrender this significant investment which you have made in community building.
You have had a major impact on the lives of the beneficiaries of the Urban Renewal Programme and in doing so you have strengthened families and communities and our country.