Challenges: The Bahamas is a nation consisting of hundreds of islands and cays spread over a territory of 100,000-square nautical miles, which is roughly the size of California. The Bahamas’ vast, disjointed territory, positioned between the southeast coast of Florida and the South America-Hispaniola trafficking vector, makes its waters appealing to transnational criminals smuggling illicit goods. These waters attract maritime vessels of all sorts, including cruise ships and pleasure crafts, allowing traffickers to blend in and go unnoticed. The Bahamas forms our “third border,” with the island of Bimini less than 50 nautical miles from the metropolitan areas of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, FL. The Bahamas welcomes over 6 million tourists per year, many of which are Americans, making crime prevention and reduction through the islands a mutual priority of citizens of both the United States and The Bahamas.
Goals: As part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), INL efforts in The Bahamas seek to bolster the capacity of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) and facilitate its participation in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), which is a long-standing counternarcotics effort among the United States, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. INL supports RBPF officers by providing advanced training to build various law enforcement skills including maritime interdiction, boat handling and maintenance, and crime scene investigation, among others. INL also is engaged in assisting the Bahamian justice sector by working with Her Majesty’s Prison to modernize its capacities and facilitating the advancement of The Bahamas’ forensic science criminal investigative services.
Accomplishments: Since the inception of CBSI, INL has assisted the RBPF Marine Unit with upgrading its maritime fleet. Over the past several years, INL donated a new 41’ interceptor boat, new engines to extend the life of previously donated vessels, and equipment such as boat lifts to reduce wear and tear. Since its delivery in March 2013, the new interceptor boat was involved in several drug seizures. Additionally, OPBAT’s year-to-date cocaine seizures total 1,011 kilograms, a four-fold increase over the 236 kilograms seized in 2012. INL support to Her Majesty’s Prison, particularly the donation of contraband detection equipment, has contributed to a decrease in violence within the corrections facility.