The Bahamas is an extensive island chain 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 whom are Americans, making crime prevention and reduction through the islands a mutual priority of citizens of both the United States and The Bahamas.
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), a long-standing counternarcotics effort among the United States, 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 the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services to increase its capacity to provide a safe and secure environment for inmates as well as to provide rehabilitative services to better position them for reintegration into society. INL also provides assistance to drug addiction service providers to reduce and prevent the demand for and abuse of controlled substances throughout The Bahamas.
Since the inception of CBSI, INL has assisted the RBPF Marine Unit with upgrading its maritime fleet. Over the past several years, INL donated two new 41’ interceptor boats, new engines to extend the life of previously donated vessels, and equipment such as boat lifts to reduce wear and tear. Since their deliveries in March 2013 and February 2015, the new interceptor boats have been involved in several drug seizures.
OPBAT’s calendar-year 2014 cocaine seizures totaled 1.5 metric tons, which represented a 57% increase over 2013 cocaine seizures. INL support to the RBPF Canine Unit, in particular the donation of contraband detection canines and training for their handlers, has contributed to increased and more effective patrols, resulting in several recent cocaine seizures at Lynden Pindling International Airport.