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The price of safety

  • In May, eyebrows were raised when thieves took off with nearly $400,000 worth of Rolex watches in a popular tourist area. Photo: Edward Russell III

JEFFREY TODD
NG Business Editor
jeffrey@nasguard.com

Published: Aug 11, 2011

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The Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) and the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) are ramping up security at major hotels and resorts in a multi-million dollar effort to safeguard the country’s most precious industry.

At the heart of the initiative is a $7 million contract to install cameras, which will be awarded to a local firm by the end of the month.

Quinn McCartney, deputy commissioner of the RBPF, and the chairman of a committee behind the CCTV program, told Guardian Business that his department has narrowed the field down to seven companies competing for a very lucrative contract.

“We are sifting through the proposals and soon we’ll decide who will be rewarded with the contract,” he said.

“After that we send our recommendation to the Ministry of National Security for final consideration. We want to make sure we keep our tourists safe, along with Bahamians and local businesses.”

McCartney added that phase one of the project targets the downtown core, focusing on the economic center frequently visited by tourists.

After that, CCTV cameras will be spread throughout the island, and possibly across The Bahamas.

McCartney said that Hudson Sterling, a strategic-level advisor from the US, has been providing consultation for months on how best to implement the project. “They have been working with us and guiding the process,” he said.  “We know it’s a major undertaking and want to make sure we create the right network.”

Meanwhile, the BHA, in collaboration with hotel security chiefs, has recently established a network of its own.

Frank Comito, executive vice president of the BHA, has kicked off a Tourism Safety and Security Network, which demands greater training for personnel and strengthens communication between resorts.

Comito thinks the BHA has an important role to play in keeping tourists safe. “We are looking at several international certification and training programs for hotel security right now and hope to move forward with one of them beginning this Fall.”

This new spider web of security comes on the heels of a turbulent summer in New Providence.

In July, more murders took place than in any other month in recorded Bahamian history.  Although many of these incidents occurred well off the beaten path of tourists, in May, eyebrows were raised when a John Bull store on Bay Street was robbed.

The thieves took off with more than $300,000 in stolen Rolex watches.

Although those responsible were eventually caught, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, minister of tourism, commented that the increased police coverage he had asked for previously “didn’t seem to be in place” at the time.

In addition to international certifications for security personnel, Comito said fostering a tight network between hotels and sharing information about incidents could go a long way to improving the safety of tourists.

He added that while there is no immediate threat to the industry, these measures ensure the BHA remains ahead of the curve.

“The BHA supports a number of safety initiatives,” he added.  “We were instrumental, with the Ministry of Tourism and the Royal Bahamas Police Force, in establishing the Tourism Police Unit about six years ago.  We conduct annual lighting audits of areas frequented by tourists to improve public street lighting.”

But in terms of scale, the CCTV initiative represents one of their biggest security projects to date.

Comito said the BHA would be helping fund the project, along with several other private stakeholders.

The cameras have been a long time coming, McCartney added, and he is confident their presence should prevent crime.

“The government has been talking about it for more than 10 years now,” he sad.  “We could have done it a long time ago, but we want to do it right.”

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Last Updated on Thursday, 11 August 2011 14:32
 
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