The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.
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 the United States’ “third border,” with the island of Bimini less than 50 nautical miles from the metropolitan areas of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, FL. The Bahamas also 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 is also working to build the The Bahamas’ capability to investigate and prosecute crimes through the development of more efficient and effective investigative and prosecutorial techniques to bring down criminal networks. In addition, INL 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 four new 41-foot 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, the new interceptor boats have been involved in several substantial drug seizures. OPBAT operations have significantly hindered the ability of drug traffickers to utilize Bahamian waters to transit illicit narcotics into the United States. Since 2008, OPBAT seizures have totaled nearly eight metric tons of cocaine. 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.
On the justice side, INL has sponsored a two-day Judicial Writing Workshop for 50 Supreme and Appeals Court Judges, Registrars, and Magistrates designed to enhance their ability to communicate principled and sound decisions to litigants, lawyers, citizens, and other courts, thereby increasing efficiency in the administration of justice in The Bahamas. Additionally, INL has supported a series of training opportunities for Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOC) Officers at the International Correctional Management Training Center in Canon City, Colorado covering topics such as correctional institutional management, emergency planning/management, and security threat groups (i.e. gangs) in the corrections environment.