Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 20:36 GMT

Bahamas: Information on the Fire and Theft gang, including activities and state response (2014-November 2016)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 16 December 2016
Citation / Document Symbol BHS105676.E
Related Document(s) Bahamas : information sur le gang Fire and Theft, y compris ses activités et la réponse de l'État (2014-novembre 2016)
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bahamas: Information on the Fire and Theft gang, including activities and state response (2014-November 2016), 16 December 2016, BHS105676.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58b429714.html [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

In a televised national address on crime delivered on 26 August 2015, the Minister of the Bahamian Ministry of National Security stated that "the proliferation of criminal gangs began forming in local communities by gang leaders recruiting young males, many of whom were high-school drop-outs" (Bahamas 26 Aug. 2015, 9). An article published in May 2015 by The Tribune, a newspaper based in Nassau, and written by Dr. Mike Neville, a forensic psychiatrist with four decades of experience "working in the hospitals, courts, and prisons at close quarters with offenders," indicates that, "unlike American gangs, there has not been a permanent presence of specific gangs, with many of the older gangs becoming obsolete and their names changing regularly" (The Tribune 26 May 2015). According to the same source, gang membership is made attractive to youth who feel marginalized from society or disconnected from their extended family unit due to the perception that "gangs can offer protection, respect within their community, money and a sense of power" (ibid.). Carlos Reid, a "pastor and reformed gang leader, [who] has written extensively about gangs in The Bahamas" is cited in the same article as stating that in 2010, an estimated 20,000 individuals belonged to a gang in the Bahamas, the majority of whom were between the ages of 14 and 35 (ibid.).

According to the Bahamian Minister of National Security, "Fire & Theft" is one of the criminal gangs that draws membership from Bahamian high school students; he describes the organization as one of the gangs which had, in 2015, become "more organized" (Bahamas 26 Aug. 2015, 9). Sources indicate that Julian 'Heads' Collie, who was murdered in April 2013, was the "reputed" Fire and Theft gang leader (The Tribune 3 Sept. 2014; The Nassau Guardian 8 Oct. 2015). The Nassau Guardian, a Bahamian newspaper, further indicates that the Fire and Theft gang is based in Nassau Village (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Further information on membership and structure of the Fire and Theft gang could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

1.1 Activities

Information on the activities of the Fire and Theft gang was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Without providing further details, in the 26 August 2015 televised national address on crime, the Minister of Bahamian National Security stated that criminal gangs, including "Fire & Theft,"

are deeply involved in the illegal drug and gun trades. The drugs they sell and the guns they use to protect their turf result in much of the murder, and mayhem and violence that we are currently experiencing, especially in New Providence. (Bahamas 26 Aug. 2015, 9-10)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

An article published by The Tribune in October 2015 cites an unnamed officer at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services as indicating that "the main gangs," including Fire and Theft, pose "major" violence problems in the prison system, and inmates are separated by their affiliated gangs in order to "keep the peace" (29 Oct. 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. State Response
2.1. Legislation

According to the Minister of Bahamian National Security, an amendment to the Bahamian Penal Code was enacted in the Parliament in 2014 "with the intent to eradicate gangs" (Bahamas 26 Aug. 2015, 10). Without providing further details, The Tribune indicates that the Bahamian Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2014, which was given assent on 12 June 2014 and "officially gazetted" on 23 November 2015, "make[s] it illegal to affiliate with gangs" (5 Jan. 2016). A copy of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2014, available on the International Labour Organization (ILO) website, is attached to this Response.

In his national address on crime, the Bahamian Minister of National Security stated that the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2014 makes it a crime for

  • membership in an illegal gang [which] is now a major offence [and] punishable on conviction to a fine of $500,000 [C$675,870] and to imprisonment for twenty (20) years;
  • any person who has in their possession a bullet proof vest in association with an unlawful gang, [who are] liable on conviction, [punishable] to a fine of $100,000 [C$135,174] and imprisonment for 20 years;
  • members of an unlawful gang to commit crimes involving guns and or drugs, … [punishable] on conviction [to] $500,000 and 20 years in prison. (Bahamas 26 Aug. 2015, 10)

The Minister further noted that "[s]everal gang leaders are presently serving time in The Bahamas Department of Corrections, though not being convicted under this [Amendment] Act" (ibid. 11). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.2 Anti-Gang Unit

According to the Minister of National Security in his 2015 address on crime, "specially selected and trained" national security officials established an anti-gang unit, which is "attached to the Firearm Tracing & Investigation Unit" and aims to "dismantle" gangs and arrest their members for engagement in criminal activities (Bahamas 26 Aug. 2015, 10). An article published on 25 May 2015 by the Public Affairs and Communication Office of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) reports that seven police officers took part in a two-week training program in El Salvador which provided them "the opportunity to learn the best-practices and how to apply them in gang-related crime" (ibid. 25 May 2015). Further information, including activities and effectiveness of the anti-gang unit, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Bahamas. 26 August 2015. Minister of National Security, Ministry of National Security. "Televised National Address on Crime." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016]

Bahamas. 25 May 2015. Public Affairs and Communications Office, the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF). "Seven Police Officers Attend Gang Organization and Operation Course in El Salvador." [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016]

The Nassau Guardian. 8 October 2015. Artesia Davis. "Lawyer Suggests Three-year Sentence for Fatal Nightclub Shooting." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016]

The Tribune. 11 February 2016. Sancheska Brown. "Crime Statistics: Murders, Rapes and Armed Robberies Up." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016]

The Tribune. 5 January 2016. Khrisna Virgil. "Suspected Gang Members Charged Before New Law was in Place." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016]

The Tribune. 29 October 2015. Adrian Gibson. "Young Man's View: Corruption Inside the Walls of Fox Hill Prison." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016]

The Tribune. 26 May 2015. Dr. Mike Neville. "Life of Crime: Ganland Bahamas - How Much Violence Can Be Put Down to Gangs?" [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016]

The Tribune. 3 September 2014. Sancheska Brown. "Gang Leader's Suspected Killer Found Shot Dead." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016]

The Tribune. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Nassau Guardian; Royal Bahamian Police Force; The Tribune; Youth Against Violence.

Internet sites, including: Abaco Life; The Abaconian; Amnesty International; The Bahama Journal; Bahamas B2B.com; BahamasNews.net; The Bahamas Post; Bahamas Press; Bahamas Spectator; The Bahamas Weekly; BBC; College of the Bahamas; ecoi.net; The Economist; The Eleutheran Newspaper; Factiva; France 24; Freedom House; The Freeport News; The Guardian; Human Rights Watch; The Independent; Inter-American Development Bank; NassauPunch.com; Organization of American States; Radio France internationale; UK - Home Office; UN - Development Programme, Office on Drugs and Crime, Refworld; US - Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State; University of the West Indies; ZNS Bahamas.

Attachment

Bahamas. 2014. Official Gazette. The Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2014. [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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