MARCO Alert gets closer



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The signing of a CONTRACT between the Ministry of National Security and Multimedia Technologies Ltd for just over $ 1.9 million propelled the long-awaited MARCO alert a little further towards the protection of the country’s children.

The signing of the public alert system took place yesterday at the Ministry of National Security. Two other contracts were also signed: one for the integrated audiovisual communication system with Multimedia Technologies Ltd and a long-term service contract between the Royal Bahamas Defense Force and the Damen Shipyard Group.

In May 2017 – following a second trial – Kofhe Goodman, of Yorkshire Drive, was convicted of the murder of young Marco Archer between 23 and 28 September 2011.

Archer, a sixth-grade student from Columbus Primary, disappeared from Brougham Street on September 23, 2011 and was found dead a few days later. His family had reported him missing after he failed to return home from a neighborhood store where he went to buy candy. His family have publicly pleaded for his safe return, but on September 28 police found his body in bushes behind an apartment complex on Yorkshire Drive.

The MARCO (Mandatory Aggressive Action to Save Children) Alert is designed to be on par with the Amber Alert in the United States, which electronically alerts citizens across America when a child goes missing.

“Billboards are only here in New Providence,” National Security Minister Marvin Dames said. “This contract that we signed today will give us the possibility of communicating across the country by cell phone. There is no difference to the Amber Alert in the United States. They are all mass communication systems.

“If a child is missing in the United States, the Amber alert goes up, you’re going to have the same thing and it will go to your phone. We can’t put pictures in front of every household, but you have a television and you have a cell phone. If something happens, instantly, whether it’s the police or NEMA, they can send you this alert. It’s a warning. “This child is missing, if you see or get any information call us right away.

“So what he’s really doing is giving us the ability to send mass communications in an instant to every community in this country. We take it to another level. We can even do it on your TV, that’s how mass communication systems work. It’s not just a billboard, but there are a lot of mechanisms behind a billboard. So you have to send information to that and there is a process. That’s the technical side of it and that’s where the money really is… software and things of that nature.

Considered to have a proven track record of serving the Bahamian government, Rudolph Walker, CEO of Multimedia Technologies, said he was grateful for the opportunity to bring such technology to the country. At one point in 2019, the government signed a contract with this company to begin work on the warning system and soon after, the company erected four electronic notice boards in New Providence at a cost of ‘approximately $ 2.7 million.

“Thank you to the government of the Bahamas in particular the Department of National Security for giving us this opportunity to implement such an advanced public alert system and audiovisual integration for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force,” he said. .

“Mobile phone emergency notifications, whether 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G, are a key step in more efficient and modernized emergency preparedness for the citizens of the Bahamas. This technology has been deployed across North America as well as in Europe and I want to say that the Bahamas are among the first to really deploy it in the Caribbean.

“The underlying technology is based on a technology called cell broadcasting that allows public warning messages to reach specific areas of the Bahamas or even the entire population within seconds.”

Mr Walker said that the difference with his mass communication platform and that of a telecommunications operator is that Multimedia Technologies will be able to interrupt the transmission of any electronic device, be it a cell phone, a television or radio, in order to broadcast an emergency message.

On hand for the signing was Tanzia Archer-Humes, Marco’s sister, who said if her brother had been alive he would have been 21. She was happy with the advancement of child welfare, but said the occasion also brought back painful memories.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” she says. “Sadly, we had to lose Marco for this to happen and we are grateful that this is finally coming to an end and is in place when other children could be saved. Everyone can now benefit in areas that we were not fortunate enough to benefit from. We know he will go down in history and we can always say he did not die in vain.

“It’s always sad and it hurts to think about it sometimes. It (the signing) brings you straight back to this place, but again I can smile and we can be thankful that something good has come out of it.

Asked about the sex offender registry that had been promised by the government to comply with MARCO alert legislation, Mr. Dames did not want to set a deadline, but promised it for this quarter.

“We are on the right track with the sex offender registry,” he said. “We are working on all the fundamental issues. Cabinet would have approved it recently. We build all the locations. We did a lot of background work and would have done a number of tests on an electronic ledger. It is still progressing and we hope to make it a reality very soon.

“The team is working now, even throughout the pandemic. So we put in place policies and guidelines and everything that complies with the regulations of the law. We want to make sure that once we’re up and running, we’re up and running. “

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