By Rupert Missick Jr
ANTI-Crime activists are critical of a “disappointing” first year of the new Christie administration, giving it low marks when it comes to meeting its commitments in reducing crime in the country.
Despite the wishes of death penalty advocates to see capital punishment carried out in the Bahamas, it is unlikely that this will occur in the near future, if at all, leading to calls for the government to come up with “creative alternatives”.
As a backdrop to all of this are the mounting numbers of murder victims, punctuating an already complex situation with the desperate desire of the general public to see a significant reduction in violent crime.
About three years ago former Pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church Bishop Simeon Hall erected a memorial wall on the grounds of the church to commemorate the country’s murder victims. The wall itself is perhaps also a symbol of his own decades long fight to keep the country’s focus on solving the root of criminal activity.
Today, Bishop Hall is critical of a “lackluster” showing by the Christie administration and its Minster of National Security Dr Bernad Nottage. He said that while he considered Dr Nottage a “man of substance” he has thus far done nothing to distinguish himself from the legacy of the former Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest.
“His coming to office has not brought the oomph that I thought it would and he’s not proven himself to be much better than Tommy Tunquest who had a lackluster performance in office. In light of the fact that the PLP while in opposition spent the election campaign talking about the number of murders in the country, I thought they would have brought some needed energy in the fight against crime,” Bishop Hall said.
According to local legal experts, in the past decade the judgments of the Privy Council have shown that the London based court has a deeply rooted philosophical objection to capital punishment. There is the belief that as long as the Privy Council remains the country’s final court of appeal, it is extremely doubtful that capital punishment will be carried out in The Bahamas.
This, Bishop Hall feels, has created a lack of fear among criminals of what has become a toothless justice system.
“They have no fear of Dr Nottage, the justice system, the court, the police or going to jail. If we can’t have the death penalty then we have to replace it with something else. If we are not going to hang people we need to have creative punitive measures that will send a clear message to criminals. It seems like these parties when they are in opposition seem to have a lot to say about crime, but when they become the government they hesitate,” Bishop Hall said.
Community activist Rodney Moncur said that he has been disappointed by the Christie administration’s response to crime and doubts if the public is getting the full story with regard to the actual crime levels in the country.
Last month, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade announced a drop in major crimes in the Bahamas of 13 per cent from January 1 to April and denied rumours that the police force was doctoring the statistics.
However, Mr Moncur said through his own personal experiences he knows that a lot of crime in the Bahamas goes unreported by many victims and under-reported by the police. This has led Mr Moncur, for better or for worse, to launch his own crime reporting network of sorts on Facebook.
“There are many shootings that are not being reported in the media which indicates to me that they are not sharing everything,” he told The Tribune.
Mr Moncur, who is also a Justice of the Peace with his office in Grants Town fears that the government scaling back on the number of Urban Renewal centres in over the hill communities could affect crime as well. After the closure of one of the offices in his area in the last six months Mr Moncur said that there has been an escalation in what he describes as a turf war between rival groups of men.
“Last week we had a group of men heavily armed, fighting a turf war through Fleming and Dunmore Streets which culminated in a young man being shot attempting to run into the Fleming Street Clinic.
“Any objective look will show that crime is out of control in this country. We are in a serious crisis and the political leadership is not addressing the issue by speaking to the lawless persons in society. If all of the political leaders would address this problem we could be better off,” he said.