By Dr. Raymond Wells
Living Waters Kingdom Ministries
The Bahamas was once a peaceful society. It was a society where crime and the fear of crime were minimal to none at all. Today, however, crime and the fear of crime is unacceptably high. We live in a barricaded society, and dwell in a virtual prison, that has us incarcerated physically and mentally. Crime is clearly the number one issue facing the Bahamas today. It violates the rights of a person, and their property. 2 Timothy 1:7 - emphatically declares, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” Yet sadly enough, we live ever watchful of our lives and our surroundings.
My brothers and sisters, it is our inalienable right, and our God given right as a citizen of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas to feel safe and secure at all times. In fact, it should be the criminals who live in fear. This social problem has negatively impacted our families, communities, and schools. There are countless incidences of stabbings, murders, and assaults. I deem these occurrences as unnecessary and indeed a menace to our society. It has gotten so bad that it is now adversely affecting our number one industry, tourism.
By the end of November and the beginning of December 2013, the murder count rose to 102. This did not include those who were shot, who thankfully, did not succumb to their injuries.
This indicates that on average, a murder was committed every 3 days.
Statistical reports from the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s website indicate that between January and July of 2013, there were 57 rapes, 573 armed robberies, 624 stolen vehicles and 1,201 house break-ins. Concluding that these numbers are unacceptable, horrendous or even intolerable, would all be understatements.
While some politicians seem to be proud of a slight reduction in the crime rate overall, Bahamians across the nation are afraid to leave their homes for fear of becoming a crime victim. These perpetrators have become even more bold and violent as they carry out these heinous crimes, which more often than not, involves the use of illegal firearms. Their mental state is one of fearlessness and anger. These offenders have become even more bold and violent as they carry out heinous crimes, which more often than not, involve the use of illegal firearms. Many of them feel that life has dealt them a bad hand and crime is the only option they have to survive.
We have discussed thus far, crime, it affects on the society, and the mental state of the perpetrator, now let’s talk about the reasons why persons commit crimes.
They are: Poor educational background (I have discovered that ignorant people are more offensive and are more easily offended); Negative cultural influence on the Bahamian Society; Unemployment and drugs; Dysfunctional household environment and lack of parental guidance; Lack of personal identity and lack of understanding of purpose; Dysfunctional court system; Corrupt law enforcement officers; Lack of morals; Insufficient scrutiny (inspection, search) of pleasure craft, which can be a source for fire-arms and ammunition.
I mentioned earlier a dysfunctional court system as one of the reasons for crime. Let’s take look closer at the judicial system. Firstly, the fact that most criminals are in and out of the criminal justice system speaks to its inefficiency. They have become masters at manipulating the judicial system. The mere fact that alleged offenders return to the streets after being charged with criminal offenses speaks to their understanding of how the judicial system works. Their numerous arrests, remands and bail applications allows them to gain much experience, giving them the upper hand. These alleged offenders are fully aware of what the constitution states concerning them, and that is, that they should be tried in the courts within a reasonable time. And they also know that after incarceration for an inordinate amount of time, they are at liberty to apply for bail. Furthermore these same alleged offenders are at liberty to argue that because they have been remanded for an extended period of time, i.e. 2 years or more, increases the likelihood that the court would grant bail. This is a major loophole within our justice system. It’s very sad that a person can be charged with murder and released on bail three months later. Another one of the loopholes is case backlogs. To date we have over 300 persons on bail who have committed murder. Criminals know this and are not deterred when planning their next criminal act. They understand that even if they are caught, chances are that they will be back on the streets in a couple of months.
Our very own Commissioner of Police has stated (and I heard the frustration in his voice as he said this), “it’s not good to lock up someone for a known heinous crime and two weeks later they are back on the streets”. The government itself has essentially added to this cycle of lawlessness as it has failed to enforce the laws on gambling and has seemingly ignored the results of the referendum.
Basic solutions to eradicate crime must involve a multi-prong approach. Some of the key interventions include:
Returning to those spiritual values created under God. These are the tenets (system of beliefs, doctrine) on which our founding fathers have boldly crafted in our nation’s constitution, as they recognized the supremacy of God, and the benefits of righteous living.
The Bible provides the solution to the crime problem in the Ten Commandments. These commandments speak directly to the path that leads to a crime free environment. To obey the provisions of God’s law and plan for mankind is to bring the problem of crime under control in our society.
Focusing on at risk youths: To achieve this all must be involved including our government, the church and civic youth programs. The youth of our nation are a precious resource. They are a resource that we must continue to nurture as we sharpen our parenting skills. Perhaps one of the most effective things that the church community and concerned citizens can do to prevent future crimes is to adopt an at risk youth; to take a personal interest in their growth, development, education, socialization and spiritual growth. Making a substantial investment in the youth of our nation through the funding of positive youth development programs, early intervention and prevention initiatives, will go a long way to ensure that our children will grow up strong, healthy, educated and law abiding citizens. Every pastor must endeavour to keep the doors of their church open throughout the day in order to work with the schools in that community, to provide counselling to those who need it. By doing this a greater investment is made into our future.
An overhaul of the judicial system. This is an obvious one as the current case backlog must be addressed. There is a dire for need more judges and more courts. I commend the government for its commitment to engage 20 new judges in this fiscal year. Plea-bargaining, and pre-trial hearings will assist in reducing the back log to more manageable levels. Justices of the Peace should serve as lay magistrates to hear minor cases.
Other strategies include: Impose the death penalty (not on first time offenders, but murderers who have committed this act more than twice); Better management of the Police Force; Implement a more effective criminal justice system that supports the tireless efforts of the police; Implementation of Stiffer and harsher penalties.
I do commend the government for enlisting the Royal Bahamas Defense Force to assist the Royal Bahamas Police Force in fighting crime in our communities. But who is assisting the Defense Force in their mandate? It is imperative that we make the necessary investment in our nation to deal with this crime issue. It must become a priority. Putting millions into road work in a crime infested community is like putting a $2,000 paint job on a car with $3,000 rims that has an engine that is not working.
Our Prime Minister has declared: “Our country’s future is at stake. It’s as serious and as fundamental as that.”
We are a praying people. But prayer alone doesn’t change things. It is prayer and following the instructions from God that changes things.
God said to me, “you all are praying for me to move for you, but you are not moving for yourself, by following my instructions and my laws.
Prayer deals with the spiritual elements, that is the principalities and powers that are over the land. But the law of the land in practice brings order to the land. Prayer is the assignment of the church and the law is the assignment of the government.
Today, while each of us bears the image of God we also bear the scars of sin. Sin moves the moral compass and takes us away from the image and likeness of God.
To facilitate a just society, man was provided with God’s law for living the Ten Commandments. They are the universal standard for moral conduct. These are the standards upon which most of the world’s criminal law is based.