By ADRIAN GIBSON
IN THE Bahamas, there appears to be a rapidly growing underclass of Bahamians who deify criminal behaviour, seemingly seeing violence and sadistic conduct as cool while engaging in a cult-like, hero-worship of gangsters and hooligans.
Although I appreciate why the police, in their eagerness to prove to the public – before the cameras – that they are working hard at apprehending the criminal element, the infamous “perp” walk in Bank Lane only adds to the glorification of gangsterism and the embarrassing brouhaha around the nation’s courts each week.
Frankly, these court appearances should be conducted without all the fanfare, through the construction of courts at the prison complex or by some kind of administrative intervention which seeks to curb or end what has become a weekly freak show.
The Bank Lane shuffle, beyond serving as a public relations gimmick to appease a terrified public, can seemingly remove the last strand of dignity for an accused person, particularly the innocent, can potentially whittle down and tinge a jury pool in our small society and seemingly – while many times being correct – purvey the undemocratic perception that all suspects are actually guilty before they are considered innocent.
What is more, the Bank Lane “perp” walk seemingly fosters the glorification of gangsters – really pitiful cowards and punks - by pictures in the press, which many times lead to the creation of criminal-minded, urban deities whose
shackled march only heightens their profile on the streets and fuels another group of criminally-minded degenerates to follow.
Some years ago, the Barefoot Bandit (Colton Harris-Moore) fiasco featured more fame-hankering, armed police officers escorting a handcuffed and shackled teenage menace, than was seen regularly patrolling many of New Providence’s crime-riddled neighbourhoods on an average night. Undeniably, the police are our friends and they did a magnificent job in swiftly apprehending Harris-Moore, a wanted international fugitive. However, all the pomp was unnecessary and merely added to the public spectacle.
Similar to the mindless loyalty and fondness shown to convicted Jamaican gangster and drug kingpin, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, and several local street leaders/drug dealers, there are cheerleaders and onlookers who appear in Bank Lane time and time again, shouting insults and threats at journalists and photographers who are present to cover an arraignment/hearing, all-the-while heaping celebratory praise and even lionising suspects.
We have also seen that this “perp” walk has ignited verbal spats and physical clashes between the families of the parties involved.
We are fortunate that, thus far, no one has shown up with a gun or engaged in some other form of violence whilst these persons are being casually carted into court.
A few years ago, I recall being at a gas station and overhearing a youngster proclaiming his respect for the Barefoot Bandit to his friend, whilst adding that “the Barefoot Bandit is a soldier (pronounced “soulja” by him), king!”
I thought: ‘What absolute idiocy!’
When Harris was charged, the same reception was on display at the courts, where some onlookers are said to have celebrated the errant youngster, declaring how they wanted to be just like him and expressing how much they respected him, among other thoughtless statements. There are many suspects of serious crimes in The Bahamas who gain the same acclaim by these weekly parades: criminal-minded celebrities who have done nothing but ruin families and wreak havoc on society.
With scores of suspected murderers being continuously released on bail and a spate of lawlessness engulfing The Bahamas, there is certainly a mushrooming criminal underworld. Almost every weekend – and certainly every extended weekend arising from a public holiday – we hear of blood baths. Many of these youngsters don’t seem to know or understand what it is to live, set goals and have clean fun anymore.
Whatever happened to just wanting to chill out, to just wanting to talk to girls, to just playing sports or interacting with nature? Whatever happened to simply having a good time? Is taking a life the new fun? Is this the mindset that some of our young men (and to a lesser degree, women) are adopting to send our country down the path of no return?
Frankly, considering the current murder rate and the low rate of conviction, there is a pressing need for the cases of persons charged with murder to be expedited. The Attorney General constantly touts this fanciful construct of swift justice but Bahamians cannot attest to this fantasy.
Whatever happened to Project Safe Bahamas? Will The Bahamas soon become a nation where criminals overrun society, similar to the crisis Jamaica faces?
Will there be “no-go” zones (I’m told that some currently exist) throughout New Providence, with criminals commandeering entire neighbourhoods and further demonstrating their contempt for human life?
The rule of law, as noted by the great philosopher Aristotle, is preferable to that of any individual. British philosopher Thomas Hobbes opined, in his work Leviathan, that without the rule of law, life would be “nasty, brutish and short”.
The law is expected to fundamentally underpin all societies. Yet, daily the authority of the state is being openly challenged by organised and sadistic criminals. Crime is an insidious scourge on our society that must be tackled at every level.
As school children continue to glorify violence and sadism, it is incumbent upon parents to instil a sense of ethics and responsibility so that a new generation of anti-social criminals is not bred.
I have said before that our society is a powder-keg. In fighting crime and reversing the apparent lack of reverence for authority, law enforcement officials must adopt former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “broken window” approach and seriously enforce the laws across the board - without ignoring any infraction.
Furthermore, it is high time that closed circuit television (CCTV) is installed throughout New Providence. Yes, it will cost us but it will yield great dividends in the long run.
There is a need for more strategic Defence Force patrols that are directed at minimising the smuggling of illegal weapons/ammunition; police officers must be heavily deployed into those boroughs with the highest instances of crime and police officers must strengthen their relationship with certain communities which would better their intelligence-gathering abilities.
The first step to bettering such relations is for a number of officers to develop a more respectful, reasonable approach when dealing with the average person, starting with the way they speak to everyday Bahamians. If their approach to people is dignified, people will reciprocate.
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