By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A damning new report paints The Bahamas as one off the most violent crime-ridden nations in the Caribbean.
The report – coming on the weekend another man was shot dead in Nassau –shows the country is second only to Jamaica in some instances of crime and worse in other categories.
Alarmingly, researchers determined that not only does crime cost the region 3 per cent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but the Bahamas is more affected by financial loss because of crime than any other country.
“To contextualise the cost,” the report said, “three per cent of GDP is about on par with the average Latin American and the Caribbean is roughly equal to the income of the poorest 30 per cent of the population in the region. In other words, if crime were to be extinguished completely, the income of the poorest 30 per cent of individuals could be doubled.”
More than 15 per cent of people in The Bahamas and nearly 20 per cent of people in New Providence reported being victims of one of five types of crime in a 12-month period – vehicle theft, theft, robbery, burglary, or assaults and threats, according to the report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in a paper: “Restoring Paradise in the Caribbean: Combatting violence with numbers.”
The rates for this in New Providence were higher than the rates for any the other city of the Caribbean that was analysed.
Other countries examined included Barbados, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
“New Providence and Kingston stand out with the highest levels of assault and threat,” the report said. “In New Providence and Port of Spain, the level of robbery is comparatively high, as is the number of victims seeking medical care after experiencing robbery or assault.”
The report said there were more reports of assault, threat and theft in New Providence than in any of the other cities examined.
Under the Christie Administration, the IDB loaned $20m to tackle violent crime by concentrating on conflict resolution, address high unemployment rates among youth, high recidivism rates and by solving the limited capacity of the criminal justice system to deal with crime and violence.
The last administration’s most high-profile effort as part of this programme was the introduction of a parole system at the Department of Correctional service.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames told The Tribune earlier this month that the Minnis Administration has put the programme on hold as it reviews the project with a view toward tweaked what had been established.
“One of the things we haven’t been doing or been good at as a country is we introduce programmes and there is never a measurement of whether the programme is successful or not,” he said.
Violence against Women and Children
Beyond being a violation of the fundamental human rights of women and children, experiencing or witnessing violence in the home at an early age has been established as a strong risk factor linked to later perpetration of violence and delinquency. Women and children are more likely to be victimized by family or intimate partner violence, which is not well captured in police statistics or crime victimization surveys.
The study found one in three (34 percent) Caribbean adults approve or understand wife beating if she is unfaithful, which is significantly higher than the Latin American average or the United States. The majority (66 percent) of Caribbean respondents also say it is necessary to physically discipline a child who misbehaves.
Firearms are involved in the majority of homicides, including in The Bahamas (82.4 percent), Jamaica (73.4 percent), and Trinidad and Tobago (72.6 percent).
However, the use of knives in homicides has been more or equally as common in Barbados and Suriname, where homicide is lower. Guns are also used about twice as often in robbery and three times as often in assault in the Caribbean compared with the global average.
Handgun ownership is relatively high (on par with the average for Latin America and below the average for Africa, but above all other regions). The most common reason reported for owning a gun is for protection (52.2 percent). The best predictor of gun ownership is the belief that having a gun makes one safer, over and above experiences of actual household burglary (in the past five years), fear (being afraid to walk alone in one’s neighbourhood), neighbourhood conditions, and lack of trust in the police, none of which were significant predictors.
Police and criminal justice system
The police-to-population ratios in the Caribbean are relatively high by international comparison, but police capacity to respond quickly to citizens and investigate and identify perpetrators of the most severe violent crimes is low. A cursory look at the prison population reveals that most offenders are imprisoned for nonviolent crimes, specifically drug offences and theft. One in four Caribbean residents considered police harassment to be a problem, with significant interregional variation and greater concern expressed in neighbourhoods with a gang presence. About 7 percent of individuals reported being asked by police to pay a bribe in the past year, which is low compared with Latin America, but high compared with Canada, Chile, the United States, and Uruguay.
Caribbean residents’ trust in the police varies widely by country, with high levels of trust in The Bahamas and Suriname and low levels in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Increasing police effectiveness and efficiency, while maintaining integrity and respect for citizens’ rights, is the best way to increase trust in the police.
The report suggested a number of ways progress could be made to bring the crime numbers down but in conclusion it noted many governments were financially constrained.
“The size of the violence problem in the Caribbean merits an equally robust response, and from other sectors beyond criminal justice alone. These measures require financial and political support in the face of restricted budgets,” said the report.
“However, in many cases we do not clearly understand how existing budgets actually contribute to violence reduction. By focusing on select evidence-based, targeted, and evaluated initiatives, governments can more easily determine what is working and where scarce resources should continue to be allocated.
“Although the challenge is great, the Caribbean can restore paradise by combatting violence intelligently and strategically.”
Even though their prevalence and power vary by country, gangs are responsible for much of the crime and violence in the Caribbean.
Gang presence was highest in the capital metro areas of the countries with the highest rates of violent crime (homicide and assault and threat): Port of Spain (49 percent), New Providence (39 percent), and Kingston (32 percent).
Among respondents with gangs in their neighbourhood, more than half said that gangs interfere with everyday activities.Victims of crime were about 1.6 times as likely to report a gang presence in their neighbourhood (42 percent) compared with nonvictims (26 percent).
Gang neighbourhoods are also associated with statistically lower levels of social cohesion (trust among neighbours) and higher levels of physical disorder.
Victimisation data show that youth (ages 18–24) and young adults (ages 25–30) are overrepresented among victims and those arrested and imprisoned for crime, when compared with their proportion of the population.
Adolescents under 18 years old are a small percentage of victims and perpetrators of serious violent crimes (i.e., homicide); however, early problem behaviours are often linked to later perpetration of violence and offending. The prevalence of five problem behaviours—early sexual intercourse, drinking, drug use, fighting, and getting in trouble after drinking—among adolescents ages 13–17 were found to be generally higher in Caribbean countries than in Latin American countries.
Engaged parenting appears to be one of the most important and significant protective factors for both reducing early problem behaviours and victimization from bullying.