EDITOR, The Tribune.
Twenty years from now, in 2037, Eugene Woodside Jr. could have become a member of parliament. Or been called to the Bar. Or started making doctor rounds at a modern Princess Margaret Hospital.
We have been deprived of whatever contribution Eugene might have made to his community, his country, his world. A bullet fired by a thug with no value for humanity cut short the life of this handsome eight-year-old student who was at home practising his spelling.
Eugene was supposed to be safe in his own home. The streets where he was supposed to play with his friends have long become unsafe and his mother was doing the right thing keeping him inside.
In 2017 we have to contend with the fact that 29 out of every 100,000 of us will be murdered. That is a sobering statistic that should not be used as a political football by either party, least of all the PLP.
This kind of lawlessness didn’t start overnight and sadly it won’t end with Eugene. It was not always this way and sociologists will detail a number of socio-economic reasons why some of our young men keep killing each other, innocent by-standers and even children.
Crime is like a leak in your ceiling. It begins as an annoying drip. But if you ignore it, sooner or later the pipe will bust, the ceiling will give way and you’ll be up to your neck in water. Who’s to blame? The contractor who did a shoddy job installing the pipes. Yes. The homeowner who ignored the drip. Yes. The building inspector who issued the certificate of occupancy. All of the above.
Crime escalated at first in slow motion and eventually, as now, in real time right before our eyes. In 2012 the PLP said that crime was all the fault of the FNM. They would fix it.
By 2017 crime is out of control and the people lost patience with the PLP.
Then came the FNM and before the new Minister of National Security could unpack his bag, the PLP started to blame him for the carnage in the streets that they could not control in five years.
Retired Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez was onto something when he lamented Eugene’s murder and referred to a subculture that has been allowed to develop over decades.
The Archbishop was in Barbados for most of the time during the 1970s and 1980s as the PLP allowed the wholesale sell-out of the Bahamas to drug lords from Colombia and gun-toting drug gangsters from the US. But he came home and participated in a Commission of Inquiry that looked into that very dark chapter of Bahamian history.
Politicians, clerics, civil servants, parents and grandparents were content to look the other way as hully-gullys with no means of income splashed out millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains from the drug trade. One reverend infamously commented that it was useless to hold on to morals because “principles don’t put food on the table”.
In this anything goes atmosphere it wasn’t long before the gang culture was imported here from the US. Hundreds of hard-core Bahamian criminals were flushed out of US jails and dumped here. These leopards didn’t change their spots and so they hooked into their stateside connections to order guns and bullets that were creatively smuggled into the Bahamas, sometimes by circuitous routes.
As the US war on drugs dropped a dragnet on the drug trade, gangs fought each other for control of our streets. The guns were no longer for self-defence but were now used for intimidation, to silence witnesses and to murder adversaries for offences as petty as “disrespecting” a girlfriend.
Ambushes became common. But then the courtesy of planning the ambush was dispensed with and replaced with broad-daylight gun battles leaving innocent citizens scrambling for safety.
If the PLP had fixed the leak which became a torrent back in the seventies we wouldn’t be pointing fingers at each other and the name Eugene Woodside Jr. would likely be known only to his teachers and his classmates.
The PLP must atone for its role in fermenting the crime wave that has left us all paralyzed and changed the Bahamas forever. They must not be allowed to get away with political malpractice.
We know who are the thugs. The police know who they are and where they live. But the police have a credibility problem themselves. Cursing and drinking while in uniform and on duty protecting and serving sends the wrong message to the criminal elements.
As Marvin Dames unpacks his toolbox he needs to be reminded of a police tactic that has helped turn New York City from one of the most dangerous places on earth into a city whose murder rate per capita is lower than ours.
It’s called “broken windows” policing. The theory is that small-scale infractions of the law must be swiftly and decisively combatted to foreclose the possibility of greater menace and disruption.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis is practising a version of this. By having the police stop motorists and ticket them for simple infractions like not wearing a seat beat, offending citizens will gradually desist from escalating into criminality.
Jitney drivers may soon start to drive with due care and attention. Thugs may think twice before drawing a gun in public and just maybe we won’t have to suffer having our hearts wrenched by reading about another kid like Eugene Woodside Jr. dying in his mother’s arms, the victim of a senseless crime.
The PLP needs an act of public expiation before fixing their mouth to lecture us on crime.
October 8, 2017