By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell yesterday criticised the media, the Free National Movement, and Minister of National Security Marvin Dames for what Mr Mitchell perceives to be an inaccurate narrative surrounding who is responsible for the reported decrease in crime in the country.
Mr Mitchell is adamant that “the PLP put in place the programmes that the country is now benefiting from in seeking to lessen violence in the society”. He also accused the media of “adoring” the Free National Movement in view of recent police statistics revealing that overall crime declined by 14 per cent in 2017, though there was a 10 per cent increase in murders.
In his statement, Mr Mitchell said: “There is an old saying that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. So we don’t want the adoring media doing any false crowing about how crime is down because of the efforts of the FNM.
“The previous Minister of National Security Bernard Nottage under the PLP said crime was trending downwards, even though homicides were up. The Minister of National Security Marvin Dames today is saying the same thing. The release of the current statistics for 2017 show exactly the same thing as under Dr Nottage. Crime is trending down in some categories, but homicides are up.”
On Monday, Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis questioned if there was a correlation between the FNM’s decision to disband the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the “uptick in the pace of murders”. Police have said there was a slow down in murders in the last quarter of 2017.
Mr Dames admonished Mr Davis for these comments, accusing Mr Davis of attempting to politicise crime by intentionally overlooking data that shows downward trends in crime.
Mr Dames said: “We started this year off – and again when you look at the numbers, while we are not happy and pleased that we had three homicides on the island of Grand Bahama – but if the former deputy prime minister wants to play politics, we had 33 homicides for the first two months of 2017. But we don’t intend to play politics.”
In his statement, Mr Mitchell continued: “The minister made light of the comments of the leader of the opposition when he indicated that the FNM was failing in crime, but it is now clear that the minister did not have a handle on his own ministry and the stats with regard to homicides or deliberately sought to mislead the public on them.
“The FNM and their adoring media made fun of it and said it wasn’t so. Now the adoring media in the same circumstances and their FNM friends want to cry foul at the PLP so they can be free to boast that crime is down. No such luck.
“Compare the first week of the year in Grand Bahama last year and the first year this year. Three murders this year. None last year. So tell the families in Grand Bahama this year that crime is down. It is all childish in a way if it were not so serious.
“Our point is that the PLP put in place the programmes that the country is now benefiting from in seeking to lessen violence in the society. No one party can therefore lay claim to any success singularly.”
Mr Mitchell also castigated Mr Dames, saying: “We are also concerned that Marvin Dames seems to want to be both minister and commissioner of police. It is for the commissioner to reveal his plans for the year, not Marvin Dames in the House. That is what the legislation intends and that is what should ensue. We have raised this issue before about his interference in the force. We raise it again.”
Democratic National Alliance interim leader Christopher Mortimer also released a statement regarding the current reduction in crime. He said the DNA is “cautiously optimistic that this downward trend will continue.”
“While the reduction in overall crime is cause for celebration, now is not the time to become complacent,” Mr Mortimer said.
“We have always said, if politicians get out of the way of the RBPF, and provide the necessary resources to aid in the crime fight, that we can effectively address the scourge of crime in our community. In that regard we support the work being done by the commissioner, his executive team and every officer. Crime should not and must not become a political football.”