WHEN you think of a murderer in this country, what do you think of?
Is it the hardened criminal, with years of violence behind him? Who do you picture when you think of the word “murderer”?
A new study finds that the average age of a murderer in The Bahamas is between 16 and 25 years old. The average age, bear in mind, so there will be some older. And some younger than 16.
The study, by top psychiatrist Dr David Allen and local educators, looked at young people aged younger than 16 who were already embroiled in gang wars for turf, or were involved in bullying or disorder. Some of those were as young as ten years old.
The story behind those offences is one where family life is “non-existent or extremely chaotic”. That means there are those without parents to support them, or who suffer abuse from a parent or guardian in their lives.
Their school grades are often very poor, and gangs themselves often serve as a substitute for the parent figures missing in their lives. This comes at a cost, with the gang members living in fear that their own lives could be at risk from rivals.
Some of the young people in the study had seen murders. Others showed no empathy or remorse, one saying when asked if he felt sorry for a stabbing victim “Why should I? He’s not one of my boys.”
Are these young people monsters? Or are they traumatised? The latter, say the experts, suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and more.
Last week, Patricia Minnis, the wife of the Prime Minister, called for people to march in protest in the wake of shootings that left a two-year-old girl fighting for her life and killed a ten-year-old in separate incidents.
“We need to really tell our young men who are killing themselves and who are killing innocent people to stop,” she said. “They have to stop because they don’t want it to happen to their mother, their sister.”
Do we think the word “stop” is enough to reach these young men? What comes after that word? What needs to be done to lift people out of a life of violence, abuse, depression and stress? What future is there for people with next to no grades and a lengthy criminal record that doesn’t involve further crime?
There are no easy solutions here, but each year we get a count of the number of murder victims, the number of robbery victims and so on. But we don’t know the true number of victims – including those who became victims during their path to become criminals. Those who have been victims of family, of those who call themselves friends, of those in their community.
16-year-olds should not be beyond hope. So what can we do to change their course, and prevent the cycle of violence from perpetuating? As we say, there are no easy solutions – but are we even trying?
Change the jobs market
The impact on jobs from COVID-19 is continuing – but Labour Director John Pinder is wary that some employers are using the virus as an excuse.
He suggests that some businesses are firing people because the pandemic is an excuse to get rid of them.
Mr Pinder doesn’t name any specific businesses, and we would hope that it would be a minority of cases, but it is another sign of the overall impact of the virus on this country.
With Baha Mar laying off staff last week, other businesses having closed entirely, and the unemployment rate soaring as high as 40 percent, much hangs on the restart of tourism.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis described the rise in unemployment previously as “greater than most of us have seen in our lifetime”. He also talked back in April of making this crisis “a crisis of opportunity” and of the need to change our economic structure. We don’t appear to have made significant movement in that regard so far.
Economies have a turning circle much larger than the cruise ships we are still waiting for, of course, and such diversification will take time. But as we encourage employers to play by the rules, so too we could focus attention on ways to broaden our economy, and help those employers change too.