EDITORIAL: Do words match the reality of crime levels?

THERE is a childhood song that goes “One of these things is not like the other…”

It might just as well apply to some of the commentary in Bahamian politics of late.

Last week, we saw the director of communications in the Office of the Prime Minister Latrae Rahming proclaim success in the fight to stem a gun war between gangs, despite last month being one of the deadliest months for murders in our history, and speaking on a day in which two people were shot dead.

One of these things is not like the other.

Speaking of crime, the US sent out a warning to tourists about the levels of violent crime in the country, along with guidance of what to do to try to avoid becoming a victim.

In today’s Tribune Business section, Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association Robert Sands has responded, calling for an “all hands on deck” approach to deal with crime.

Mr Sands warned that crime poses “a major risk” to our economic recovery from the COVID pandemic, and said the warning was “a wake-up call”.

Mr Sands said: “This is a wake-up call. Certainly, this is a major risk factor to our tourism sector if this matter is not addressed quickly, and we are satisfied it is being given the priority it deserves and even additional focus at this point in time.”

He added: “If unaddressed, it (crime) can be a major risk to our continued positive upward trend and, based on conversations we’ve had with the authorities even before this matter started, initiatives are being put in place and also a visible presence of Royal Bahamas Police Force officers not only in tourism communities but residential communities.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell had his own comment on the security alert. While Mr Sands talked of a major risk, however, Mr Mitchell digressed.

He said: “The fact is it has not impacted the tourism product.”

Mr Mitchell said the warning was a “routinely done thing” by governments to warn their citizens about crime trends, but said “the fact is warning or no warning, hotels are full in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas so that should tell what the impact of these warnings”.

Again, one of these things is not like the other.

Mr Mitchell conceded there is concern over crime – it would be hard not to given his own Prime Minister having called a special conclave on the issue. He said: “If you look at the evidence in The Bahamas though, people keep saying ‘are you concerned?’ Yes, I’m always concerned about crime in The Bahamas and this government is fighting its darnedest to try and get on this issue.”

He concluded: “All we can say is that our police force, the government, and our citizens work assiduously to make sure we’re on top of the crime issue because The Bahamas is largely a safe destination to come to and I think the fact that tourists are here, they make that judgement independently of themselves, but, of course, the US government has an obligation to do what they do and tourists decide what they’re going to do.”

Crime is obviously a serious problem in The Bahamas right now, and it is reassuring to see that where both Mr Mitchell and Mr Sands agree in their comments is the need to tackle the issue.

Are the levels of crime “a wake-up call” or something that “has not impacted the tourism product”? Well, those are two very different outcomes.

Either way, the best thing for all of us is successfully lowering the levels of crime – whether that benefits the tourist landing on holiday or the resident in a neighbourhood affected by violence.

Action is the important thing.


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