Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty (AGCS), in a June 15, 2022, report has predicted an increase in strikes, riots, violent protest and general social disorder on a global scale. This continued upheaval has been associated with the post-COVID fall-out, and the increased cost of living that comes with scarce basic human necessities. The United Nations secretary-general, speaking of the war in Ukraine, which has impacted more than 30 percent of the world’s wheat production, said in March: “All of this is planting the seeds of political instability and unrest around the globe.”
There is nothing that can be done to change the past. Nevertheless, it is to the past that we must look for lessons learned in order to prevent a repeat of the same strategic and tactical errors. What are the lessons learned from our response to COVID and Hurricane Dorian? We must appreciate that we are living in a global village, which is not as big as we thought, especially with the advent of technology and improved media and transportation networks.
In a January 2022 article appearing in the New York Times, headlined Examining the spikes in murders, writer German Lopez suggests that COVID0-19, coupled with changes in policing and greater access to gun, lies behind the increase in homicides in US cities. The same can be applied to The Bahamas. Our policing model is not necessarily changing to adapt to the social and economic woes of society. How we prepare for the influence of global trends and turmoil must go beyond economics; the focus should be given to how we can sustainably protect our nation in the long run.
A local perspective
The first half of 2022 has seen a concerning upswing in violence here in New Providence, with around 70 murders to-date. And the rate of killing appears to have accelerated in the last 60 days alone. It seems we are helpless to do anything about it as we see scheme after social prevention scheme fail. But is murder a true indicator of crime trends? I think not. In my opinion, social decay and delinquency are real indicators for forecasting what is about to come. The ill-mannered seven year-old and poorly educated youth of today, if not rescued, will most likely become a statistic tomorrow.
The 2022 Crime Brief, provided by the Royal Bahamas Police Force, speaks to a 33 percent increase in armed robberies in 2021 compared to 2020. Some 415 occurred last year compared to 313 in 2020. This is a difference of just under 100 armed robbery incidents. The question is what caused this fall-off in 2020, when we saw 576 armed robberies in 2017, 477 in 2018, and 534 in 2019. It can be reasonably argued that the 2020 drop-off was due to COVID-19 lockdowns and associated restrictions, which had more than just an impact on our health but also our safety. A similar trend is noted with the murder count, where we saw a drop in 2020 to 73, and a subsequent uptick to 119 in 2021.
Firearms were used in the majority of armed robbery incidents. The report goes on to state that businesses are largely being targeted between the hours of 6pm and 10pm. Some 151 businesses were held up, placing staff and customers alike in harm’s way. With that type of information, business owners and security planners need to make better decisions on where to allocate resources. These mitigation strategies can range from cash reduction initiatives, such as increased cash drops at the bank, or moving to electronic payment platforms. It is a good idea to improve relations with the local police station responsible for your area and take some initiative in making your community safer.
What appears to be missing, or lacking, from our society is an aggressive approach to reducing juvenile delinquency, which when left to fester evolves into the adult criminal. It is bewildering that government ministries such as Education, Social Services and Sports, Youth and Culture are not receiving more funding, aid and restructuring as a part of a national crime prevention programme.
The current philosophy of an increased police and security presence, alarm systems, burglar bars,and reduced cash on-premises are all responses to crime, not prevention. If one is to compare crime and social disorder to a disease then the aforementioned ministries can be said to be preventative and wellness programmes, whereas the surveillance systems, tracing anklets, law enforcement and the courts are likened to pills, emergency medicine and surgery. For example, in the past ten years we have seen more shifts, reassignments and restructuring in the police and judiciary than in all other agencies combined. It is painfully obvious that the problem is not the fruit that we are attempting to lock up and give a harsher sentence to, but the tree - our social and cultural infrastructure.
We may question if the education system is failing, and it becomes a national debate when the results of the BGCSE and BJC exams are released. This argument has far-reaching ramifications that go beyond our nation’s ability to compete in the global marketplace, as it strives to prove it has a qualified and deep pool of employable persons. It reflects our ability to communicate and relate to each other. Where there is a breakdown in communication, there is confusion, which leads to frustration, anger and violence. Rational and problem-solving skills are greatly diminished because little Johnny cannot read. After several attempts to save money by purchasing an off-market product, only to find that the instructions are in every language but English, I have decided to stick with those products that have English as it is the primary form of communication. Of course, the issue here is not the savings but the frustration in not being able to understand what was required. A low level of education speaks to the inability of persons to receive instructions, but also their difficulty in understanding these directions. Out of unintended shame and embarrassment, too many times a violent response is given.
“Boys will be boys”, says the mother as her son is arrested for the third time for being in possession of marijuana. This is a truth that should not be laughed at, but used to our advantage by creating more boys and girls-only schools. It appears to me that many young men and women are distracted, and need assistance in prioritising what is necessary for the various stages of their life. Studies have shown there are noticeable changes in behaviour, and better academic performance, when troubled young men are placed in a male-only environment. We must realise that the recurring need to bring in ‘skilled’ labourers shows not everyone is inclined to be a doctor, lawyer or scientist. We must find other alternatives such as masons, carpenters and mechanics that should be taught from junior high. And not just taught, but seen to be respectable and admirable professions.
What exactly is the role of social services in reducing crime, and how can they help? Well, my experience with young men and women tells me they are receiving another type of education besides the formal lessons in school. The ‘school of hard knocks’ regularly reminds these children that they will not always have food to eat, uniforms to wear or, worse, mum or dad to give them the love they need. It is easy for those of us who have the emotional, educational and financial backing to sit on the side and critique, and demand longer jail terms and hangings, but are we really addressing the problem? Let’s be real, Bahamas. We all need love, and desire to be loved to make it through the day. With this ‘love’ to look forward to, then, really what is there to lose? Here I see the social worker as more than someone who hands out food stamps or is able to find shelter for the less fortunate, but someone who can tap into that inner being and facilitate via church or some other civic group where help is needed.
The social and interpersonal skills one learns from playing sports are terribly under-rated and need to be harnessed immediately. Team and individual sports, besides fostering healthy lifestyles, teach discipline, respect, patience, confidence and co-operation, to name a few behaviours, which are fundamental characteristics lacking in many of us today. They also introduce participants to rules and fair play, as well as the penalties for breaking those rules. I am convinced that organised sports programmes are one of the most powerful weapons that we have to fight and reduce crime. Be it tennis, swimming, golf, any of the martial arts disciplines or track and field, we are missing the learning and molding opportunities that these physical and mental disciplines offer. Let us not get confused: The purpose here is not to create world champions but better Bahamians.
If we sincerely believe in the statements that “children are the future” and “children are the wealth of a nation”, then this division of government must receive more attention, planning and investment. The primary focus of which must be on the young men. I am not a chauvinist, but I firmly believe that men are the fundamental backbone of a healthy society. Where we have seen the decline in good male leadership, we have seen a direct increase in moral decay and crime. No, I did not conduct research or hire some consultant; I just live here. What amazes me is that there are already groups such as the Boy’s Brigade and Boys Scouts that can cater to this training of our young men, but they lack the funding. Boys need to be taught how to be men and lead. We cannot hope for it to happen without seriously placing effort into the process. Think about it... Who are the main perpetrators of social disorder and crimes? We all know the answer, yet we are not attempting to get to the source.
The identity crisis being experienced in our country has, in my opinion, been a major catalyst to the social and moral decay we are currently experiencing. Frankly, if you do not know who you are then nothing and no one really matters. What is worse is when an individual is left to discover what his/her purpose is on their own. This hit-and-miss approach to self-discovery is extremely dangerous and wasteful. We must remember that we are losing lives, not money or some other property. A strong cultural appreciation is key to fostering a strong national pride, where a greater sense of ownership is instilled. This approach to crime reduction makes the Bahamian more than a caretaker, but a stakeholder. This taps into the survival nature that we all have when it comes to protecting our own. It brings to life again the chorus “this land is my land; this land is your land”.
This may be an unusual way to start crime reduction initiatives, but in my opinion it gets to the root causes with specific attempts to kill the seeds that grow into the chaotic and frightening lives we are living now. For this to be successful it requires that all of the aforementioned areas be addressed. It cannot only be education, as we must approach the crime reduction effort from all angles.
We are placing too much focus and emphasis on the end result. When we see past and present governments spending millions of dollars on new court buildings, prison facilities, police cars, technology and physical infrastructure, it becomes painfully clear that we are playing a game of wait and see or, as I say, ‘catch up. What makes matters worst is boasting of a high detection rate, or that most crimes are being committed by repeat offenders. We should not be excited about hanging offenders when we put so little effort into understanding and curbing the delinquent desires our people have to commit these crimes.
NB: Gamal Newry is the president of Preventative Measures, a loss prevention and asset protection training and consulting company, specialising in policy and procedure development, business security reviews and audits, and emergency and crisis management. Comments can be sent to PO Box N-3154 Nassau, Bahamas, or, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.preventativemeasures.org