By JADE RUSSELL
A LOCAL youth activist has called on the government to formally declare crime as a “public health emergency” due to the overwhelming spate of homicides and shootings in the country.
Tavarrie D Smith raised alarm over the issue after four-year-old Kenton Seymour, Jr was killed by a stray bullet on Tuesday.
The child was in a car with his family in the West Street and Flemming Street area when armed men in pursuit of another man fired shots in their direction, ultimately hitting the child. He died in hospital moments later after the shooting.
In a statement to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Smith said: “The senseless killing of baby Kenton is a grim reminder of the cycle of violence that continues to plague this nation. It is an “outward manifestation of an inward cancer” that is eating away at the very core of what makes us Bahamian”.
He also gave several recommendations on how the country can tackle the issue.
These include: “The immediate mobilisation of resources so that our courts, police and supporting agencies can effectively do their jobs without barriers or delay; the expedited hiring of social workers, inner-city educators, truancy officers, judicial and law enforcement officers, and community agents to help aid in the fight against crime.”
The attorney added: “The investment of meaningful resources in non-profit organisations who are specifically engaged in programmes like rehabilitation, offender-reentry, family reunification, diversion and disposition programmes, juvenile justice, criminal justice reforms, and social justice initiatives; the engagement of the best and brightest among us to brainstorm realistic solutions to crime.”
Mr Smith said there is a need for Bahamians to take action rather than just offering sympathy all the time.
“Baby Kenton does not need your condolences, what he needs is your action,” he urged.
“We, as a nation, have been here before, burying our toddlers, young children and school age children who were innocently at the right place, but at the wrong time. I sincerely hope that this recent incident moves Bahamians to action and advocacy, rather than just a display of sympathy, so that we don’t ever have to be here again,” Mr Smith added.
President of the Bahamas Christian Council Bishop Delton Fernander also echoed similar comments to The Tribune yesterday, saying more needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable in Bahamian society.
He also said Kenton’s killing had left him feeling horrified.
Bishop Fernander said: “Not only is he so young, but to think that this violence has moved to a place that the innocent and those who cannot protect themselves in our society are being senselessly killed.
“We as a society, have to do more to protect the vulnerable in our society and to take this crime and gun violence into hand. Because per capita, it will lead us to a place that it will destroy all that we are doing to revive the economy, and to live in peace and tranquility, as a Christian nation.”
The religious leader said the country is now at a place where the Christian values of our nation are being eroded with all of these attacks.
“This is why we worked so hard to remain a Christian nation because the values have passed on from generation to generation and have worked. And have produced societies with less crime, more appreciation of life and appreciation that we are and what will be is all in God’s hand.”
When asked what advice he would give so tragedies like this would not happen again, the Bishop responded that he’s been saying repeatedly that crime needs to be seen as a national problem, not a police, church, or parental problem but rather as a nationwide issue.
He said it’s time for the community to work together.
He added: “If we don’t bring it together under one umbrella, and make it a national concern, it won’t really bother us until it’s our child or towards someone in our family being affected. And we could have dealt with it nationally.”