By MALCOLM STRACHAN
I’LL be honest – I don’t really understand what the government’s strategy is when it comes to tackling crime.
As I write this, the murder count stands, sadly, at 115. The latest murder was a man shot dead in his car at Palm Breeze Drive on Friday afternoon.
Police told reporters that soon after 2pm, people in the neighbourhood heard gunshots. When they came out to investigate, there was a car in the middle of the street, with the victim inside, bleeding from a bullet wound to his upper body.
This comes just two days after a shooting in Andros that left a German man dead and another seriously injured.
Two days before that, a woman was shot dead after receiving a phone call to come outside of her home.
And last weekend, three more people were shot dead.
I have little to no faith that by the time this article goes to press there won’t have been another fatal shooting, or another.
Last year’s murder count was 119, and with nearly two full months to go until the end of the year, it looks, quite simply, like things are getting worse, not better.
So what are we doing about it?
Back in August, Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander invited ridicule on himself when, with the murder count at 85, he expected that police “will be able to finish the year strong. Still under 100”.
He said that despite noting that murders at the time were up 21 percent on last year – which as we know finished with a total of 119. So with murders not far off the total of 100 and the murder rate higher than the previous year, it never seemed likely we would keep below that tally of 100.
Prior to that, Mr Fernander had announced a number of strategies to tackle gun violence, including establishing an anti-gang and firearms unit. If that was key to hitting the target of no more than 100 murders, then it’s not working out so far. We could do with an update on that unit and its work.
He also said that officials were reviewing the intelligence unit to restructure its approach to the issue. Again, results show that the dial isn’t moving far enough the other way yet for such measures to be judged effective.
The commissioner does not of course operate in a vacuum – so what about the Minister of National Security, Wayne Munroe?
Well, one of the initiatives coming out from his side of things is the “violence interrupter” initiative, involving such people as Pastor Carlos Reid and Rodney Moncur. At last report, despite being announced back in April, that scheme still wasn’t up and running – and last week Mr Munroe was quibbling over the description of Mr Moncur as a consultant, saying there was only one consultant, Dr Reid, when it was the Office of the Prime Minister who called Mr Moncur a consultant in the first place.
Quibbling over a name while Rome burns seems to be a strange thing to do. I don’t care – and I’m sure most people don’t care – what job title anyone is given, more what they have been doing if they’ve been on the government payroll since April and the scheme they were recruited for hasn’t started yet.
Mr Munroe also criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions for the management of that department, saying there was a lack of satisfaction with its actions and highlighting the DPP’s absence in certain murder cases. The DPP noted that he has actually been on seven months of holiday leave – and there lies a story that needs to be probed a little more fully. In the middle of a crime wave and the DPP takes a seven month holiday? What’s going on there?
Of course there might be problems with managing a department if the top executive is on holiday for seven months.
Aside from that, Mr Munroe criticised former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis for ending social programmes targeted towards youth, and said “the reality is that you’ve had an uptick in crime everywhere, after the lockdowns. The lockdown was psychologically brutal and so all over the world, you’ve seen it”. Pointing the finger to say look, it’s happening everywhere seems somewhat defeatist. Are we just to shrug and say oh well, we’ll just accept it then?
Except somewhere in that plan, the head of the police thought that what we were doing would keep the murder total down to 100.
So whatever we’re doing, we expected it to do better. Whatever we are doing, it isn’t working.
There’s been talk of saturation patrols, but any Bahamian has heard that talk for a long time. That always seemed to be the thing police would say they were doing after any crime spike. Saturation patrols, and out they would go, and overtime would spike, and we’d still see the murder count rising.
There’s been talk of us being in the middle of a gang war, and there’s been talk of a high number of deaths being of people out on bail.
To the former, why now? We’ve had gangs forever in The Bahamas, so why is it more deadly now?
To the latter, well, some of those out on bail are facing charges in crimes from five, six, more years ago – you couldn’t keep a potentially innocent person in jail for that length of time, so what we need is a faster justice system.
When you say someone shot while out on bail, you imagine a score being settled with someone who has just left the court on bail, but the reality is some of these people have been out on bail for years. The fact of being out on bail may be incidental to the actual reason they are being shot.
All of that still doesn’t tell us how we’re going to solve this. And neither the minister nor the commissioner seems in a rush to reassure us.
No one should want to see any administration fail when it comes to dealing with crime. Such a failure means more of our Bahamian brothers and sisters lying dead in the street. We should all want them to succeed.
Right now, we’re not seeing that – and we don’t know how they plan to do so.