FRONT PORCH: Signs of failure and dysfunction still plague us

Last year there were 103 homicides in Greater London, with a population of approximately 8.9 million. The Bahamas, with approximately 400,000 people, had 110 murders, the majority of them on New Providence, with a population of approximately 300,000. Stabbing accounted for 65.05 percent of the homicides in London. The greater majority of homicides in The Bahamas are caused by guns.

Persistently high levels of social and government dysfunction are at the root of our high levels of crime and murder. Tragically, such dysfunction seems normal to many Bahamians and many in the political elite. Many have become inured, indifferent and numb to the reality that this dysfunction of society and state is grossly abnormal.

This includes problems within the criminal justice system, often suffering from the same slackness, incompetence and inefficiency that marks both the public and private sectors. Dame Anita Allen recently described some of the basic and myriad functional deficiencies and other problems in the system.

An example of how we have so normalised the mayhem is the messaging from tourism officials to visitors, the international media and tourism stakeholders: Yes, there is danger in various parts of New Providence. But if you stay in tourist areas you will be safe. It is a disturbing message to both Bahamians and tourists

Does this mean that accommodation rental properties, retail stores, restaurants, and heritage and tour sites in non-tourist areas are unsafe for visitors and that those Bahamians who make a living from tourists in these areas should find a new line of work?

Are the safe areas of New Providence now confined to the major resorts, Junkanoo Beach, parts of Bay and Shirley Streets, and a few other areas on our small island? Moreover, the simplistic mantra of some Bahamians that the killing is happening over there, but we will be safe over here, is nonsensical and insipid.

An even more telling example of dysfunction is our number of murders per 100,000. Like various other countries in the Caribbean, including, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, the number of murders per 100,000 is in the double digits, among the highest in the world.

According to the World Population Review website, that number in 2022 for The Bahamas, was 31.22. According to InSight Crime it was 32.00.

For that year, we were worse per 100,000 than two countries in the Americas known for illicit drug production and trafficking namely, Mexico, at 25.5, according to the Mexican Statistical Agency, and Columbia, at 26.1, according to InSight Crime.

We keep aiming for first world status, yet our murder rate demonstrates that we are paralysed in significant ways in a third world mentality and status. What will be the number of murders per thousand by the end of 2024?

Our number of murders per 100,000 is significantly higher than Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Indonesia, Norway, Oman, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, China, and a host of jurisdictions in the first world and global south.

What makes matters even more alarming is that our murders are overwhelmingly a problem on New Providence with a small population of only approximately 300,000. For a country the size of The Bahamas, the number of murders should be in the twenties. We have been five to seven times higher than that depending on the year.

A culture of violence has taken root. Many of us believe that disputes can be solved through violence and killing. We have difficulty interrupting the patterns that fuel violence in our major urban centre.

Blaming media coverage for the failures of the state and society is a sign of how lost many in the political directorate are in understanding and addressing crime. Public relations is never a substitute for public policy.

In a story entitled, “Year in Review: A drop in crime”, NationNews reported: “In 2023, Barbados experienced a notable decrease in crime rates, particularly in homicides, which dropped from 43 in 2022 to 21 the subsequent year.

“This marked the lowest murder rate for the island nation in the past decade. Police Commissioner Richard Boyce underscored the significant reduction, highlighting that the murder rate per capita for 2023 stood at 7 per 100 000, a considerable improvement from the 15 per 100,000 recorded in 2022.”

Note: Barbados brought its murder rate to the single digits in terms of per 100,000, while The Bahamas remains in the double digits. Barbados has a population of approximately 280,000.

NationNews noted: “A pivotal turning point in crime reduction was attributed to a truce brokered between two prominent gangs in February 2023.

“Over 200 individuals from different blocks and communities, facilitated by the government’s intervention, gathered in Chapman Lane, The City, to pledge an end to the longstanding conflict. Winston “Iston Bull” Branch, a respected figure in Chapman Lane, played a role in mediating the truce.”

The site also noted the introduction of various social intervention measures, which many have pleaded with and begged successive Bahamas governments to implement.

“Following the truce, Lane’s Ministry, under the Attorney General’s Office, attempted to further address the crime situation through social interventions. In April, the National Peace Programme was launched, focusing on helping at-risk youth get on track and steering them away from a life of crime and violence.

“Another highly-touted social intervention programme by the police commissioner was The Prince’s Trust International Team Programme. This 12-week development initiative targeted at-risk young persons between the ages of 16 and 25, teaching life skills and how to build resilience, while introducing them to tools enabling responsible societal membership.

“Boyce said the success of the programme and turned the lives around of many at- risk youth.” Why will no Bahamas prime minister take targeted social interventions on crime and violence more seriously!?

Many are exasperated that successive governments have failed to introduce a comprehensive social intervention infrastructure, a number of components of which have been referenced in numerous columns and commentary by this writer and others.

Our Today in Jamaica reported on January, 16: “Statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) indicate that as of January 13, there have been 33 murders recorded in 2024.

“According to the JCF, the same number of murders were recorded during the same period last year, which means that murders have neither increased nor decreased for the period.

Caribbean National Weekly (CNW) reported last week that Prime Minister Andrew Holness “said serious crime was down by 11 percent last year, murders down by 8 percent, rapes down 15 percent. Across the board, he said, crime was at a 22-year low.”

The Sand Pedro Sun in Belize reported on January 5th: “…The total murder count for the year [2023] was 85, the lowest for Belize since 2005, dropping Belize’s murder rate per 100,000 residents to 19.1. The reduction in violent crime is considered very positive for the country’s public safety efforts, as the murder rate in recent years has been over 100 per year.

“The Commissioner of Police (ComPol), Chester Williams, said that from the time he took the post as head of the Belize Police Department (BPD), his goal has been to reduce the number of murders to under 100.

“‘While we came very close in terms of going a bit north of the 100, we were never able to keep the figures south of 100. But for the first time in my five-year tenure as commissioner and the first time since 2013, we are seeing the figures south of 100.’”

For the year so far, with a population of approximately 400,000, Belize has had approximately 13 to 15 murders.

Last week, The Nassau Guardian reported comments by former Prime Minister Perry Christie on crime: “So, clearly, it’s a question of governance and effective governance and putting that in place and making sure that you are responding to the needs of the people.

He emphasised: “We know that a holistic approach is necessary.” The journal also noted: “The highest recorded murder toll in Bahamian history was in 2015, when “Christie was prime minister. That year, 146 murders were recorded.”

Does Mr Christie realise the mind-numbing irony of his comments concerning the failure of governance by him and other leaders on crime over these many years? What he and others failed to do has helped to bring us to this terrible place.

A gnawing and disturbing question is how has our failure to act in various areas of public policy, social intervention, and criminal justice helped fuel and exacerbate the abnormal, dysfunctional state in which we find ourselves?


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