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Crime scourge dominates news in 2010

In 2010, many Bahamians became intimately acquainted with crime.

Lawlessness blossomed on many street corners. Countless homes were invaded.

Murder dominated headlines.

Armed robberies became everyday occurrences. Shootings and stabbings no longer evoked shock or surprise-afterfall this is The Bahamas.

Over the past four years, police have faced increased levels of crime with the most violent-murder, shootings, stabbings and armed robberies-showing the largest increases.

The Bahamas has set three murder records in the past four years. This year the murder record reached an all-time high with the country recording more than 90 murders.

According toThe Nassau Guardian’srecords, the homicide count for 2009 was 87-84 of which were murders and three manslaughters. Prior to that the murder record was 78, which was set in 2007.

In mid-September, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said he was depressed by the high murder count. He also expressed optimism that things would change. At that time the murder count stood at 67. Things did not get better.

“The numbers are pretty high in terms of detection,”said Greenslade,”However, I’m depressed. I am very concerned. We have recorded far too many murders in the country.”

In mid-2010, there were 257 murder cases in the criminal justice system. But with so many murders recorded post June 2010, that figure has increased.

Up to mid-December, the murder detection rate stood at 68 percent, with police having solved 64 of the 93 murders recorded up to that point. That means 64 murder cases were added to the system this year alone. However, this year several murder cases were also concluded.

Police think that many of the murders in recent years came as a result of a drug turf war which escalated in the inner city following the death of a notorious drug dealer.

Police said they witnessed an upsurge in murders following the drug dealer’s death in 2007 as members of his gang carried out retaliatory killings.

Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest said that retaliation and conflicts, drugs, robberies and domestic violence are the main causes behind the murders.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham also thinks that drugs play a major part in the crime wave.

“…One of our big problems in this country is drugs. Drugs[are]influencing many crimes, most especially those related to murder-many are hit killings where people are contracted to do so, or they are turf wars between various people,”he said in November when the murder count stood at 88.

For the first seven months of the year, police statistics indicated that crime was up by seven percent when compared to the same period in 2009.

Murders, housebreaking, stolen vehicles and attempted robbery all recorded significant increases.

At the end of July, crimes against the property had increased by nine percent, with housebreaking up 21 percent.

Vehicle theft was up 26 percent.

The government has attempted, in terms of personnel changes and infrastructure investments, to address the crime problem.

Since the Free National Movement(FNM)came to office in 2007, there have been three commissioners of police; four attorneys general; two chief justices; and two directors of public prosecutions.

The new Magistrates Court complex on Nassau Street is expected to be complete early next year.

Earlier this month, Turnquest launched the electronic monitoring system. Judges can now order the electronic monitoring of suspects or convicted persons.

Turnquest said the system”is an important element of the government’s strategy to halt and reverse crime trends in The Bahamas, to reduce crime and the fear of crime, and to enhance public safety and security.”

Additionally, the first phase of the national closed circuit television(CCTV)program will be launched in the central and downtown areas, and in major crime hot spots in inner city communities, by mid-2011.

CCTV is already in several tourist locations including parts of downtown Nassau and Cable Beach. However, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Peter Deveaux-Isaacs said more focus will be placed on the Over-the-Hill communities.

“We are doing this to defend our way of life,”Deveaux-Isaacs said earlier this month.

“We have crime levels in The Bahamas that are unacceptably high. Bahamians everywhere are saying enough is enough. People are repulsed by the crime levels. The violence that has caused our communities to be unsafe has caused all of us a level of discomfort and fear.”

During the first phase more than 85 cameras will be installed in strategic areas around NewProvidence.

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