Sunday, Dec 9, 2018
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Country on track for lowest murder tally in nearly a decade

Sharp decline in killings continues from fourth quarter of 2017

In 2008, 73 people were murdered in The Bahamas. By 2015 that number doubled to a record 146.

From 2011 to 2017, more than 100 people were murdered each year.

This high rate of killing happened in an archipelago with a population of just 350,000.

Based on international benchmarks, The Bahamas should have 20 or fewer murders annually. Yet, this decade our murder rate climbed to one of the highest in the region.

In truth, it’s inaccurate to say “The Bahamas” has a murder problem. New Providence does.

Between 2010 and 2015, there were 719 murders in The Bahamas. Of that total, 627 were on New Providence (87 percent). According to Superintendent Chaswell Hanna’s book, “Solutions to the Murder Problem”, the main reasons for these killings were arguments and retaliations.

There were five murder records between 2007 and 2017. It seemed as if the upward trend would continue indefinitely. At the end of last year, however, things started to change.

In November 2017, there was one murder. There were five that December. These were low tallies. In recent years there were weekends in New Providence when five or six people were shot dead.

Thus far this year there have been 77 murders, according to our records. At the end of November 2017, there were 117.

Based on the current count and trend, it is possible we could end 2018 with the fewest recorded murders since 2008, when there were 73.

Why has this happened? No one knows definitively, but different people take credit.

Anthony Ferguson was appointed commissioner of police on October 30, 2017. The sharp decline in killings took place shortly after. The government would say new leadership at the police force and renewed focus on prolific offenders and hot spots played a major part in the success.

The opposition would say the recent decline is rooted in policies it set in motion before it left office.

If this downward trend holds in the long term, the reasons for the decline could still be unknown. So many factors go into crime trends. There is still no consensus, for example, as to the reasons behind New York City’s historic drop in crime the past few decades.

In the social media age too many of us are locked into constant complaint loops. We move from fake outrage to fake outrage over this and that. There is nothing good happening in The Bahamas, if you listen to the chorus of online complainers.

That’s not true, of course. Our streets are becoming safer, and we should be pleased that the situation is calming.

We lost too many young people the past decade to senseless violence. Scores of others were maimed, now living with all manner of disabilities.

No one has said the crime fight was won just because of one better year. The police and Ministry of National Security admit there is still far too much crime in The Bahamas. But progress is taking place, and progress happens in stages.

We appear to be on a path to restoring order. Let’s hope we stay on this path for a long, long time.

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