The violence problem documented
Over the past decade there has been a high level of violence in the country. Most of that violence is in New Providence. Grand Bahama has had its problems, too, however.
In 2008, 73 people were murdered in The Bahamas. By 2015 that number doubled to a record 146.
There were five murder records between 2007 and 2017.
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.
The New Providence component of the killings is overwhelming. For example, between 2010 and 2015 there were 719 murders in The Bahamas. Of that total, 627 were in New Providence (87 percent).
Recent data compiled by the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) detailing violent incidents presented at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) in New Providence and Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama, from 2013 through 2018, further detail our problem.
The facilities treated more than a combined 11,000 assaults, rapes, stabbings and gunshot wounds during the period.
The numbers were compiled by fiscal years, beginning in July and ending in June.
“We wanted to pay particular attention to the number of wounds, stabbings, assaults, etc. because we were going through, and have been going through in The Bahamas, an epidemic of violence where we’re beating, stabbing, shooting, raping one another at an historic and almost internationally unprecedented rate,” said Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands when interviewed about the report.
There has been so much violence, so many killings, that our perception of what is normal is skewed. Last year there were “only” 91 murders. We were all pleased at the reduction from previous years. Yet, 91 murders in a country with a population of 350,000 gives us one of the higher murder rates in the world.
There are many contributing factors to our problem.
The financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent Great Recession ravaged The Bahamas for a decade. Thousands of jobs were lost. Unemployment spiked.
We have a crisis of male performance in the school system. Many boys drop out, and those who remain underperform. The dropouts grow up on the streets, lured to the life of hustling, crime and violence.
The drug culture ushered in during the Pindling administration had damning effects, too. Addicted mothers and fathers in the 1970s and 1980s did not raise their children. They instead sold or used drugs. Some died young. Some ended up in prison for long periods. Some became addicts. Their absence from homes damaged the country’s family structure.
So much is needed to help fix our violence problem. What we must not think is that more police, courts and jail cells, in isolation, would solve the problem.
In a crisis, yes, law enforcement is needed to push back against the trend. But, if we are to prevent the killings, the shootings, the stabbings, we must do a better job investing in and raising our boys and young men. They are the ones at war with each other. They are the ones committing the armed robberies.
As we have said before, when we fail our boys young we have to spend so much more to chase and arrest and prosecute and house them in jail as men.
We need to reverse our spending habits. More investment in child care is needed; there should be special emphasis on finding a better pedagogical model to reach boys; more emphasis is needed in teaching our children non-violent dispute resolution throughout their school lives; male teens should not be allowed to just drop out. Find them and bring them back, by whatever reasonable means, to the school environment where they can be taught, socialized, trained and positively inspired.
The Bahamas is a beautiful place. None of our islands should have the problems that have emerged in New Providence and Grand Bahama.