Slow steps to progress
Progress usually comes incrementally. Long-standing problems decades in the making do not resolve themselves overnight.
The Bahamas ended 2018 with its lowest murder count in nine years. Based on our records – and the figure could go up or down a bit based on police reclassifications – there were 90 murders last year. In 2017 there were 122. Murders decreased by 26 percent in 2018.
There has been a killing problem for a decade. In 2008, 73 people were murdered. 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 a country with a population of just 350,000.
More specifically, the murder problem is situated in New Providence. Between 2010 and 2015, there were 719 murders. Of that total, 627 were in New Providence (87 percent).
During the budget debate last June, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said when the Free National Movement came to office Bahamians were tired of high murder rates and “demanded that this administration get to work”.
“We did,” he said. “We initiated and executed our short, medium and long-term goals in our crime plan. And while we are certainly not resting on our laurels, we are making inroads in reducing crime.”
The government has committed to addressing the root causes of crime and pledged to develop targeted strategies, and to modernize the branches of law enforcement.
It is never simple assessing the causes of crime declines. On the response side, successive administrations have tried policies and shifted resources toward the problem. There is new leadership at the police force; there are more judges on the criminal side in the Supreme Court. Whatever the reasons, this significant reduction in killings is a positive development.
We lost too many young people the past decade to senseless violence. These were not all bad people killing bad people. Some were killed in the commission of other crimes. Some got caught up in silly disputes that got out of hand. Some were in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.
We must remember too the living victims: Men and women maimed in shootings and stabbings who now live with significant disabilities.
The crime fight was not won because of the murder decrease last year. There is still far too much crime and violence in New Providence, our most populous island. But there was progress last year. And progress happens in stages.
The government must keep at policy interventions that provide education, opportunity and upliftment to our people – especially those in historically impoverished areas. As parents and guardians we need to teach our children non-violent conflict resolution skills and keep them off the streets and away from drugs and gangs. We like to blame the government for every problem. It is not the government’s responsibility to raise children.
We hope the murder count of 2018 is the beginning of a long-term downward trend. There has been too much violence in our archipelago for far too long.