The downward trend in murders
Two double murders last week in New Providence had Bahamians talking. One happened at Potter’s Cay Dock, a popular leisure spot. The other was at the inner-city community of Kemp Road.
These killings were unfortunate. Families are grieving. Life was lost that won’t return.
Despite the incidents, Bahamian should remember the country is on a downward murder trend that is hopefully becoming sustained.
From 2011 to 2017, more than 100 people were murdered each year. There were five murder records between 2007 and 2017, driven by killings in New Providence. The worst year was 2015 when 146 murders were recorded.
A decline started in the fall of 2017. It continued through 2018. Last year’s murder count was down 25 percent to 91, the lowest recorded number in nearly a decade. This year, through the end of April, murders were down 26 percent from the same period in 2018 – the year when the major decline occurred.
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.
In January, when Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson released the crime statistics for 2018, he said the violent crime decrease was a direct result of improved police efforts.
“While we are indeed encouraged by the noted reductions in murder and other crime, I want you to know that the reductions did not happen by mere coincidence, but as a result of analyzing trends, refocusing policing operations and developing valuable intelligence,” he said.
“The operations and training of all areas of the force, working together in support of my anti-crime strategy and my policing plan, were deliberate and impacted the reduction in overall murders and other serious crimes.”
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 were caught up in silly disputes that got out of hand. Some were in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.
All right-thinking Bahamians should hope the downward trend in killings becomes the new norm. The Bahamas is a place that should have no more than 15 to 20 murders per year based on internationally aspired to benchmarks. We are far away from that goal. But change comes incrementally. And we seem to be at the beginning of the path to change.
If this success were being led by the policies of Ferguson and Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, opponents of the government should be willing to commend them for their efforts.
We have supported Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM) administrations in the crime fight. We want Bahamians to be able to live their lives free of the fear of shootings, break-ins, robberies and killings.
The crime crisis of the past decade has changed the mindset of our people, especially in New Providence. We’re more paranoid, more guarded, more afraid. Those with money flocked to gated communities paying exorbitant house prices and fees to feel safe.
The Bahamas is a beautiful place. We should not be fearful moving around our paradise. We need law and order restored.