Bahamian systems out of order

We are on the home stretch to the 50th anniversary of independence, yet so much about our current state of affairs point to “systems out of order”.

The commissioner of police, up to late last year, maintained that the country was not experiencing a crime crisis. And the prime minister conveys the impression that crime is under control and improving, particularly since his re-engagement of a retired commissioner of police.

In reality, there is a creeping increase in incidence of serious crime, particularly crime against persons, and rampant disrespect for law and order in our country.

Statistics released at a Royal Bahamas Police Force press conference on Friday confirm that there has been a total of 128 murders during calendar 2022, an eight percent increase over 2021, two incidents involving foreign nationals. Further, the statistics also confirm a 34 percent increase in armed robberies in 2022, 14 incidents involving tourists.

This hardly provides a level of comfort among the public that had come to expect a more activist prime minister in the war on crime given his high stakes anti-crime position as early as the 2012 general election campaign. Then, he caused billboards to be raised around New Providence highlighting a spike in murders.

In a country with as much as 70 percent of GDP derived from the tourism sector, it is a serious predicament when government advisories to citizens in our major source market, the USA, warn that “violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas in The Bahamas”. And these warnings do not include anecdotal reports that visitors venturing into downtown Nassau and other tourist attractions are once again routinely harassed by peddlers of goods and services, many illegal.

Such ugly behaviors are reminiscent of downtown Nassau and the Prince George Dock in earlier times which were then addressed by the introduction of a hair braiders pavilion, a taxi call-up system, and regulated access to surrey horse tours, boat and other land excursions, and scooter rentals that rid the center of town of peddlers plying illegal drugs and other tawdry wares and services.

The director of public prosecutions report for the period of January to December 2022 records that 54 individuals were convicted of armed robbery, 18 of murder and 24 manslaughter, almost certainly for incidents occurring in prior years.

Sadly, many in the community have abandoned the judicial system in pursuit of “justice”.

The police confirm that 34 of last year’s murder victims were individuals on court-authorized bail. Another 30 victims were being electronically monitored. And 46 murder victims last year were “known to the police” suggesting that they had earlier altercations with law enforcement.

These crime statistics are the basis of the fear of crime with which thousands of ordinary Bahamian citizens live, many behind locked and barred or alarm-protected doors and windows.

Bahamians will derive little consolation from learning that the police recorded a two percent reduction in “serious crime” last year even while we experienced a 23 percent increase in crimes against the person.

But it is not only the violent crime front that points to broken systems in need of repair.

Confronted by rising tensions among Bahamians, particularly on New Providence, Abaco and Harbour Island, over the expansion of shantytowns that are suspected of sheltering some undocumented individuals, the prime minister has said that his government is “doing all that it can” and asked that his critics should tell him what else he could do.

Then, he explained that the attorney general will seek clarification and modification of a nearly five-year-old 2018 Supreme Court judge’s order which prohibits the destruction of shantytowns on New Providence and portions of Abaco, later extended to all of Abaco.

Clearly, the “Blueprint for Change” on which the prime minister campaigned for office has been without positive effect on our systems.

Far too many parts of our systems are “Out of Order” and an ineffectual government appears to be flat out of ideas, policies or initiatives to fix them.

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