No clear plan to tackle stubborn crime

Violent crime continues to mar life in The Bahamas.

As if an excerpt from a Halloween horror film script, since a week ago yesterday, six people have lost their lives to gun violence. Most shockingly, a visitor to a quiet Family Island community in South Andros, shot last Wednesday, is counted among the dead; a relative also shot was seriously wounded.

There have been 115 murders in the country so far this year and an even more alarming number of additional shootings.

Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander was re-engaged on contract last July, though he had retired from the police force following 40 years of good service – the legally maximum length of service of a police officer.

There was no public announcement of his extraordinary re-engagement nor any statement advising that as with numerous other re-engaged pensioners, the commissioner would enjoy both pension and salary under the terms of his contract.

It was not so long ago that Prime Minister Philip Davis, when in opposition, had a lot to say against the practice of engagement of commissioners of police on contract. At the time, he believed that contract terms could compromise the office holder. Indeed, he questioned the constitutionality of such appointments.

Shortly following Commissioner Fernander’s re-engagement, he speculated that the police would “be able to hold the line” and keep the number of murders, then at 85, to not more than 100 for the year.

Since then, those responsible for leading the country’s anti-crime strategy have been singing from different hymn sheets.

The government appears to be handling the crime problem much as it has in other areas of governance since coming to office a year ago – a lot of public relations, multiple re-engagement of retired public officers displacing serving officers, and sending others on mandatory leave.

Responding to reporters recently, the prime minister alleged that the murder rate would be worse except for undisclosed initiatives put in place by the commissioner of police.

Separately, minister for the police, Wayne Munroe, told our reporters that “the police force had expressed concern that the Director of Public Prosecutions (Garvin Gaskin) was not aggressively appealing fines for bail offenders”.

It is curious that the attorney general has not expressed this same concern.

Minister Munroe said that he had requested his colleague, a non-portfolio minister of state for legal affairs, Jomo Campbell, to organize a meeting with himself, the commissioner of police and the director of public prosecutions, to go over the concerns as “we are not satisfied with his (Gaskin’s) management of the office …”

The unseemliness of two ministers of government becoming involved in arranging a meeting between two constitutional office holders escaped the minister. Surely, the commissioner of police does not require political intervention to meet with the director of public prosecutions.

What the minister did not say to reporters, but what Gaskin revealed on Thursday, was that he (Gaskin) had only returned to office in September following an enforced leave of seven months.

We are not aware that anyone is satisfied with the minister’s management of his own portfolio.

In the midst of a terrible murder spree, the minister thought it appropriate to dispatch a team of some 23 police officers to assist the government of a British colony, the Turks and Caicos Islands, with their crime problem. His major plank at home has been a gimmick – engaging community consultants.

In a final public relations stunt, the prime minister, before again departing the country for nine days, this time to participate in COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, without the minister for the environment, met with civic leaders for what was described as an “intimate heart-to-heart focused on hearing potential solutions from people on the ground in their communities”.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister revealed that “the prime minister continues to prioritize the safety and security of the Bahamian people”.

More words but no plan to tackle stubborn serious crime.

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