Editorials

The crime fight

The country appears set on a course that will produce another horrific record of homicides this year.

Shootings and physical altercations leading to knife attacks that cause serious, often life-threatening injury and sometimes death, are no longer surprising.

The new commissioner of police has been daydreaming about the courts denying bail to some individuals charged with the most serious crimes in a bid to keep the suspected offenders alive long enough to face trial.

The attorney general has cautioned that the constitution prohibits the denial of bail to accused individuals except in clearly stipulated circumstances set out in law — like ensuring a speedy trial, justifiably protecting witnesses or the accused, or preventing probable flight by the accused.

Meanwhile, the prime minister wants to place greater emphasis on crime prevention as opposed to detection and prosecution.

Bahamians have lived with increasing levels of serious crime since the early 1980s when the illegal transit traffic of narcotic drugs began disrupting life throughout the country.

Initially seen as a foreign problem with little ramifications for The Bahamas, the government of the day was slow-footed in its response.

Meanwhile, the transit traffic quickly ensnared local facilitators with lucrative paydays and lured others into the trade by paying for services in product. Worst of all, it compromised some law enforcement officers and politicians, businessmen and other community leaders.

Since that time, crime has become a favored football of some politicians who spend considerable effort placing the blame for increased crime on the shoulders of their political opponents.

Prime Minister Philip Davis, in opposition, made such accusations the centerpiece of his party’s general election campaign three election cycles ago when he orchestrated the erection of huge posters, in strategically prominent locations, displaying murder statistics.

Listening to the rhetoric on fighting crime now, one is forced to ask, where have these gentlemen been for the past three decades?

Most importantly, it forces us to ask Davis, given our knowledge of the problems driving violent crime in our communities – the breakdown of traditional family ties, the rise and influence of criminal gangs, the proliferation of guns on the streets, the dramatic rise in drug and alcohol abuse in the population, most particularly among young males, and the critical role of unemployment and underemployment in drawing young people into lives of crime — what plans and programs did his party formulate to counteract these conditions as it campaigned to become the government last year?

Certainly, 11 months into his term at the helm of government cannot be the time to begin developing a plan to prevent crime.

It is hypocritical of Davis to pretend that he is unaware of the copious initiatives undertaken by successive governments over the past 30-plus years to tackle the causes of crime and to seek to prevent crime.

He need only read the numerous studies and reports identifying the problems and developing and implementing responses to inform himself on the subject.

Serious discussion with the teachers, counselors and other educators, ministers of religion, psychiatrists and sociologists who have worked in public, private and joint public-private programs to address crime should not be something that his government is only now commencing.

Improved training for law enforcement officers in every branch of the uniform services, the adoption of modern crime fighting technologies and the increase in equipment, vehicles and vessels all with a view to preventing crime, assisting with early detection and detention and successful prosecution of offenders is not only well documented but those reports are easily available to interested politicians of all stripes.

Consultation with the judiciary on a stubborn resistance to the adoption of sentencing guidelines may begin to assist the dilemmas that the grant of bail presents.

The Bail Act has been amended several times in recent memory and understanding the limitations of the various iterations of the act could assist in intelligent, non-partisan advancements.

In this scenario, the prime minister’s simplistic suggestion that his government wants to emphasize prevention (of crime) as opposed to detection and prosecution of crime is startlingly naive.

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