What to do about our crime problem

Dear Editor,

It has become very clear that we are losing the war against crime despite the idea that things are under control; and what is nerve wracking is that the year has just begun. The crime rate is climbing, and we are crossing into dangerous waters.

Despite efforts to strengthen and reform policing, crime rates are at an all-time high.

I have concluded that we need to reconsider our attitudes about crime, policing, and community considering the rise in crime and the failure of the criminal justice system.

Public safety goes beyond enforcement and punishment.

Without attempting to address the source of the issue, systemic inequity that drives individuals into cycles of crime, we can’t keep pouring money into enforcement programs and consultants with no results.

Although there isn’t a definitive list of the causes of crime, it is easy to identify some of them.

Everyone has needs. They are compelled to work outside the system to meet their wants when their needs aren’t supplied.

Traditionally, we have marginalized certain communities in the areas with the greatest rates of violent crime. But what we also fail to analyze is that some people from these communities are unable to move up the social scale because they are limited. It is almost as if a cycle of poverty has been enacted from these communities.

We see the presence of police, but I beg to question, is their presence to perpetrate fear or provide safety?

I further question, what is the consistency of the police presence? A walk through the community to say that “we are there”?

They add stress and create a negative power dynamic with their presence and excessive policing.

Diversity training and false pledges won’t bridge the gap that has caused the people’s mistrust in their justice system.

Sending over-armed and poorly trained police officers into “problem neighborhoods” will not stop crime, and it will not undo the damage already inflicted.

Violence cannot be policed out, despite the authorities trying to create different interventions.

The questions is, if more police presence in high-crime neighborhoods is not the answer, then what is? We need to see crime as a symptom of a much bigger issue, which is systematic oppression and a lack of resources, rather than addressing it as a standalone problem.

There is no question that there is a barrier between the communities and police, and even between the government, and by extension the politicians who were elected to serve them.

Alternative approaches are needed for conflict resolution and crime prevention outside of the normal “reforming policing”. There is a gap that needs to be filled.

If we continue to allow crime to rampage like this, it can potentially damage and harm our development as a nation. We are in a crime pandemic. And an immediate vaccination at any cost must be secured before we all pay the grave consequences.

This disregard for human life has become great from two years of death: the coronavirus and now the rise in gun violence.

We must fix the justice system. And then, we must reassure the Bahamian people that they can trust the system too.

It is appalling when even the commissioner of police can admit that criminals who are arrested and arraigned for murder, secure bail, sometimes just weeks after. This too is another major concern that we must deal with if public safety is the paramount goal.

Despite the statistics, I still believe that this country, these islands, are still a safe place to live, work, learn and play. But these criminals are playing Russian roulette, and too many innocent lives are being taken by their lawlessness.

On the other hand, some have a different view that some of these murders even from last year are a result of criminals versus criminals who are getting revenge and are killing each other. However, despite this rhetoric, we’ve seen enough innocent children, and mothers too taken at the hands of these criminals.

Time after time, whenever the police come to the media at a murder scene, they make a plea to the public to come forth and assist them in their investigation.

It is going to take all of us to approach this together. I don’t care how many times they recruit police officers per year, crime is not solely a police problem; it is ours too.

We are all needed together to wrestle down what seems to be an intensification in criminal activities. It makes no sense complaining, if we are not willing to work together to make a safer Bahamas for us, and our generations to come.

If you have information pertinent to a crime, come forward. Help these officers put these criminals behind bars. If you see something, say something.

I know some are afraid to come forward because of consequences. However, we should never allow fear to hold us back from speaking the truth.

We cannot allow crime and violence to continue to permeate our communities.

Dr. Matheo Smith

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