EDITORIAL: Crime rising to top of government agenda

THE first 18 days of this year have been marked with nine murders. A murder every other day.

It takes little to work out that if that rate continues we will exceed the highest number of murders ever recorded in a year, when 146 murders occurred in 2015.

So when Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis yesterday addressed the Bahamas Business Outlook and stated that his three key priorities for the next 12 months are the economy, education and crime, it is welcome that dealing with the issue is so high on his agenda.

It is, however, a change from only a couple of weeks ago, when Mr Davis said his top priorities for the year included tackling inflation, creating more job opportunities and fostering youth empowerment.

In fairness, he cited the “youth guard programme, which intends to capture the youth to build our communities and to help reduce the effects of crime” and said that he hoped to launch that scheme as part of wider efforts to tackle crime.

He said at the start of January: “I think we have spent too much effort and too much resources on detecting crime, punishing crime without any regard to what I call the preventative measures and rehabilitative measures. Emphasis will be placed on those labours of the crime fighting initiatives.”

By contrast, yesterday, crime has reached his top three issues facing the country.

He said that “too many of our young men are in a crisis” and, following his meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris this week, he said the government intends to strengthen efforts on illegal migration and gun smuggling.

He said: “If we can make our borders more secure, and reduce the flow of guns into our country, we will take big steps forward in national security.”

Some of this hardly seems a surprise – and one wonders why it took a meeting with the US to move it higher up the agenda.

Fewer guns means fewer opportunities for a would-be killer to have a deadly weapon in his hands.

The vast majority of those guns are reported to come via the US, so there is a challenge over the plentiful supply of weapons available there, but shutting down that pipeline would indeed be helpful.

What is missing is the how. Will there be greater expenditure on border patrols and Customs staff? Will there be extra investment in scanners at ports of entry? Will the much-talked about swift justice come into play with gun courts to speed prosecutions to ensure would-be criminals know if they’re caught with a gun they’ll be going to prison sooner rather than later? Will there be legislation to increase the penalties people face if they are caught in possession of an illegal firearm?

It is easy to say we will strengthen our efforts – but what that actually means has yet to be detailed.

There is also concern over how in touch with the situation police leadership is. The only person who seemed to think the country would not exceed 100 murders last year was Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander. We wish he had been correct, but at the time he said it, that looked unlikely to say the least.

The Commissioner also made some egregious comments this week about cases of statutory rape.

He said that some minors are “falling in love” with older people.

He said: “A lot of minors, some of them are falling in love with elderly individuals but they should know better. The individual should know better. Adults should never approach a minor and I will not support that. We will go all out to save our young females.”

The point of being below the age of consent is that the child is not considered capable under the law of knowing better. They are not legally able to give consent, no matter what.

It is up to the older person to know better. They are the ones seeking to break the law. They are the ones seeking to rape a child. It does not matter if a child says yes, they are not of an age where they can give the consent. The onus is on the offender to know better, not the victim.

We need to stop blaming the victim in such cases. They should not be in a position to say no or yes. It is the person seeking to exploit them that needs to stop what they are doing.

So as we tackle issues of crime – be it murder, rape or the many other activities that blight our communities – it would be helpful if there was a clear understanding of how we are going to do so, or even the nature of the crime itself.

And with the current rate of murders at one every other day, there is no time to waste.


bahamarich 1 month, 4 weeks ago

It is a must that trial system for gun crimes and murder are expedited. It is insane that people charged with murder are on parole.


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