|Murder rate remains on record pace|
Published: Feb 17, 2012
The last five years have been tragic. There have been four murder records during this period. Individuals armed mostly with guns and knives have cut short the lives of many Bahamians.
In 2011, 127 people were murdered in The Bahamas – the current murder high. Of that total, 110 people were murdered in New Providence.
The 2011 murder record was significantly higher than the three other record murder counts over the last five years. In 2007, 78 people were murdered; 86 people were murdered in 2009, and 94 people were murdered in 2010. Only 28 people were murdered in 1991.
As the murder count increased over this five-year period, so did measures we introduced to help address the problem. More courts were added, more resources were allocated to police and tougher penalties were put in place for illegal gun possession (a recent measure), just to name a few of the response initiatives brought forward. Yet, in 2012 we remain on the same record murder pace as in 2011.
In 2011, 19 people were murdered by the end of February. With about two weeks left in the second month of this year, 17 people have been murdered.
“The increase in violence and crime in Latin America and the Caribbean is an undeniable fact that erodes the very foundation of the democratic processes in the region and imposes high social, economic and cultural costs,” said Heraldo Muñoz, assistant secretary general of the United Nations and assistant administrator and director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in the foreword to the UN’s recently released Caribbean Human Development Report 2012.
Muñoz posed a series of questions in that foreword that capture the problem here in The Bahamas.
“In this context, we are confronted by a paradox: Why is it that, despite the democratization process experienced in the region in the last 20 years, citizen security levels, as well as the justice and security institutions in the region, are in crisis?” he asked.
“Why is it that, despite the structural and institutional reforms promoted by countries in the region in order to construct governance mechanisms which are more transparent, horizontal and democratic, the justice and security institutions are overwhelmed and confidence in them is shattered?”
There has been much talk by our elected officials, security forces and national security bureaucrats the past few years. The judiciary has also intervened in the debate, as it has been blamed by some for the crime problem in the country. Despite all the talk and the measures implemented, the problem is not being solved.
Some say that our crime rate is related to the global economic downturn. This analysis is likely myopic.
In Jamaica last year 1,125 murders were reported – a nearly 22 percent drop from the 1,442 murders in the country in 2010. A record 1,683 people were murdered in Jamaica in 2009.
In 1990 there were 2,245 murders in New York City. That major city now records annual murder tallies in the 500 range.
What may be needed now in The Bahamas is a proper manpower audit of our criminal justice system. Do we have sufficient prosecutors, police, judges, courts, prison officers and support staff for these various agencies to get the job done? We may also need to evaluate the level of coordination between these departments and the branches of government in order to determine how to make the system more efficient.
During the opening of the legal year at the Court of Appeal at the end of January, its president, Anita Allen, noted that the lack of space at the court is hampering its work. Similar inefficiencies at other stages of the justice system may be preventing the most effective response to the crime problem from the state.
We must not think that the level of crime in The Bahamas in recent years is normal, or become desensitized to the suffering of those who lost loved ones in violent attacks. The Bahamas can be made safer and making it safer must be our common goal.