|Alerting the public|
Published: Jun 28, 2012
There has been much discussion this week over an upswing of housebreakings, burglaries and rapes in parts of New Providence. Police have taken at least three people in to custody in connection with the problem, but it is unclear if these individuals are involved and it is also unclear how many people are committing the crimes.
Housebreaking has been a problem in The Bahamas for several years – particularly in New Providence. According to police statistics, there were 3,237 housebreakings in 2011, up three percent from the 3,141 cases of housebreaking in 2010. The 2010 figure, however, was 17.5 percent higher than the 2,673 housebreakings recorded in 2009.
Housebreaking is a serious problem that we have not been able to address. The crime, and its nighttime version burglary, is often accompanied by sexual assaults against women. These assaults are dastardly acts, with females at times being raped in front of other relatives and even their children.
The public feels particularly affected by and invested in these types of crimes. Women are afraid for their safety and men are afraid for the safety of their wives, sisters, daughters and friends.
Police have a policy of rarely mentioning rapes and sexual assaults to the media in their public crime reports. The argument is that they do not want to identity victims by naming the areas where the incidents occurred. If people know a rape happened last night on Malcolm Road, then everyone in the neighborhood who saw the police at a particular residence would know a woman who resides there was raped, so the argument goes.
Yes, police do have a responsibility to protect the identities of victims of sexual assault. However, they also have a responsibility to prevent other sexual assaults from happening by warning the public of disturbing trends when they begin. The current problem with break-ins and sexual assaults was only revealed this week because a reporter pressed a senior police officer on the issue.
Simply put, police should issue general area warnings about sexual assaults and break-ins. Rather than saying three rapes occurred on Skyline Drive, police could say that a problem with rapes has emerged in western New Providence, or in the Cable Beach area, giving those who live there the opportunity to change their habits and be more cautious.
Police always ask for the help of the public in solving crime. We the public now ask police to provide us with the necessary information so that we can protect ourselves.
Police must remember that the information held by the force is held on our behalf. It is not just special power or knowledge for police and senior government officials. Of course, police cannot release every detail of information the force has for obvious reasons. But a general notice to women about sexual assaults when the problem begins certainly should not be too much to ask.