By Delroy Meadows
January 10, 2011
A plan of action needs to take place this year to abort the level of crime in our nation. It is a disgrace that the Government of the Bahamas have continued to allow criminals ransack and corrupt the quality of living of Bahamians. It is awful that good, hardworking people have to be subject to this level of fear and confusion placed upon them by wicked people who should have no place to sleep among us.
The Spirit of peace and love that sits at the core of those of us who share the great vision of a prosperous future for our Bahamas should be allowed free reign in this land. It should be allowed to grow and spread among us without any hindrance or threat from those who are not likeminded. I believe that the aggressive support of our leaders is key to the very existence and development this vision. Peace and security within this nation should be the primary tool that we use to measure the ability of our leaders to Govern— not the status of the economy. I would prefer to be broke and unemployed living in the warmth of safety than to be wealthiest of men living in the coldness of fear.
Our view of criminals needs to be changed. It is a mistake to judge softly those who continue to commit acts of violence against us and our neighbors. Those who continue to sell drugs and guns on our streets need to be dealt with harshly, not only by the courts but by each and every one of us who has the power within the law to do so.
Funds that should have been allocated to assist Bahamians in other areas such as Social Service (which is currently in a depressed state due to the economic climate) are being funneled by the Government to increase the population of an already oversized Police Force.
Our border security needs more funding than any other area to protect our islands from a real and impending mass exodus from Haiti. Bahamians now facing foreclosure from the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation needs assistance from the Government to keep their families off the streets. Yet the Government chooses to pump more funds into a police force that has already proven that they are quite capable intellectually and equipped physically to handle the investigating and apprehension of criminals in our society. Why are we continuing on with this waste when the obvious problem has already been identified?
The Obvious Problem
First of all: The current status of the Royal Bahamas Police Force is not the problem.
The enforcement of our laws and the disheveled condition of our judicial system has already been confirmed to be the primary cause of repetitive criminal activity.
It is not right for the Government to use the current level of crime as justification to spend public money on the hiring of more police officers, the purchasing of new police vehicles and all the extra technology when it is not needed. This is a counterproductive form of governing and a waste of our financial assets.
When we announce to criminals that we have to do all of this to fight them it creates Goliath mentality of lawbreakers and weak impression of law enforcement.
Our culture of respect for the authority of our police officers should be such that an officer, whether he be on feet armed with just a baton or on a bike with nothing more than a flashlight, he or she should in confidence carry the full influence of the law when they are seen by those who would even dream of breaking it.
The peace of our nation is broken because of the weak link of our courts and it is this flaw which continues to hold our citizens hostage. In essence the police are sweeping the dirt outside and the courts are blowing it back in again. The Government of the Bahamas in all its authority should act swiftly to correct those judicial policies that continue to place the public at risk from repeat offenders. Amendments to the Bail Act with provisions that lean more in favor of victims rather than perpetrators should be done without further delay.
The penalties for possession of illegal firearms need to be increased dramatically to send a strong message to those who carry them. I am of the opinion that persons who carry illegal firearms should be treated in the same manner by the courts as those who are charged with the intent to commit murder. Likewise those who profit in the trafficking and sale of illegal firearms should share the same fate as those who commit murder with those weapons.
The methods of deterring crime should be the primary objective of the Government and not the reason as to why persons commit crime. It has been an excuse for many persons and a scapegoat for the Prime Minister to point out that those persons who commit murders in most cases are known to each other or that crimes of passion cannot be prevented by law enforcement. This is a lie!
If we are to believe this then we must also believe that the law useless or impractical and only subject to a few who would have the liberty of choosing whether or not to obey it. Would not this view of obedience to the law as being optional cause more to commit crimes?
The influence brought on by harsh penalties and surety of swift justice for breaking the law can be the sole deterrent of crime within our country.
We have seen recently the level of influence that the enforcement of the seat belt law has had on our streets in just a short space of time. Today almost everyone can be seen wearing a seatbelt which in contrast is a drastic change from the status quo just some months earlier. I have even seen members of the public stick reminders on their dashboards to wear seatbelt when they enter their vehicles.
The reason behind this level of obedience can only be attributed to the harsh penalties that are attached to offending this law and its strong enforcement by the police. If we can enforce one law then we can enforce all. The minds of our people are now pricked to buckle up the minute that they sit in their vehicles. Those who accompany them are also encouraged by the driver to do the same because of the increase penalty that they themselves would receive for having others break the law in their presence where he or she has authority to prevent it.
One of the main reasons crimes of passion are committed in this country is due to the fact that there are no awareness being made of the penalty one would surely face if the act is committed. Another reason is that the penalties for such crimes are not sufficient to trigger the cooling down of a mind that is enraged in anger. Our problem therefore is that there exists in our society no influence greater than a man’s own emotional drive to carry out his desire as he sees fit.
There also exists no enforcement of public responsibility laws in regards to crimes committed in the presence of others where one would have the authority to prevent or disclose. Most murders that are domestic in nature were preceded by acts of violence by offenders against their victims. It has been found that those acts leading up to murder were known by persons other than the offender and the victim but nothing was reported.
The penalties for those onlookers in such cases need to be imposed likewise if we are to see any form of collaborative effort against crime among our citizens. We all bear the brunt of crime in this country so likewise we should all bear the responsibility by law to prevent it where possible.
It is my hope that we view the recent enforcement of the seatbelt law and its success as a sign that “it can be done” and use it as a prototype to influence positive change in other areas of our society.