A special editorial commentary
The official crime statistics for the first seven months of this year released on Monday by National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest confirmed a startling fact that virtually every Bahamian already knew: The Bahamas is experiencing a frightening level of serious crime that apparently has rendered the current Free National Movement (FNM) government impotent as far as finding solutions to this troubling problem is concerned.
Initially, it seemed as if the police were too embarrassed to release the actual figures when the Nassau Guardian repeatedly requested them over the past couple months, but after The Guardian published a story criticizing the failure of the police to respond to its request, Mr. Turnquest hurriedly made the figures public.
What the figures showed was that crime overall increased by 16 percent compared to the same period last year. Indeed, there were significant increases in practically every area of serious crime – murder, rape, attempted rape, armed robbery, robbery, housebreaking, stealing, stealing from vehicles and stolen vehicles.
Murders were up by an astonishing 57 percent, from 54 for the first seven months of 2010 to 85 from January 1 to July 31, 2011. Of course, that figure has skyrocketed to 92 since then, and may very well have continued its upward spiral by the time this is printed, possibly surpassing the record-breaking 94 murders last year.
More likely than not because more deadly weapons are being used when firearms are responsible for a murder, incidents of attempted murder declined by 14 percent and manslaughter by 100 percent.
Rape was up by 26 percent, from 53 to 67 this year; attempted rape increased 11 percent, from 19 to 21; robberies skyrocketed 19 percent, from 175 to 208; armed robberies jumped 14 percent, from 459 to 522; attempted robberies soared by 38 percent, from 16 to 22; housebreaking leaped by 12 percent, from 1701 to 1908; stealing also was up by 12 percent, from 1048 to 1170; stolen vehicles shot upwards by 7 percent; and there was an astronomical 97 percent increase in the category of stealing from vehicles, from 705 to 1386.
The fact that the murder rate has increased each year during the more than four years that the FNM has been the government this current term is mind-boggling, to say the least. This is actually true about the soaring crime statistics in general.
And although the FNM government collectively has failed to find solutions for the country’s runaway crime problem, clearly the buck stops, so to speak, with Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest.
To be sure, after the murder rate climbed two years in a row, this should have been a red flag for Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that the responsibilities he entrusted to his National Security Minister were too big for him to handle, and a cabinet reshuffle would have been very much in order.
Perhaps, the Prime Minister did give some consideration to removing Mr. Turnquest as National Security Minister, but after an evaluation of the current talent available to him in and outside his cabinet, he decided to stick with him, with the hope that he would eventually turn things around.
After all, there were other areas of his government where ministers were doing a lousy job, including his own performance as Minister of Finance and that of his chief financial advisor, Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing.
In fact, a strong argument could be made that the mismanagement of this country’s economy by Mr. Ingraham and Mr. Laing has contributed to some degree to the high rate of crime in The Bahamas.
Unquestionably, there is a correlation between high unemployment and crime. And despite recent claims by the Department of Statistics that the national unemployment rate dropped from 14.2 percent to 13.7 percent, the reality is that unemployment in The Bahamas is probably at its highest level since the government started compiling unemployment statistics. Using a formula that totally disregards persons who got tired of pounding the pavements day after day unsuccessfully looking for work surely does not present a true picture of the pain and suffering that many families are going through in this country because one or both breadwinners cannot find work as a result of FNM government policies that are not investor-friendly.
Here’s a good example of the correlation between crime and unemployment: An unemployed young man – or more and more these days a woman – gets up in the morning without a dime in their pocket and there are no prospects of them finding a way to get a couple dollars other than begging for it, stealing it or committing a robbery. For many young people, this scenario serves as their introduction to crime, and those who get permanently caught up in this vortex of criminal activities eventually end up as wards of the state at Fox Hill Prison.
But whatever the reason is why serious crime has been allowed to fester and grow under the current FNM government, there is no disputing the fact that this sad state affairs cannot be allowed to continue.
That’s why it is imperative in the upcoming general election that the Bahamian people replace the failed FNM government with a Progressive Liberal Party government that will have the know-how, the commitment, the political will, and determination to not only restore respect for law and order in this country, but also sound fiscal management of our financial resources and by extension create jobs that would result in a believable low rate of unemployment.
Philip Brave Davis MP.