Youth Leader Calls for Society to end ‘Protection’ of Criminals

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Minister of National Security and Immigration, the Hon. Tommy Turnquest answers questions during the Q&A section of the first National Youth Anti-Crime and Non-Violence Forum which was held Friday, February 8, 2008 at the Paul H. Farquharson Conference Centre, Police Headquarters, East Street. (Photo/Patrick Hanna)

By: Matt Maura

NASSAU, Bahamas – Bahamians must take a stand against crime and criminality by making a conscious decision to stop knowingly protecting drug dealers, thieves, rapists and murderers and all other criminals, Executive Vice President of the Bahamas National Youth Council Sacha Armbrister recently said.

Delivering a powerful and emotional welcome address at the first National Youth Anti-Crime and Non-Violence Forum hosted by the Conference of Youth Leaders (COYL) in conjunction with the Ministry of National Security, Ms. Armbrister said Bahamians are placing the blame for crime and criminality on everybody from the government to the police, when crime is a community problem and when many persons knowingly protect persons committing the very same crimes they decry.

“Why haven’t the Bahamian people taken a stand to say we will not allow criminals to destroy our lives and nation?” Ms. Armbrister asked. “Why do we blame everyone from government to the police, when crime is a community problem? Why do we knowingly protect drug dealers, thieves, rapists and murderers all because we share the same last name?”

Ms. Armbrister said the Anti-Crime and Non-Violence Forum, which was attended by hundreds of Bahamian youth and adolescents representing every island in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, signified that the youth of the nation – whom she said are either the victims of crime or are the perpetrators of many of the violent and heinous acts that are being committed in the country – are committed to contributing to the efforts of making The Bahamas a safer place within which to live.

“Today is not a day to be taken lightly,” Ms. Armbrister said. “This is a day the leaders of our country put their pens down, close their mouths, remove the blindfolds and open their ears to hear and seriously acknowledge not the cry, but the strong, determined voices of the young Bahamians being affected by crime.

“You are the voices of those who cannot be heard. Let this country hear you roar. Today is your opportunity to express the strategies and systems you trust can decrease crime, strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the community, and send a clear message that we will not allow criminals to dictate how we live our lives.

“The policies you propose in this room will change history and more importantly, save lives. I implore you, do not hold your tongue, engage in the conversations, be passionate and propose your ideas,” Ms. Armbrister added.

Ms. Armbrister said finding solutions to the crime problems impacting the country became an especially personal matter for her after her uncle was murdered in Grand Bahama in 2007. She said he was stabbed about the body more than a dozen times.

“What made my uncle’s murder even more horrific was the fact that the person who killed him was on bail for another murder and so planning this event was very personal for me because I felt as though I was doing this for him and I don’t want anyone to have to experience what I went through because dealing with the loss of a loved one in such a horrific way is something people should not have to deal with.”

Ms. Armbrister said the Anti-Crime Youth Forum was an important “first step” in getting the opinions of young persons from across The Bahamas on how they view crime and criminality and any solutions they may have with regards to reducing the levels of crime and criminality in The Bahamas, particularly among the youth.

She said the forum will also serve to create the kind of relationship and dialogue between the Government and the Youth of the Nation that can only prove beneficial for both, as many of the nation’s youth are either victims or perpetrators of crime.

“What it is going to do is to help decrease crime and save lives in the future and so it’s a major step and we want to thank the Ministry of National Security for supporting this event,” Ms. Armbrister added.

Minister of National Security, the Hon. Tommy Turnquest said he was excited by the number of young persons whom attended the Forum.

“Excellent turn-out, excellent cross-section of students from the public and private school systems and we have gotten good participation from the Family Island schools and the schools in Grand Bahama,” Mr. Turnquest said.

“The Forum afforded officials at the Ministry of National Security to get to the source of young people telling us their views on the crime situation in our country and to assist us in formulating recommendations for solutions and I think that is absolutely important.

“I think it was an excellent start, we just have to continue it. I think that there is still also some reticence that they are not being taken seriously, but I think that the presence of senior police officers and mine, as Minister, hopefully will give them that comfort that we are serious about them.

“They have taken the time and placed themselves on the line to say that ‘we are going to get involved’ and so we now have to show – by deliberate action – that we are taking them seriously and I think that’s beginning to happen and it’s really just going to be a trust factor between both of us,” Mr. Turnquest added.