Is Urban Renewal All It’s Cracked Up To Be?
A few months back I commended the new Christie administration in The Nassau Guardian for implementing its award winning urban renewal 2.0 and its Project Safe Bahamas. At the time it appeared as if the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration had finally broken the back of crime, especially the hideous crime of murder. For all intents and purposes, Urban Renewal 2.0 was touted by some as a cure all, a panacea for the murder crisis.
The former Free National Movement (FNM) administration received a lot of criticism, some valid of course, for its seeming inability to tackle the crime crisis between 2007 and 2012. As well, the FNM administration was heavily criticised for watering down the urban renewal programme when it came to office in 2007. The police force, according to many, was poorly utilised by the FNM. I believe that the record breaking 127 murders of 2011 and the 44 murders of the first four months of 2012 dealt a fatal blow to the FNM’s chances of winning the General Election.
From January 2011 to the first week of May 2012 there were 171 murders. With so many murders being committed in New Providence and throughout the nation, what could the FNM campaign machinery possibly say to the masses in the days and weeks leading up to May 7? In late 2011 when the murders were racking up with no end in sight, I had a gut feeling that the FNM was a lame duck government that was breathing its last. For what it’s worth, the murder crisis during the FNM’s tenure in high office is one of the main reasons why the PLP is the incumbent government and the FNM is the opposition.
When the PLP won the election on May 7, thousands of Bahamians breathed a collective sigh of relief. They were certain that the PLP would put an end to the murder crisis. To be sure, the lead story of every newspaper in the country on the morning of May 8 was the PLP’s impressive victory at the polls the day before. While thousands were busy celebrating the PLP’s victory, a family was grieving the senseless murders of two of their loved ones, 42-year-old Brigid Williams and her 22-year-old son, Rashad Williams. The double murder, which pushed the murder count to 46, occurred at Baillou Hill Road and Dunmore Avenue on the night of May 7 around 11pm. My condolences to the Williams family.
Even though the two murders occurred some two or three hours after the PLP had won the government, some bitter FNMs still went ahead and criticized the PLP for them. According to them, the murders occurred under the PLP’s watch. These people are willing to admit that 44 murders occurred under the FNM’s watch in 2012. Even though I am slanted towards the FNM, I cannot in good conscience criticise the Christie administration for the double murder on the night of the Election for one simple reason: while it is true that the PLP had won the government that night, it had yet to officially take the reins of power. So it is really unfair to say that those two homicides happened under the Christie administration’s watch. And so an honest FNM would have to concede that 46 murders were committed under the FNM government’s watch in the first four months of 2012.
So far in the first ten months of 2012 there have been 96 murders. Last year this time there were 109 murders. This means that murders are down by 13. Some weeks ago police commissioner Ellison Greenslade told the press that the country is turning the corner with respect to reducing the murder count. He attributes urban renewal for this modest success. While many within the PLP administration and the Royal Bahamas Police Force continue to laud the accomplishments of urban renewal, the murder rate is still shockingly high. What many Bahamians are failing to take into consideration is the fact that this year’s murder count of 96 mirrors the murder count of 2010 which was 96. It now appears that the PLP government and law enforcement officials are gauging their success in fighting the murder crisis by comparing 2012’s murder count to 2011’s record breaking murder count. But I think this is a wrong approach for the simple reason that 2011 was an exceptional year with respect to the murder crisis.Truth be told, this country might never again record 127 murders in a single year.
While I am happy that urban renewal has had some measure of success in bringing down the murder count, there have been 50 murders in roughly six months or the first 178 days of the Christie government. This means that someone was killed every three-and-a-half days under Christie’s watch. This also means that urban renewal 2.0 really isn’t all what many are making it out to be. At the rate we are on, we might exceed 100 murders this year. As well, if 50 murders were committed in five and a half months of the Christie administration, it is safe to assume that 100 murders could occur under the PLP’s watch in 12 months.
Freeport, Grand Bahama