Crime: What Can We Do to Save The Bahamas?
So many reports are compiled by and for government and all we hear about is the “launch party”.
Well the same thing seems to have happened with a report by Marlon Johnson and the former Civic Group known as Safe Bahamas, entitled Citizens Safety Diagnosis, Bahamas Report, from 2004.
But after almost a decade with crime seemingly out of control for the past 6 to 8 years, particularly on New Providence, and the most brutish Christmas season one can recall, it might be time to think about a new approach to solving crime.
Thanks to Marlon Johnson, you can download a pdf of the entire report by clicking the following link… Citizen Safety Diagnostics Bahamas Report April 2004
Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us keep the pressure on our elected officials and Police, they will implement many of these ideas?
I know there are many Police Officers that work themselves into the ground to help keep us safe so hopefully they will read this report and bring some internal pressure to bear on the Force as well.
Thanks to Mr. Johnson and Safe Bahamas for all the effort to complete this study back in 2004. Will it be dusted off now by those in charge of law enforcement?
The executive summary of the report follows.
CITIZEN SAFETY DIAGNOSIS, BAHAMAS REPORT, 2004 by Marlon Johnson
Among other Caribbean countries, The Bahamas experiences a high level of national development and standard of living. Nonetheless, the country is not immune to crime and violence. Crime and insecurity impede development and contribute to fear. In order to develop a balanced picture of crime in the Bahamas, we examined patterns and trends in recorded crime and compiled information on existing crime prevention strategies.
Patterns and trends in crime
Patterns of recorded crime in the Bahamas present a complex picture. While the last 40 years has witnessed substantial increases in recorded crime overall, it is difficult to know the extent to which this reflects real increases in crime or improvements in police recording. Yet, despite high peaks in recorded crimes in the mid-1990s, overall rates of recorded crime have been declining over recent years. In fact, rates of overall crime for the period 1998-2002 were at the same level as those from the mid-1970s, down 22 percent from the peak years of 1993-1997.
This said, violent crime rates have shown more consistent increases over recent decades. For example, the murder rate has roughly doubled from an average of 10 homicides per 100,000 each year to 19 between the period 1973-1977 and the more recent period 1998-2002. Similarly, the recorded robbery rate has increased from 202 per 100,000 in the period 1973-77 to 375 in 1998-2002. However, even rates of violent crimes have shown recent reductions, being 32% lower overall in 2002 than in 1998.
While recorded crime rates have declined or somewhat stabilized in the last five years, this is not a reason for complacency. In line with many other countries, it seems likely there have been real long-term increases in crime over the last half century. And, while it is difficult to make international comparisons in the absence of standardized data, the homicide rate in the Bahamas is substantially higher than many industrialized countries, and is high even compared to Caribbean countries. Recent annual averages place the homicide rate in the Bahamas at about 18 per 100,000, compared with 41 in Jamaica, 11 in Trinidad and Tobago, 8 in Barbados, 2 in the UK and 6 in the US. This relatively high homicide rate is a concern in and of itself, and may also be an indication of relatively high levels of violence in Bahamas compared to other countries, though more research would be needed to establish this with confidence.
Contexts of crime
In order to better understand these trends this report places this information in context by identifying where, and by whom crime occurs. In terms of geography, crime in the Bahamas tends to be an urban phenomenon, with rates in New Providence and Grand Bahama – home to the capital city of Nassau and the second city of Freeport respectively – approximately three times that of the more rural communities of the Family Islands. And within the city of New Providence, the inner city neighborhoods account for the majority of violent crimes nationwide, with well over half of such crimes taking place within three police districts of the island.
Accordingly, it is the poor within the country who tend to be the primary victims of crime and violence. Women and children are also particularly vulnerable to crime and violence. Over half the murders for the period of 2001 and 2002 were domestic related. The number of known sexual offenses against women and minors continue to increase even where other numbers have moderated. Perpetrators tend more often to be young urban males.
There are notable factors that tend to influence crime: The large majority of reported crime takes place between Thursday and Saturday evenings; there is some indication that drugs and alcohol are a factor in the commission of crime. The period of 1988 to 2001 suggests a clear and positive correlation between crime and unemployment levels. The increasing rate of crime and violence over time also seems to in someway corresponded with the increase in the number of households headed by single parents.
Strategies to reduce crime
Across the world, there have many thousands of initiatives developed to address citizen safety issues similar to those in the Bahamas. A considerable number of studies have been carried out to determine which types of programs work to prevent or mitigate crime, and which simply do not have any measurable impact on crime either immediately or over time. The core themes shared by the ‘successful’ programs and strategies are:
- Integrated and cooperative public and civic management – programs which show positive effect often must develop multi-faceted strategies that must cut across agencies and across sectors to be implemented successfully;
- Reduction of Opportunities and the increase of Risk for would-be offenders – to impact crime in the short term, potential targets must be ‘hardened’ to reduce opportunities for offenses, while active and passive surveillance must be increased to heighten the risk that perpetrators will be apprehended
- Sustained and targeted Intervention strategies – for programs targeted at modifying destructive behavior patterns in individuals, there is a need for specificity in what behavior patterns are being addressed, as well as for constancy in the intervention programs.
The public authorities and broader Bahamian community have responded with great effort to combat crime, especially over the last decade. The governments commissioned studies on Youth, Crime and Police Reform, to obtain recommendations to address the relevant issues. The findings of the Youth and Crime did not, however, make full use of available statistical evidence to shape its findings. There is also little evidence that these reports, in developing their recommendations, made significant reference to international best practices. Yet, even more promising recommendations of these reports have yet to be implemented. The recommendations of the Police Reform study have been executed, with some indications of preliminary improvements to Police administration and service delivery.
The Bahamian community through relevant civil society organizations (CSOs) – and at times in conjunction with public sector agencies – has mobilized considerable resources to address elements of the crime situation. Most have focused on youth development, but organizations also have been formed or expanded to address issues such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and neighborhood development and empowerment. To date, however, these efforts have met with limited success in creating a sustained downturn in crime.
To address crime and violence in The Bahamas, policy makers should give consideration to a single national plan of action that would build upon promising elements of current initiatives. It would however, in developing the plan, identify a limited number of coordinating entities to oversee distinct components of the plan. It would also demand comprehensive and ongoing evidence-led evaluation of programs and strategies to permit mid-stream adjustments where necessary.
The recommended strategy and program areas outlined below – presented for inclusion in the national plan – are based principally upon ‘what works’ in other jurisdictions, tailored to the needs and peculiarities of the Bahamian setting. They are organized according to what is expected to show demonstrable impact in the near term (within 12 months), the medium term (within 36 months) and the long term (greater than 36 months). To be effective in taking the following strategies forward, it will be critical to embrace comprehensive evaluation of their programs to determine actual, as opposed to perceived impact.
- Expand Police Hot-spot patrolling with emphasis on inner city areas of New Providence during ‘problematic’ week-end period
- Promote a ‘Target Hardening’ Campaign with public subsidy (i.e. custom duty reduction) for security related purchases by individuals and businesses
- Introduce an ‘Anti Domestic Violence Initiative’ that would expand police powers to arrest and charge suspects without victim consent, that would provide for extended intervention and support for victims, and that would incorporate extensive public education and sensitization
- Introduce Repeat Offender Unit in the Police Force designed to track and quickly apprehend ‘high-risk’ re-offenders
- Focus on early identification of and intervention with critical ‘at-risk’ teenagers incorporating comprehensive and sustained attention from the educational and social services systems.
- Enforce existing Alcohol Laws
- Enhance support for Drug and Alcohol treatment programs
- Expand Shelters for victims of Domestic Violence
- Accelerate Police Reform and Modernization with focus on more training for Police Officers, better forensic facilities and upgrade of IT utilization
- Improve tracking and sharing of case information between related public entities on matters related to ‘at-risk’ youth and domestic and sexual violence cases
- Expand After-school and Week-end program for ‘at-risk’ young persons
- Introduce Parental training and support mechanisms, with incentives for those most ‘in need’ to attend
- Continue promotion of responsible reproductive health
- Strengthen and reshape Police Community Consultative Committees