Firepower battled with fireworks to ring in New Year’s with a combustible combination of bloodletting and retaliation premixed last year erupting with undiminished frenzy in the new year.
January is considered “the door to the year” taking its name from Janus, in Roman mythology, “the god of the doorway”. What then Opposition Leader Perry Christie described in 2011 as “the tsunami of violence” surged through the doorway of the new year threatening another bloody 12 months.
This is not only New Providence, 2014. It was also the City of Chicago, January 2013 as reported by Associated Press:
“The year did not start promisingly, with more than 40 homicides recorded in January, including that of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down a mile from President Barack Obama’s South Side home …
“ … The city, which ended the year with a 16 percent drop in crime, saw the numbers of violent crimes, including robbery, aggravated battery and criminal sexual assault drop significantly — some by double digits— as well as drops in burglary and motor vehicle theft.”
AP also reported:
“Chicago’s Police Department said Wednesday that after leading the nation in homicides in 2012, recording more than 500, the city last year listed the lowest number of killings since 1965, and saw its overall crime rate fall to a level not seen since 1972 …
“By the end of 2013, the city had recorded 415 homicides, 88 fewer than in 2012 and 20 fewer than in 2011.”
AP further reported:
“In Chicago, the police also said the number of shootings fell 24 percent from 2,448 to 1,864 between 2012 and 2013, and the number of shooting victims dropped from 3,066 to 2,328 for the same period.
“Further, the department said every police district in the city saw a reduction in crime and all but four of the city’s 22 police districts saw the number of homicides either fall or remain the same as the year before.”
What a difference a year can make. Still, in battling crime, one must be careful in extrapolating from one jurisdiction to the next given the variables and differences between various contexts.
Yet there are comparisons and analogies between what may be needed in The Bahamas and what appears to be working to reduce criminal violence and murder in Chicago, other locales in the US and in some Caribbean states.
Christie alluded to this in a 2011 national crime address he made as Leader of the Opposition. He queried:
“Did you know that in Jamaica murders are down 40% — ours are up 58% nationwide and 69% for New Providence.
“It tells you that the tsunami of violence sweeping our nation was never inevitable.
“It tells you an important reason for the escalation of crime in The Bahamas is poor governance.
“This government has been paralyzed, unable to lead on this crucial issue.”
Essentially, Christie stressed that effective and competent leadership is critical in fighting crime.
AP reported what Chicago officials believe contributed to the significant double-digit decline in various violent crimes.
“ ‘We are making significant progress by putting additional officers in high-crime areas, using intelligence to prevent retaliatory shootings, moving officers from administrative positions back to the streets,’ Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement.
“The department and other city officials have pointed out that the drop in homicides, shootings and other violent crimes coincides with changes in police strategies, including tactics targeting violent street gangs that are responsible for the vast majority of the city’s gun crimes and, significantly, about $100 million in overtime pay for hundreds of officers deployed nightly to high crime areas …
“Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that besides putting more officers on the street, various programs for young people have played a role in bringing the numbers of violent crime down.
“At a recent news conference, for example, the mayor said that a record 20,000 young people were involved in the city’s summer jobs program.
“ ‘Not one of those kids was affected by gun violence this summer, and I don’t believe for a minute that if they didn’t have jobs they would be safe,’ he said.”
While there are many components to addressing the causes and the responses to crime, the state has a central role.
The government has failed on several fronts, with much of the failure that of the prime minister, who continues to pass the buck, throwing words and rhetoric at the cycle of violence, instead of mustering common sense and workable responses.
Last weekend Christie made this offensive statement, offensive to Bahamians in general and dismissive of the Commissioner of Police and his senior officers:
“I said to the Minister of National Security, I’m not prepared to have my own legacy, my own reputation, be tied to a total reliance on the Royal Bahamas Police Force and to the leadership of that force.”
“My own legacy, my own reputation”? Innocent people are being killed, the criminals seem large-and-in-charge, people are terrified and distraught, and Christie is worrying about his legacy? What a stunningly self-absorbed, imperious and arrogant statement.
Having failed to adhere to benchmarks and promises made in his 2011 crime address, Christie again demonstrated that he is a pass-the-buck leader. Recall those Bahamians still waiting for mortgage relief and Christie blaming others for his failure to act.
Notice that Christie did not generally criticize Commissioner Greenslade or his senior command when he was in Opposition. Back then it was all or mostly the fault of then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest.
Now, “as prime minister”, nearly two years in office, it is the police who are seemingly mostly at fault. Is this prime minister prepared to be held responsible for anything, ever, including a wasteland of promises he has never fulfilled?
The same bluster, over-promising, incompetence, poor leadership and blah, blah, blah nonsense that characterizes Christie’s leadership in other areas is now adversely affecting the crime fight.
The very public and stinging criticism of the police by the head of government is a serious affair in terms of governance and public confidence.
National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage also publicly slapped down the Commissioner, who criticized the civilian leadership after the robbery of Acting Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis.
Nottage recently cooed the Commissioner’s praises in contrast to Christie’s rebuke.
Differences and disagreements between the civilian and police leadership should be settled privately. The public feud between these leaderships has escalated, with the prime minster openly undermining the Commissioner.
With these criticisms the course of action is clear. Either the Commissioner should voluntarily resign or he should be dismissed if the prime minister no longer maintains confidence in him, which is a clear conclusion of Christie’s remarks.
As an aside, the poor state of leadership on crime was dramatized in the robbery of the acting prime minister. Imagine had there been an urgent matter or a national emergency as Davis was being robbed?
Neither the Commissioner of Police, the Commander of the Defence Force nor cabinet ministers, the Cabinet Secretary or our ambassadors overseas would have been able to reach the acting prime minister.
Oddly, Christie also noted last weekend:
“To the extent that I am leader of the country, I am going to be intrusive in ensuring that the system that we are operating under is accountable to the people of this country … ”
What the devil does he mean, “to the extent that I am leader”? Every chance he gets he reminds the country that he’s prime minister. And, what does he mean that he will be “intrusive”. The term for all of this is called doing your job!
But he has been so lackluster, ineffective and unconvincing on the crime front that he is now ducking responsibility and telling us that he will now do his job, which, given past performance, is highly unlikely.
So there was Christie again last week with the same overwrought, barely intelligible and hyperbolic bluster that few take seriously:
“If I have to put a policeman and a police car on every corner, as they do in some countries, we are going to communicate to the criminals in this country that we are going to rout them out wherever they are.”
Never mind that it may only be North Korea that has police on every corner, there is action the prime minister can take.
Instead of a self-serving photo-op to visit Pope Francis, Christie might have traveled to Chicago to consult with Mayor Emanuel to see firsthand what is working in terms of effective policing; intelligence gathering, especially before retaliatory killings; more effective action against gangs and immediate and longer-term social intervention strategies.
Christie’s blame-game on crime has been shattered, most especially by the carnage in Fox Hill. He can no longer blame Ingraham, Turnquest or Greenslade.