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Paradigm Shift Needed To Combat Crime

In a society immersed in an environment of instant gratification, ignorance, defiance of authority, immorality, real and perceived victimisation and corruption; should anyone be surprised at the degeneration of values and the consequential rise in murders and other serious criminal activity?

The primary reasons for the crime situation in The Bahamas have received little attention during the past 30 years. The piecemeal reform efforts which have largely failed over this period must be abandoned. What is required now is a paradigm shift in people’s thinking, including our government.

Aside from the exception of acts of terrorism and the like, for crimes to occur there must be a convergence in time and space of at minimum three elements: a likely perpetrator, a suitable, easy or vulnerable target, and the absence of a capable protector or effective deterrent against crime. If we conclude that the mind of the “likely perpetrator” will always be among us, logic suggests that focus be placed on minimizing the opportunities for such a mind to flourish.

In Economic Sophisms, Frederic Bastiat, postulated; “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” What Bastiat did not say was that when plunder becomes authorised, killing and destruction becomes glorified and the good citizens who permitted such a society become terrified and eventually mortified.

It is impossible, of course, to eliminate crime and corruption. But we must continually seek to reduce the many opportunities for steering public processes in ways that distort public purposes for private gain. A first step is to recognise that it is impossible to eradicate or eliminate this inseparable twin by laws and rules alone.

The enact more laws, write more rules, and implement more policies and regulations approach has and continues to fail.

In The Bahamas this approach has led to a proliferation of laws and rules, so much so that implementation and operation of the complex law enforcement, judicial and regulatory apparatus to prevent crime and corruption is in themselves mechanisms for further corruption and criminal activity.

It cannot be successfully disputed that fighting crime and corruption depends on political will, non governmental institutions; civil society, the church and the family.

What is being postulated here is that elimination of the availability of opportunities to commit crime and to engage in corruption with apparent impunity should be our focus.

When a society degenerates to the widespread criminal and corrupted propensities and proclivities, as appears to be the case in the Bahamas today, an indifferent population will only serve to compromise anti-corruption and crime fighting initiatives.

Vigilance and law enforcement is absolutely critical at this juncture in our national development.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force must be commended for past efforts and for the nationwide initiative launched this week.

Notwithstanding, such initiatives are doomed to failure if they are seen as reactive, piecemeal approaches with selective enforcement of the law.

To ensure success, all laws must be enforced; initiatives must be sustained until the criminal mind is broken and opportunities for criminal activity must be eliminated, eradicated or at minimum, made scarce. People, particularly criminals, need to have a sense that allegations will be acted on and that disobedience of the law will have consequences.

When crime and corruption becomes ingrained in the culture or is seen as part of the daily struggle for survival, law enforcement and reforming governance becomes particularly difficult.

For far too long, much of the prevention work undertaken by police, private security, and business personnel in reducing crime opportunities have dealt directly with the criminal as opposed to also dealing with minimizing opportunities for criminal events.

Think about it, reducing opportunities helps prevent crime.

We subconsciously reduce criminal opportunities daily by locking our cars and homes, by not exposing our valuables, by keeping our money in safe places, by avoiding known crime hot spots, by securing the perimeter of our properties to keep uninvited guests out, and by watching the neighbours’ home when they are away. On a micro level, most of us take these types of precautions every day of our lives.

The trouble is our governments on a national and macro level whether by omission or commission have neglected to put in place the necessary precautionary measures to reduce crime opportunities and events.

To address this mess that we find ourselves in, the haphazard, reactionary, trial-and-error approach must be abandoned. The stakes are too high and the consequences too grave for the business as usual crime fighting slogans and rhetoric.

Worldwide, particularly in Third World territories, sociologists have discovered that most convicted criminals did not finish high school; most grew up in single family homes and most grew up in homes with sub-standard income.

Do you have to ask yourself whether most of the murderers and criminals in the Bahamas fit this profile?

People obey the law when they are able to make rational and intelligent decisions, when they fear punishment and the loss of liberty, when there is moral restraint, when they have bought into the unwritten social contract, when there are sufficient jobs to earn standard or above income and when opportunities to disobey the law are minimized and not authorized or glorified.

For example, as a start to our crime fighting solutions, I suggest reduction or eradication of seven of the more obvious crime enhancing opportunities in the Bahamas:

  1. The crime opportunities to trade in illegal drugs;
  2. The crime opportunities to gamble at the multiplicity of web shops;
  3. The crime opportunities to solicit prostitution via cyber space through the internet;
  4. The crime opportunities presented by bushy and over grown properties and abandoned buildings;
  5. The crime opportunities associated with a huge illegal and disenfranchised population;
  6. The crime opportunities to benefit from the proceeds of crime; and,
  7. The crime opportunities resulting from the possession of illegal firearms.

In conclusion, I submit that unless we reduce the opportunities for criminal activity, our social and personal crime fighting efforts will continue to resemble a philosophy of turning a bull loose in a china shop to prove that one day the bull will get the message and understand and appreciate the delicate and breakable nature of the china.

D Halson Moultrie
Nassau, The Bahamas
December, 2010.

Posted in Opinions

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