Op-ed: The Bahamas has a long-standing crime problem

Op-ed: The Bahamas has a long-standing crime problem


As a journalist nearing two decades, the number of killings in our country the past two months saddens me. The killings happen during the day or night. They happen in public places. Adults and young people have been killed.

The problem caught the attention of our closest ally, the United States. The international media picked up its updated advisory. The story of our crime problem remains all over the internet.

Sadly, crime is not a new problem in our country. The Bahamas has had a problem with murders for some time.

The international standard for murders countries try to be at or under is five per 100,000 population. That means The Bahamas should have as a goal being at or under 20 murders per year based on our size. We had 110 murders last year. We are 5.5 times higher than the standard.

We had 128 murders in 2022. This was the second most in our history. The record year was 2015 when there were 146.

The situation has deteriorated tremendously in the past two decades. We had 44 murders in 2004. Our current annual murder counts are nearly triple that number.

Our murder rate of 27.5 per 100,000 population in 2023 was high. The Bahamas ranks with other dysfunctional countries in our region. There is much less violence in the developed jurisdictions of the hemisphere. In 2022, the United States had a murder rate of 6.3 and Canada 2.25 per 100,000 population.

Most of the violence in our country is in New Providence, the most populated island. Crime problems exist to a lesser extent in Grand Bahama and Abaco.

The government, hotel owners and other members of the elite are spooked by the widespread global coverage of the killings to start 2024. Room bookings are under threat, the tour businesses are in decline, and some real estate transactions were canceled.

The Bahamian economy is almost solely dependent on tourism. A significant falloff in tourist arrivals due to crime fears could wreck the country.

The crime problem we face cannot be wished away. Public relations campaigns cannot make things right. There is too much crime in The Bahamas. There are far too many killings, and that’s been the case for many years.

We have had more than 100 murders per year, nearly every year since 2011. The brief respite was between 2018 and 2020. In back-to-back years of the Minnis administration, in 2018 and 2019, we had 91 and 95 murders, respectively. There were 73 murders in 2020, but that was the Covid-19 lockdown year in which movement was heavily restricted.

The consecutive years of fewer than 100 murders stand out as an achievement based on how bad things have been. The 91 and 95 murders for those years, however, were still far too many for such a small place.

The reasons for our crime problem are many. We had chronically high unemployment over much of the last decade and a half. Our public education system is poor. Wages are low compared to the cost of living. The poor and working-class struggle to afford homes. We beat our children, teaching them violence from the beginning of life. There is an entrenched drug culture. And, our criminal justice system is dysfunctional.

We must address the deep-rooted issues that drive so many young men to crime and violence. We will all suffer – rich and poor, gated and non-gated residents – if we don’t.

The pandemic demonstrated that a prime minister and his administration have the power to move massive resources through the state toward a problem when they are motivated. Our crime problem has the potential to significantly diminish the quality of life for all Bahamians. The rich and comfortable will suffer, too.

All right-thinking Bahamians want the PLP to succeed in the crime fight. What will not work is thinking the police alone can solve the problem. We need historic, innovative and sustained interventions in the lives of our young people. We need to bring in policy experts who can help devise these solutions. We need to put real money behind bold initiatives that steer our young people toward productive lives.

There is also a critical need, on the response side, to make functional our dysfunctional criminal justice system. Do we have enough detectives? Do we have enough prosecutors? Do we have the right number of judges? Do we need to alter trial procedures to ensure cases are processed faster? Is the rehabilitation system in the prison effective?

There are other concerns as well. We need a national crime lab. We must also address the issue of whether or not we are charging too many people with too many crimes. No matter how many detectives, prosecutors and judges we hire, every system has its maximum capacity. We may need to be more strategic in our charging standards to ensure efficiency, justice, and deterrence while also not bogging down the system.

This is hard work. It requires thoughtfulness. Nonetheless, progress can be made if the administration brings the full focus of the state and its resources to bear on the problem with the same vigor we saw governments exhibit during the pandemic.

The media has a responsibility to keep telling stories about the immense crime problem we face. These stories should be on the front pages of newspapers or in the lead block of the TV and radio news.

Our elected officials are pressured to fix the crime problem when these stories are placed prominently. That’s the role of the media on behalf of the people. Life would be easier for the politicians if the media were to hide the stories. They would ignore the problem, and it would get worse.

And this problem with violence and killing will get much, much worse if proper policy interventions are not made. Our young men settle their disputes with guns. They kill to make their point. They do not fear the Bahamian state and its consequences. They do not feel they can realize their dreams through the legal economy.

Whereas our murder count essentially tripled the last 20 years, imagine the same thing happening over the next 20 years. This would not be a place anyone would want to visit or live in.

Yours truly,

Brent L. Dean


Thank You Mr. Brent L. Dean.
You have said it all.
Just want to add that we have become, lazy complacent and allowed ignorance to take over. The Family is where it all begins. So goes the family so goes the Nation.
The foundation of the family has been coroded. There are no structures to hold “It” together. We need leaders who are empowered to uphold our structural pillars.
Teaching, training coaching and mentoring begins in the infancy stage through adult…where we are ewuipped to navigate the ‘labyrinth’ of life.
Being a Senior at Seventy years, I am saddned and pray for the state of my Nation. As a Bahamian, it’s hard to live and survive. I look at the yonger generation as they try to make ‘something’ our of ‘nothing’.
Hunger, lack poverty and homeless are the order of the day. Ignorance greatly abounfs because educating the masses us no longer important or relevant.
People are sick, dying because of negligence no affordable health care. And please don’t mention healthy lifestyles when one canmot afford the foods to be healthy.
I am praying to God for my Nation…other Nstions too! Asking Him to keep Us…we are the righteous generation…the remnant whom he will deliver for his honor and glory.
Thanks again Mr. Dean for sharing. Knowledge is power. The pen more powerful than a sword.

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