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Stay focused on the crime fight

Earlier this month, we questioned Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander’s resolve to indeed make this March – also Police Month – “a month of police operations”.

Fernander said, “This will entail flooding our streets with police operations in all areas throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”

He warned, “Criminals, be aware; we are coming.”

To Fernander’s credit, there has indeed been more police presence on the streets of New Providence.

Road blocks and police checks have been more frequent and there has been a noticeable increase of mobile and foot patrols in many commercial centers, including during the nights at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay Dock.

Special operations are also noticeable as officers in tactical gear, often armed to the teeth, have been noticed stopping vehicles they deem may be engaged in suspicious activity.

Last year, Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe pledged that when police get more resources, they will have a stronger presence around the island.

Hopefully, this has not been a display put on simply for Police Month, but is the beginning of a sustained approach to increased police presence.

Even with the increased presence, the level of carnage this month was still unacceptable.

Thankfully, the severity of the crime situation is not something Munroe is trying to dismiss as not that bad, as have some ministers of national security in the past in the face of escalating violence on our streets.

Though Munroe said during an address at the University of The Bahamas’ Government and Public Policy Institute lecture series this week, that the fear of crime is more compelling than the actual numbers, he outlined critical steps to address the situation.

He rightly pointed out that the issue of bail for those accused of murder is a serious concern.

He noted that nearly half the people murdered last year were out on bail for murder.

Munroe said the government is also working closely with the judiciary to expedite the trial process, particularly for firearms-related matters, through initiatives such as a Task Force on Delay Reduction and more aggressive evidence provision.

“…It’s a very simple proposition that I advance,” he said.

“Whether you are innocent or guilty, it is clear from the statistics when we have 40 percent of the murders last year being persons on bail for murder, that if you are charged with murder and admitted to bail, there is a high probability that you can be killed. And as a matter of public safety, bail should be refused because you are likely to be killed in an urban setting.

“We are waiting patiently to see what the courts will make of that argument.”

We agree with Munroe’s argument.

The death penalty is in full effect among street gangs, who have no ethical qualms about due process and the presumption of innocence.

On remand at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services is currently the safest place for most people charged with murder.

If the Ministry of National Security and the agencies under its remit can work more quickly with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the constitutional arguments about a right to trial within a reasonable time – though it is already clearly codified in law – could quickly fall away.

We also agree that there must be more done to lure young men away from gangs.

While adults must be held accountable for their choices, we cannot afford to lose generations of young people.

No one joins a gang for the pension plan.

There are clearly deep-seated challenges adapting to life for young men who find themselves without structured systems in their communities or positive role models to emulate.

Munroe is also correct that our prison system must truly become rehabilitative.

Unfortunately, for many young people, prison might be the environment in which they are most likely able to be weaned off drugs and alcohol and be taught in a disciplined environment.

We do not want these young men to go to prison, but if nothing else was able to positively intervene before, perhaps they stand a greater chance of re-integrating into society when they are more mature and having been placed in a captive environment.

Prison might serve to save lives where free society could not.

Nothing currently on the table is simple, but even simple solutions to our problems would likely not be easy ones.

The road ahead is long and uncertain, but we must stay focused on the crime fight.