by Larry Smith
The Inter-American Development Bank has just published the most comprehensive report ever on crime and violence in the Bahamas.
Researcher Heather Sutton compiled data from multiple sources on the scope and nature of crime and violence in the country. The aim is to establish a baseline against which progress can be measured.
The report surveyed crime prevention and suppression policies, programmes and projects adopted by government and non-governmental organisations, and suggests the most effective ways forward.
In her executive summary, Sutton notes that Bahamian police and public health records "confirm high levels of crime and violence (specifically murder, armed robbery, and rape.) that have consistently risen during the past decade."
Here are the main findings:
•The murder state has doubled over the past decade and is now among the highest in the region - at 31.9 per 100,000 in 2014;
•Victims of homicide are predominantly males between 18 and 25, and retaliation is the main murder motive;
•Over the last five years 86% of all murders took place in New Providence;
•Guns are used to commit most murders, but there are just as many stabbings treated at the Princess Margret Hospital as there are gunshot wounds (288 gunshot wounds and 251 stabbing wounds in 2013);
•The number of gunshot and stabbing wounds treated at the PMH far outweighs the number of murders. There were 4.5 times as many stabbings and shootings treated at the hospital, and these are increasing at an even higher rate than murder;
•Violence against women and children is a major concern, although no surveys have been done on prevalence of either intimate partner violence or sexual violence;
•The average rate of rapes reported over 2009–2013 was 27 per 100,000 population - above the already-high regional average - and rape is highly under-reported;
•Cases of rape treated at the PMH alone were nearly 1.6 times higher than those recorded nationally by the police;
•Unarmed robberies increased 92 per cent, from 2006 to 2013. Armed robberies are much higher in number and have also nearly doubled over the same period;
•Vehicle theft has more than doubled in the last 10 years;
•Eighteen different gangs are operating in The Bahamas. They vary in size, membership, and the extent of involvement with illegal activities;
•There is a lack of empirical research identifying the specific risk and protective factors relevant to crime and violence in The Bahamas;
•The Bahamas needs improved data collection as well as increased data sharing and transparency to gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t;
The lack of transparency was a key complaint. The IDB report identifies significant barriers to the sharing and analysis of data. "Much of the information requested for this report was not provided even after extensive requests at the highest levels (and) data sharing even among government entities is not common practice."
This is a critical failure, the report says, because dealing with crime effectively depends on research and objective evaluation of policies, programmes and strategies.
And this requires both transparency and a willingness to invest in data collection, monitoring and evaluation - something no Bahamian government has attempted to do.