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Violence in The Bahamas is a Tragedy, Prime Minister Davis Says

NASSAU, The Bahamas – As he addressed the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s (RBPF) annual Service of Thanksgiving, on January 8, 2023, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis expressed his “profound gratitude” to RBPF members, who worked to maintain public order and safety, and to enforce the law, in difficult and often dangerous circumstances.

He also noted that the violence in The Bahamas was “a tragedy, one that tears at our soul”.  

“Crime has been a very serious and chronic problem for too long – and then a succession of national crises poured gasoline on the fire,” Prime Minister Davis said, at the Service held at Zion Baptist Church, on Shirley Street.  “Years of trauma, dislocation, lockdowns, despair have led to the tragedies we see unfolding around us.   

“Each act of violence has a ripple effect – in our families, in our churches, and in our wider communities,” he added.  “Ruined hopes, lives cut short, broken families and broken hearts – these are the terrible consequences of violence.   

“And fear – I talk to parents nearly every day who are afraid — afraid their children will be the victims, or – in some cases – perpetrators, of violence. That kind of fear is corrosive, and all-consuming.”

Prime Minister Davis said that that no one knows better than a police officer that there is no one answer to the crisis.

“You deserve the resources, manpower, training, and technology you need to enforce the law. You deserve a government and a private sector working together to create opportunities and paths out of need and despair,” he noted.  “You deserve a health care system that can address mental health breakdowns. You deserve communities in which mentors and role models are plentiful and dedicated. You deserve a legal system that delivers justice and delivers it swiftly. You deserve prisons that rehabilitate, in the truest sense of that word.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, if any of that was easy to achieve, it would have all been done long ago.  

But, he said, difficult did not the same thing as impossible.  

“We can choose to come together in the face of crisis, instead of coming apart,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “After all, the most important commandment is to love our Lord with all of our hearts, and the second most important is to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.”

“Sometimes it is easy to love our neighbours,” he added.  “And sometimes it is hard. When it is hard, and I know on some days, it is very hard, remember that you are doing the Lord’s work.

“When we love our neighbours, we are ‘bridging the divide’.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, when policing is done in partnership with the people, everyone benefits.  He added that, when policing is carried out alongside stepped-up efforts in conflict resolution, prevention, intervention, punishment and rehabilitation, the Bahamas will see the kind of progress its families deserved.

“Progress will come from strong leadership, more resources, and new initiatives targeting gangs and guns,” he noted.  “And progress will come from the collaborative, multi-agency approach you’ve already introduced, which is directed at interrupting the cycles of violence that are tearing up our streets and communities.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, for years, recruitment exercises were suspended, so a priority for The Bahamas was to continue adding more manpower to RBPF ranks, and revitalizing law enforcement.

He added that, in addition of hundreds of new police officers, defence force and immigration officers should strengthen them individually and collectively, to the benefit of The Bahamas.

“We’re also focused on intervening with potential offenders as early as possible, identifying those at risk and steering them to a better path,” Prime Minister Davis pointed out.  “This is why we’re expanding and improving programmes like Urban Renewal, and Second Chance.

Prime Minister Davis said that gangs were reaching into schools to recruit, and that it was happening in the younger and older grades.  

“Your presence on campuses has strengthened security in our schools, for which we owe you our thanks,” he said.

“We also need to stop gangs from recruiting inside the prison walls,” he added.  “All too often, young men are leaving prison with fewer options than they had previously, but more dangerous connections.”  

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that many of the obstacles faced in The Bahamas in creating safer communities were home-grown. But they were amplified and worsened by the dangers that come from outside the country, too, he added. 

“We are implementing measures to strengthen the defence of our borders: from those who would come here illegally, and from those who smuggle in weapons, drugs and people,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“We have established a formal working arrangement with the American law enforcement agency ATF, and we will continue to work with American agencies to share intelligence to help stop the flow of arms across our borders,” he added.

Prime Minister Davis reiterated that the responsibility for leading the fight against crime lies with the government.

“But, ladies and gentlemen of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, it is you who are on the frontlines of that fight,” he noted.

“You put yourselves in danger to keep us safe,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “And it is your training, your professionalism, your intelligence, your humanity – and your love for your neighbours – that give us hope for a better future.”

“Thank you for all that you do for your country. I pray that you stay safe in the conduct of your duties, and may God continue to bless you and keep you forever in His grace.”

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