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Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The official report on crime in The Bahamas ...prepared by noted Bahamian psychiatrist Dr David Allen - M.D., M.P.H.
IN today's Insight, we present the official report on crime prepared by noted psychiatrist Dr David Allen.
Some findings from this report were first published in The Tribune on March 30, 2012.
Dr DAVID F ALLEN
USING a clinical epidemiological approach, the root causes of crime were examined over a five year period (2007-2012) by analyzing data from diverse focus groups in the Bahamian community. This was the same approach used to report on the cocaine epidemic in the Bahamas published in The Lancet in 1986. For this study on crime, the focus groups included:
Families of murder victims;
Transitional adolescent programme for students involved in violent and disorderly behaviour;
Chronic drug addicts--sample;
Troubled teenagers and parents group;
Public and private psychotherapy groups;
Church focus groups;
Visitation to neighbourhoods of violent crimes and murder;
The results indicate an ominous and pervasive culture of violence and destruction. This culture of violence and destruction is primarily caused by:
The Chronic Violent Drug Syndrome.
The Bahamas was the first country outside South America to experience a national crack cocaine epidemic. The chronic violent drug syndrome is the continuing devastating blow delivered to our country by the 1980's cocaine epidemic. Similar syndromes exist in Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica, and U.S. cities such as Miami, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The syndrome consists of six major components:
Drug Trafficking with its evil empire of drug executions, creating fear and panic among the public and empowering the drug barons in turf wars.
Increasing numbers of chronic addicts (a person using three times or more per week for a period of three or more years). Chronic addicts make up 1/3 of the addicts and use 2/3 of the drugs. Of chronic addicts, 2/3 are involved in multiple crimes. In and out of prison, these persons are cognitively impaired and find it hard to hold down a job. Although the number of new crack addicts does not seem to be increasing, there is a growing chronic marijuana epidemic among children age 10 years through adolescence. This destroys educational potential since the brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties.
Guns, guns and more guns. Guns and drugs go together. Young men tell me that guns are still easily obtained.
Fragmentation of the socio-cultural ethic.
Life is cheap. Murder is common. Young men who murder obtain stripes in the Hood (inner city), giving them the reputation of being "bad boys" who are to be feared.
People in the community live in fear and feel unsafe. More people are talking more about self protection and revenge.
Property is not respected. "With a gun what is yours is mine." As one young man said, "Even if you lose the dice game, if you have a gun, you still win!"
Diminished or poor work ethic. It appears that some young men in particular have lost the mind to work.
Community fragmentation. Crack cocaine feminized drug addiction, knocking the mother out of the home. Left to fend for themselves, children are unbonded and lack habilitation and social skills. There is little motivation for education in the home.
Gang formation. Young men and women join gangs for affirmation, safety, protection, connection and empowerment. This is a growing phenomena which has serious consequences for the country because the herd instinct is the most violent aspect of human nature.
Sprees of violent crimes. The gun is the law in the drug world.
Throughout the study, when people are angry they talked about outing (killing), poisoning and suicide. For example in some focus groups, one third of persons in the groups talked about killing or hurting someone. Some of these persons come from respectable families. We have an anger problem in our midst. All feelings can be reduced to fear, anger (hurt love) and shame (self hatred aimed at me) or love and compassion.
Life is wounded. Instead of doing our grief work, we give over to destructive anger and shame, leading to resentment, bitterness, hardness of heart, and finally rage. At the rage point we enter the "Blind Spot." My work shows we become possessed by evil or negative energy. Young men and women who have committed murder or extreme violence describe being taken over by a negative force. "Do not let the sun set on your anger, in order not to give the devil a foot hold" - Eph. 4:26.
As one man told me, "All of a sudden I could not stop stabbing him, looking back I felt something was controlling me."
Anger causes diffuse physiological arousal (DPA), the heart rate increases, blood pressure rises and pulse increases. Because of the intimate connection of the heart to the brain, when the pulse rises 10 per cent above normal, the IQ drops 20 to 30 points. If men self-soothe by drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana, their inhibitions are decreased, and violence and even murder may result. Sadly the person we love the most makes us most angry! Hence Domestic Violence is a serious problem. If a woman cancels the charges more than three times she is in danger of being killed.
Alexithymia (lack of words for hot feelings or strong emotion).
If a person cannot express, "I am angry"; "I am hurt", they will act it out. For example a young man who beat a woman said he wanted her to feel what he was feeling. When asked what he was feeling, he said, "I don't know."
Men get self-esteem from their employment. Men without work become angry at their wife or girl friend and the children suffer. Some persons respond by a wish to die (suicide). Although there is no direct causal connection between poverty and crime, there is a clear connection between the loss of money or status and increased rage or suicidal ideation, e.g. a girl friend said that after losing his job, her boy friend kept a hang-man's noose in the bedroom. And told her he could no longer afford to give her what she wanted. So when the time is right he would hang himself.
Young girls make themselves available to older men in a form of prostitution which is becoming increasingly common. This is seen as an acceptable way to pay for education or family bills, e.g. cable, electricity and water.
Affects of Child Abuse
Nearly all troubled children seen had some type of abuse, especially physical and sexual abuse. Dorothy Lewis at Yale studying 14 teenager murderers found that 13 had experienced severe abuse such as physical beating, incest, and forced sodomy. Studies show that child abuse can be greatly reduced by neighbourhood walk arounds. If every church adopted the community around their church, and did weekly walk abouts they would observe child abuse, neglect and other crimes in the making. This is a powerful crime prevention process. Using this methodology, since there is a church on every corner, we could revolutionize the Bahamas in three years.
Murder or violence not only affects the victim. Each victim has a sociophile of about 100 people (including family, friends, church, and neighbours) who in turn are traumatized by the victim's trauma. Symptoms of trauma include
Intrusive symptoms: flashbacks, nightmares.
Arousal symptoms: anger, revenge, fighting, rebellion. A young lady rushed into our programme with a machete saying some one had just killed her brother. Because her brother was the supporter of the family and acted like the father, she felt obligated to kill his murderer. At that point Ms. Idena Burrows, one of our volunteers whose son was murdered, prayed with her. The lady left the programme relieved. She said if it had not been for Ms. Burrows' intervention she would have been a murderer that day. This is a powerful example of people helping people.
Insecurity symptoms: withdrawal, fear of being alone, need for gang membership.
A young boy whose friend was killed in a mall parking lot said, "He was killed because he was alone. He should have been with his boys."
Magical thinking: A young boy told me, "If you get stabbed, just hold your chest and you will not die. My friend did it and he lived."
Upside down values. A group of 12 to 15 year olds said they did not expect to live as long as 25 to 30 years because they knew someone who was killed.
Thinking violence is cool. A 15-year-old who stabbed another boy said violence is cool. If you kill you get stripes in the hood and will only spend six months in jail.
Suicidal tendencies. When a young person committed suicide, the friends in the group said the person was better off, and they wished they could do the same. Young people see life as purely a body experience i.e. looks good, feels good and having good things. But when we don't have the good things life is meaningless. We have to examine our theology, because killing the body does not destroy life. "What should it profit if a person gains the whole world, but loses his soul?"
Poor cognitive skills, disinterest in school, inability to concentrate and poor impulse controls. This leads to fighting and stabbings.
Root Causes of Crime -
Persons interviewed claimed that the root cause of crimes are (1) Lack of family rearing and cohesion (2) Inadequacy of the Judicial system (3) Poor education making crime a viable alternate for kids who can't get a job or refuse work (4) Violent Chronic Drug Syndrome with its increasingly bold executions - as seen in Nassau, Mexico, Jamaica. (5) Unemployment and (6) child abuse. Other main concerns that still confront us are domestic violence and an increasingly callous indifferent public that has gradually moved into the danger zone of learned helplessness. Sadly the people, including the church, are beaten down and are close to giving up feel hopeless. Parents are advising their kids not to return home and encourage them to seek careers in the USA or Canada.
The psychodynamics of Violence and Murder
All violence begins with hurt involving, either, abandonment, rejection or humiliation. This produces a powerful shame response involving loss of face, low self esteem, being dissed (disrespected), cheated, made fun of or betrayed, etc. Shame is self hatred aimed at me, i.e. the person internalized the hurt against himself and now becomes destructive to himself and others.
The Shame response results in Narcissistic Rage (murderous anger) which leads to self violence (abuse, or suicide) or threatening behaviour or homicide.
The degree of the violence or murder is directly proportional to the intensity of the shame and not the hurt. The intensity of the shame response depends on (a) The relationship of the person doing the shaming (b) The witness of the shame process (c) The surprise element of the shame (d) If a person is shamed in a area they feel insecure about, e.g. body defect, or insecurity with girlfriend (e) Alcohol or drugs (f) brain dysrythmias e.g. seizures (h) Previous shame experiences.
Hurt, shame response, narcisstic rage, suicide or murder.
Violent crime can only be prevented by decreasing the shame response through loving, caring and understanding, e.g. gestures, education, child protection and support, involvement with work within the community, caring for the indigent and unemployed and making opportunities for growth. i.e. developing a cohesive and symphonic community.
In essence the high violent crime epidemic of the Bahamas is because we have evolved into an uncaring disconnected Nation.
Establishment of a National Crime Forum.
This committee should not be an adhocracy that does another report and disbands. But should be Government operated and part of the bureaucracy approved on for a 3-5 year basis to oversee the implementation of anti-crime initiatives and tackles the root causes of crime. They should be visible in the community and work in conjunction with the police. It is ridiculous to put the full burden of crime on the already over worked police force. They cannot be responsible for the root causes of crime.
Sir Robert Peele said, "The police is the public and the public is the police." We have an excellent police force, but they can only be as effective as the public is supportive. The process of reducing crime in a population requires an effective social contract between government and non-government agencies. Such a social contract can be created by the government establishing an entity called "The National Crime Forum" made up of a microcosm of society dealing with the root causes of crime, including persons representing government (e.g. Health, Social Welfare and Law Enforcement, the Church, Business (e.g. Chamber of Commerce), The Media, Charity Groups (e.g. Rotary, Red Cross), Special Interest Groups (e.g. Families Against Murder, The Crisis Centre, Children's Rights Group, The Professional and Security Officers Association ,etc) and ordinary members of society (e.g. a victims of violent crime). The crime committee sanctioned by government with a focused, no nonsense leader will provide a united front for citizens to work hand in hand with the police and the public to confront the monster of violent crime. This will go a long way to negate the feelings of societal hopelessness, apathy and pessimism associated with community fragmentation and fear in this present crisis.
Function of the National Crime Forum:
Raise the public awareness of crime and its solutions through discussions at Town Meetings, Media Involvement, and in community Walk Around's.
Increase public cooperation to support our policemen and other Law enforcement personnel.
Act as an advocate for victims of violent crimes - decrease the traumatization of victims and small children by giving love and support.
Follow crime statistics and make sure International data on crime are accurate.
Create a National Anger Management and Conflict Resolution Programme for persons in the media, school, church, as well as charity groups.
Act as a Think Tank to examine the root causes of crime through research and explore possible solutions.
Fighting crime is expensive; the committee could encourage the collection of funds to fight crime. For example, if 50,000 Bahamians gave $1 per week, in one year we will have $2,400,000. A committee of distinguished accountants could be appointed to monitor such a fund.
Encourage the church to be directly involved in fighting the root causes of crime. The churches could patrol their areas and act as a community support centre for victims of crime.
Establish the integration Citizen Crime Watch Organizations in all areas.
Establish a National Parenting programme by bringing together all groups presently involved in doing such work. A nation is judged by the way it treats its children.
Reformation of the Legal System
The Legal System needs to be reformed so that justice is accomplished in a timely fashion. The Government has provided legislation to enhance this. It will take time for this.
Increase recruitment of Police personnel both locally and abroad -
We have an excellent police force who works tirelessly to solve our crime problem. But our police need even more help. In our research all of the respondents said the increased presence of more police on the street and in neglected areas is the best deterrent to crime. They said Bahamians still have a fear of police and dogs. Combining both is a strong signal that business is not as usual.
Provide incentives to attract young Bahamians into law enforcement
Organize Exchange police programmes with particular countries in the Caribbean, Canada, UK, Israel i.e. 30 of our policemen go there and 30 of their policemen come here, this produces cross fertilization, enhances competency and breaks the incestuous nature of the force thus creating an even more effective police force.
Strengthen witness Protection Programme
Implement and strengthen the Witness Protection Act: (Bahamians are becoming afraid to give testimony to violent crimes).
Use out of town placement for certain vulnerable witnesses.
Organize special training for police or others in the witness protection programme
Enforce the law of capital punishment, especially if a person has killed more than once.
Close Circuit Television (CCT)
Implement CCTV throughout Nassau, especially in crime ridden areas. Much is being done and the results are amazing. The reduction of drugs on CCTV is an excellent development. The technology improves daily and will prove even more effective in the future. The Government has moved to put this in place.
Establish a National Parenting Programme
Parenting is a job which demands skills which can be taught and learned. Similarly, behaviour is learned, and as a result can be unlearned. The creation of a National Parenting Programme will contribute to short term and long term solutions to destructive behaviour.
Train Law Enforcement Personnel to be more sensitive to Victims of Violent Crimes:
Victims of crime are traumatized and the manner in which they are spoken to or cared for can make a difference in their ability to cope with the tragedy and court trial.
Enforce the Domestic Violence Act
Domestic or relationship violence and stalking requires quick decisive action. The Domestic Violence Act provides for this, but the act must be enforced. One of the referrals to our programme had her finger chopped off by her lover.
Establish Residential Programme for Extremely at Risk Youth
The establishment of a residential programme for extremely at risk youth based on a group psychotherapy model as opposed to the boot camp approach provides hope and habilitation for our young men! We have observed how the group therapy model is affecting the young people in our programme in Nassau and Washington, DC.
Establish a mandatory national service programme for wayward youth
We meet so many young men who have been expelled from school and hang out on the blocks. Such a programme would be very helpful to them to give structure and hope.
We all need to counteract the culture of violence and destruction with a culture of life and hope. We need leaders in all segments of the community; Leaders are persons who absorb chaos, exude calm and instil hope. All of us are called to be leaders in our sphere of influence. This requires a perceptual shift from anger/frustration (chaos) to calm. Anger is a portal into evil, violence and murder. Gratitude is a portal into life, love and hope. Steps to achieve this perceptual shift from anger to love are:
Take time out.
Silence. (Allows the heart to settle)
Breathe deeply for two minutes. ( Relaxation)
Recite/meditate on a simple prayer: "Lord God has mercy." (The source of love)
Think of someone who loved you unconditionally as a child. (The stream of love)
Visualize a place where you feel relaxed and peaceful. (The place of love)
Write down three things you are grateful for. (Gratitude is a portal into love)
If we practice these when we are angry or hurt, we make the Perceptual Shift from Anger to Love.
"Our choice to do something is brief, but if we refuse the consequences are devastating."