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Friday, November 27, 2009

Bahamas: Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts insists Urban Renewal changes led to rise in crime

Tribune Staff Reporter -

PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday branded claims that changes to the Urban Renewal programme did not lead to a rising tide of crime as a "wicked bold-faced lie".

He further charged that had Urban Renewal not been "watered down" under the FNM, the "blatant daytime robbery of some 18 tourists at Chippingham would likely not have occurred".

Mr Roberts claimed that for the Commissioner of Police to try to deny that adjustments to the programme did not result in an upsurge "in serious crime in 'over the hill' areas where the Urban Renewal Programme once flourished, is evidence that the Commissioner is clearly out of touch with the extent of crime and the harsh realities facing locals and visitors alike".

"As the Police Staff Association has now expressed, 'Commissioner Reginald Ferguson's retirement is a step in the right direction'," said Mr Roberts.

It was announced last week that Mr Ferguson is to retire from the force in January 2010.

Mr Roberts' comments come after the Commissioner reacted to statements that have been continually made by the Opposition PLP about the impact of alterations to Urban Renewal on crime.

Commissioner Ferguson told The Tribune that, contrary to claims made by the Opposition, he had seen "no empirical evidence" to show that changes to the initiative have caused an upsurge in crime in the country.

He added that allegations that "Urban Renewal is dead" as has often been asserted by the government's detractors are "a lie".

In yesterday's release, Mr Roberts quoted statistics which, he said, would provide the evidence Mr Ferguson suggested was lacking as proof that the FNM "made a fatal mistake in cancelling/reducing the Urban Renewal Programme".

In the statistics which Mr Roberts provides as evidence of rising crime, he quotes figures for murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, rape, unlawful sex intercourse, burglary, housebreaking, shop breaking and stolen vehicles for 2007, 2008 and for some, 2009.

In the first five categories - violent crimes against the person - the statistics from Mr Roberts show that in the first two years of the FNM administration, incidences dropped.

However, in the last four categories, all crimes against property, incidences rose.

Overall, given the greater rise in the number of property crimes, which are generally more frequent that serious violent crimes year on year, vis-a-vis the less significant drop in crimes against the person, the figures quoted by Mr Roberts show that the number of crimes increased during the FNM's latest term in government, from 6,850 to 7,225.

The FNM has also recently released selected figures from 1999 to 2006 which it says show "the truth about Urban Renewal", comparing crime levels up to the end of the previous FNM administration in 2001, and under the PLP, when Urban Renewal was initiated, until 2006.

"The annual rate of serious crimes, such as murder, armed robbery and housebreaking at all times under their era of Urban Renewal remained higher than it was during the pre-Urban Renewal year 2001; and the murder and housebreaking rates were on the increase in 2006, the last full year of Urban Renewal on their watch," the party notes.

Reports appearing in the US and UK media over the last year indicate that rises in crime levels in those countries, particularly crimes against property, have been linked to recessionary economic conditions.