The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation spread over a vast area of water with just over three hundred thousand people. The Bahamas of recent has seen an increase in crime and criminality. This could be attributed to a number of reasons such as social disorder, teen pregnancies, acts of immorality, dysfunctional families and other social ills in our communities. When we examine and analyze the criminal element in our society most of the criminal acts are being committed by persons between the ages of (16) sixteen to (35) thirty five and repeat offenders .The Bahamas does not have organized criminal enterprises operating within its boarder. However, we see the emergence of small gangs and they account for a small percentage of the criminal acts being committed in The Bahamas.
The emergence of organized gangs could pose a serious threat to public safety in many communities throughout New Providence and the family of Islands. Presently, most gang related criminal activity involves school violence (fights, stabbings, vehicular damages, graffiti etc) alien and drug trafficking. However, a rising number of New Providence based gangs are seemingly intent on developing working relationships with US and other foreign-based drug trafficking organizations and other criminal organizations to gain direct access to foreign sources of illicit drugs.
ORIGIN OF GANGS IN THE BAHAMAS
Prior to the early nineteen seventies criminal gangs were not seen as problem in The Bahamas. During the late eighties and early nineties many notable street gangs initially formed as an organization for social reform. However, by the early nineties the focus of a number of these gangs shifted from social reform to criminal activity and engaged in criminal activities for profit. At that time gang activities were primarily confined to the larger communities. Throughout the early nineties gangs in The Bahamas became better structured and continued to expand their activities into neighboring communities. The movement of gang members to Suburban areas resulted in some territorial conflicts between rival gang members competing for territory. The gangs generally controlled their area through violence and intimidation, and they sought to increase their size by recruiting new members who were typically from single-parent, low income house hold, and with limited education. A small percentage of females align themselves with these local gangs and engage in a wide range of criminal activities, including retail-level drug distribution.
During the 1980s gangs that engaged in drug trafficking in major Family islands began to expand their drug distribution network into suburban communities on the Family islands and in New Providence. The larger gangs controlled drug distributions in the city drug markets; they were motivated to move into adjourning communities to generate additional income from the sale of powder and crack cocaine.
Large urban gangs generated millions of dollars from trafficking in illicit drugs in urban and suburban areas; this enormous amount of income enabled the local gangs to recruit new members and force smaller gangs to either disband or align, thereby increasing their dominance.
Gangs vary extensively regarding membership, structure, age, and ethnicity. However four basic types have been identified by investigators as gangs operating in The Bahamas. They are as follows: School, Street, Prison and Motorcycle gangs.
School and street gangs that operate throughout most of the country are a significant threat because they are the largest and control most of the geographical area. There are approximately 6,000 gang members belonging to a number of unorganized gangs, some of which are criminally active within The Bahamas. Local street gangs or neighborhood based street gangs remain a significant threat because they account for the largest number of gangs nationwide .They are expanding their gang influence in most communities and are doing so for a variety of reasons including: expanding their drug distribution territories, increasing illicit revenue, hiding from law enforcement, and escaping other gang rivals. Many suburban communities are experiencing increased gang-related crimes and violence because of expanding gang influence.
Gang slang terms, some of which do not have similar lateral meaning in proper Spanish, Creole and English language. While some gang members speak Spanish or Creole exclusively the actual conversation resembles a mixture of English terms and Spanish slangs. Gang members of Bahamian origin use more English while gang members of Haitian origin use more Creole.
Gang members often use cell phone and the internet to communicate and promote their illicit activities. They also make use of the voice and text messaging capabilities of cell phones and portable hand held radio sets to conduct drug transactions and prearranged meetings with customers. Other forms of communication are graffiti markings, hand signs, colors and tattoos.
Although law enforcement agencies have indicated that there are several criminal gangs operating in The Bahamas, with over six thousands members, it must be noted that these gangs are not entrenched and lack proper organizational structure. As revealed, most of the little gangs started in the schools and evolved into rivalry groups creating an enormous amount of disturbances in communities. The Bahamas is not known as a country challenged with high risk gang activities rather it shows a group of wayward kids perhaps looking for some identity.