Aid: Glenn Blakeney says intervention scheme will help high-risk youths. *File photo
Aid: Glenn Blakeney says intervention scheme will help high-risk youths. *File photo
An intervention unit has been set up to prevent troubled youths from becoming Bermuda’s next generation of gangsters.

The scheme aims to rehabilitate problem youngsters before they graduate to more serious, organized criminal activity.

Youths who are expelled from school, involved in drugs or suspected of being part of gang activity will be among those on the radar of the High Risk Adolescent Intervention Team.

Police have warned that children as young as 11 are becoming involved in fringe gang activity.

Experts suggest teenagers are increasingly being recruited by the island’s growing network of gangs.

Minister Glenn Blakeney said the new unit would specifically target those teens and design personalized “intervention plans” to help them turn their lives around.

The scheme is a central plank of Government’s anti-gang strategy and aims to cut off the supply line to gangs.

Mr. Blakeney said: “This team is being established to provide specialized intervention for adolescents with high-risk behaviours, as well as those suspected of gang involvement.

“This is a challenging population and to date we have had, for the most part, a less than ideal approach, which has been ad hoc on an individual case basis.

“The establishment of such a team is intended to close this gap.

“The purpose of the initiative is to provide a competent, comprehensive, specialized response and referral point for the community, staff and various stake-hold partners.”

Existing staff within the Department of Child and Family Services will make up the new unit. The team, many of whom have counselling and anger-management backgrounds, are receiving specialist training in dealing with high-risk youth.

Mr. Blakeney said the unit — first mentioned in the Throne Speech —should be operational by the middle of December.

The intervention team will receive referrals from the community, police, schools or youth groups.

An investigation to establish if intervention is required will follow.

Counselling

The specifics of what action is taken once a youth has officially been identified as high risk will vary from case to case.

Mr. Blakeney said the team would have to establish the root causes of the behavioural problems and address them.

Counselling, anger management, increased monitoring, family therapy and partnership with the school to improve behaviour are among the options open to them.

Mr. Blakeney said intervention would often involve seeking to solve wider family issues, such as how many troubled youths experience the feeling of “belonging” in gangs that they do not get at home.

He added: “Some find acceptance in the most unusual and inappropriate circumstances.

“They feel comfortable and accepted and become loyal to an extended family that is counter-productive in a lot of ways.”

Mr. Blakeney said Premier Paula Cox backed the plan as part of a strategy to reduce the effects of gang and gun violence.

He added: “This is something the Premier was well aware of and supported from the perspective of understanding the growth of our social challenges, particularly with young people, that are manifested increasingly on a day-to-day basis.”