Pastor Leroy Bean said changing the psyche of the young men who were drawn to gang lifestyles was the only long term solution. And he believes a Bermuda based rehabilitation centre is required.
Pastor Leroy Bean said changing the psyche of the young men who were drawn to gang lifestyles was the only long term solution. And he believes a Bermuda based rehabilitation centre is required.

Changing the mind-set of gang members is the ultimate solution to reducing gun violence in Bermuda.

Pastor Leroy Bean, head of mediation and intervention group C.A.R.T.E.L, said it was impossible to rid Bermuda of gangs completely.

And he said simply locking up gangsters was unlikely to have a lasting effect. Pastor Bean, whose group works to rehabilitate gang members, said he had helped roughly 30 young men get into programmes overseas this year.

He said changing the psyche of the young men who were drawn to gang lifestyles was the only long term solution. And he believes a Bermuda based rehabilitation centre is required.

Speaking before the joint parliamentary select committee on gang violence, Pastor Bean said the police estimate that there are around 350 active gang members in 17-18 gangs was approximately accurate.

But he said there were as many as 1,500, based on research conducted by his group, that shared the mentality and could be classed as ‘dormant’ gangsters capable of becoming active at any time.

“For us to have this impression that it is just 350 people we put ourselves at a disadvantage.

“If we don’t recognize what is out there then the services we offer are almost useless.”

Beyond the inner circle of gangs, Pastor Bean said there were also up to 1,000 affiliates — relatives and friends who were on the periphery.

“The affiliates are those that create an alibi and justify such behaviour. They are those that have the potential to influence for good but in many cases are so tied emotionally they find themselves covering for those gang members.”

He said people involved with gangs could be split into three categories — wannabes on the fringes, older associates loyal to the gang  and hardcore members.

He said the ‘wannabes’ were sometimes the most dangerous because they had to prove themselves to progress up the chain.

Pastor Bean said in his experience most young people who joined gangs were looking to fill a void in their lives.

“In most cases many gang members have lacked basic life skills that come from general education.”

He said many had absent fathers and sought an alternative family and an alternative sense of power and self esteem in gang culture.

“There are other factors such as abandonment, rejection and abuse that creates the make-up of the psyche of these individuals.”