WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15: Former gang members could be recruited to halt tit-for-tat shootings.
National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief said specially-trained street workers could win the trust of gang leaders and help stem the rising tide of violence.
Now he is working on setting up an organization to put staff trained in mediation on the front line in the battle against gang culture — and looking for funding from the private sector.
Mr Perinchief said: “Mediation is already being done on an ad hoc basis — but I want to get the assistance of a private institution which is willing to fund the administration of an organization.”
Mr Perinchief added the new group would be based on the successful Boston StreetSafe programme, launched in 2009 to cut the death toll from gang-related shootings in the city.
He said that he planned to invite organizers of the Boston initiative to Bermuda to advise on setting up a similar programme here. Mr Perinchief added: “The strategy targets those who are high up on the leadership scale of gangs and seeks to remove the violence, the shootings, the murder and mayhem.
“If there was, say, a shooting of an individual and the gang he belonged to is identifiable, the [mediators], who could be former gang members, members of the public or social workers, would reach out to the gang, try to stop them retaliating and help to mediate a resolution. That’s an extreme example — there are cases where people may just have insulted a gang member, which can cause an extraordinary reaction, ranging from a beating to a shooting.
“This will take cooperation from all parties...”
Mr Perinchief said there were between three and five active gangs on the island and each of them would have their own street worker: “It’s all built on trust. There’s a high degree of trust involved on all sides. In Boston, street workers have Operation StreetSafe written on their jackets so no one thinks they are sneaking around gathering information.”
Mr Perinchief will travel to a Caribbean Basin Security Initiative meeting in Antigua and Barbuda later this month. The meeting, involving government ministers and Attorney Generals, will discuss ‘preventing crime by focusing on at risk youth and vulnerable populations’.
Mr Perinchief said: “It’s a high-level conference — many countries have similar problems. Bermuda is not alone in this and there’s a lot of collaboration now.”