WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22: Exposing gang culture is the aim of a new handbook which will be unveiled tonight by National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief.
The handbook — a copy of which was obtained by the Bermuda Sun — outlines the basics of gang life and how parents and communities can prevent the cancer of gangs eating away at families and communities.
In a foreword to the booklet – the first of its kind in Bermuda – Mr Perinchief stressed that “knowledge is power”.
He said: “Bermuda’s size does not compensate for the gaps in our understanding in the community of the social change that manifests itself in the gang culture.
“As small as we are, this phenomenon is difficult to understand and even harder to address.
“The purpose of this booklet is to equip the community with a basic understanding of the gang culture, its signs and symbols and, more importantly, how to prevent the spread of this destructive lifestyle.”
The 16-page booklet outlines the basics of gang structure and the “Three Rs” of the gang lifestyle — Respect, Revenge and Revenue.
The handbook also paints a picture of the typical gang member – and danger signs to watch out for.
Included in the common pointers towards gang risk is a youngster who is looking for a surrogate family and where there has been a breakdown in a traditional family unit.
Gang members may also have identity and recognition problems as well as low self-worth or self-esteem and look to gain stature from gang membership.
Others have a criminal family history or a need for money – but find out too late that is only “established” gang members who make the most profit.
Gang members may also feel forced to join from poverty or through fear and intimidation.
Mr Perninchief added in the foreword: “Communities are the building blocks for positive change.
“The strength to reverse the trend of the gang lifestyle will come from men and women of all walks of life, professions and political affiliations, uniting in a common effort to re-establish the social cohesion of the island we all cherish. Studying this booklet is an important, individual first step in making sure your children and the young people in your community reject the dangerous gang lifestyle.”
The booklet also explains that gangs may adopt distinctive colours and hats and baseball caps of a specific team or with initials which are the same as the gang.
Distinctive jewellery reflecting gang colours, symbols or initials may also be worn, while tattoos using particular designs or logos are also indicators of gang influence.
Shirts or tracksuit tops of professional sports teams in team colours which match the gang’s may also be adopted. Bandanas in particular colours or worn in a specific way can also indicate gang membership. Baggy or concealing clothing – which makes it easier to hide weapons or drugs are also popular - as are custom t-shirts with names, logos or messages indicating gang affiliations.
But the booklet warned: “A current dress trend may be adopted by gangs. Young people dressing this way does not necessarily indicate they are members of a gang.”
The handbook also outlines how the risk of youngsters drifting into gangs can be minimized through teaching good social skills, communication and cooperation with others.
The booklet also advises communities and parents to learn about potential gang activity in their area – and to warn their teenagers about the dangers of wearing clothes that could be interpreted as a sign of gang membership.
The initiative was praised by Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva, who yesterday stressed community support was vital in breaking the stranglehold of gang culture in some parts of the island while unveiling last year’s crime statistics.
Mr DeSilva said: “It is a useful resource guide with good observational advice. Hopefully it will impress on parents the need for them to dip in frequently on their child’s activities outside the home. And once they do, there are some really easy signs for them to spot early enough to steer children away from the trappings of gangs.”
Speaking about the ground-breaking public meeting, Mr Perinchief said earlier this week: “I’ve sent invitations to just about every group that deals with young people, education, sports, rehabilitiation groups and charities.
“I want everybody in the hall to brainstorm with the Inter-Agency Gang Task Force and police. We want to come up with strategies which impact gangs to try and prevent people falling into that lifestyle – the biggest thrust is prevention.
“I want to impress on the general public that young people right down to school age are starting to align themselves territorially and otherwise. It’s shocking, but even primary school children in the same school are deciding which gangs they have affiliations to.
“Gangs are not only dangerous in themselves, they are destabilizing to our social fabric. And it’s dangerous to even support gangs peripherally.”
Tonight’s meeting will involve civil servants, the voluntary sector, community workers and police officers, as well as members of the public. The meeting starts at 7pm in the St Paul Centennial Hall on Hamilton’s Court Street.