THURSDAY, JUNE 7: The Bermuda Police Service can rightfully claim progress against gang violence over the past year.
They can point to the fact that total firearms incidents in 2011 were down 37%, with injuries and fatalities down 55%.
This is progress, but we must keep in mind that it stands against a two-year backdrop of the worst violence Bermuda has ever seen.
We are now experiencing a relative lull in gang violence compared to preceding years.
We can speculate what this lull means – robust Police enforcement is surely one factor, gang members leaving Bermuda for their own safety is another and incarcerations still another.
But the truth is that no one can say what this quiet period means.
What we can say is that the gang dynamic – the rivalries, the weaponry and the will to commit harm – remains.
Whatever actions have led to this quiet period, we believe Bermuda still has a window of opportunity to bring to bear the resources to improve the gang situation and diminish the conditions that feed it.
Police are doing their part, but all of us know the gang problem is not just a Police problem. It’s a Bermuda problem, with a significant social component that is Government’s responsibility. The Police are simply dealing with what society sends their way. What we need now is quick, meaningful action to take advantage of this quiet period.
Bermuda is in reasonably good position to address our social problems. There are many excellent community groups and social agencies operating today.
The problem is that there is no overall leadership, no single coordinating entity that can bring the work of these agencies and the Police together. As things stand, their work is fragmented, and the fragmentation is reflected in the Cabinet itself, where there is no clear responsibility for social policy directed at gangs. There is lip service about “cross-ministry initiatives”, but for whatever reason – lack of will, lack of cash – they’re not happening.
The Government is not doing its part. There is no unifying effort to bring to bear the work of social agencies, community groups and Police in a coordinated fashion.
We need to change this.
A One Bermuda Alliance Government would set up a Cabinet-level gang task force chaired by the Premier and including Ministers with social responsibilities. The mandate of the task force would be to mobilize, coordinate and direct a Bermuda-wide effort to diminish the conditions that feed and perpetuate gang life.
The task force would be supported operationally by a special executive officer, who could be drawn from the civil service or the private sector. The officer would be empowered to direct government resources wherever they can have the best effect. This can mean providing helping agencies and community groups with strategic guidance and financial, manpower and moral support.
It is essential that Bermuda starts working together with more cohesion and teamwork against this national challenge. The OBA understands this. The Police alone cannot do it. But Bermudians, working together, can.