THURSDAY, APRIL 12: As we prepare for the return to the House tomorrow it is my expectation that this Session will feature more debate and decisions on how to combat the culture of anti-social behavior by a small segment of our population.
In this vein, tougher legislation will be introduced to supplement the plans we already have in place. As I have indicated previously, a focus on the proceeds of crime is one essential element of disrupting the rhythm of those who would use criminal activity as a way of life.
Legislation that deals with the seizure of personal property that is the proceeds of crime will be tabled tomorrow. This keeps this Government’s promise to ensure that crime does not pay.
Other initiatives are at the drafting stage and we are committed to advancing them with equal efficiency as the hard work of the Bermuda Police Service must be complimented by legislative support, equally as tough as the action they must take to keep this community safe.
The Commissioner has stated that “we cannot arrest our way out of this problem”. He is correct. Enforcement activity is the last line of defence against anti-social behaviour and the serious crime in this community. Handcuffs and imprisonment cannot be the first resort of a peace-loving community. That means that the real solutions to the issues that confront us lie elsewhere.
My comments today may be considered unconventional, but these are not ordinary times and the failure of those of us in positions of responsibility to speak openly and honestly about these issues will only add to the spiral of dysfunction that we see playing out in these instances of criminal behaviour.
The men and women committing these crimes are our sons and daughters. We know them. In some cases they live under our roof. In many instances the Police are criticized with the comment: “well, we know who they are so just go and get them…” One of the troubling aspects of some of the recent happenings is that the suspects are not in fact known to the Police. They do not figure in any gang intelligence and have not attracted the attention of the Police prior to their involvement in a serious crime.
That is not a failure of the Police, but it is our failure as members of the wider community. We must look inside our own homes and open our eyes to what is going on. There are signs which we must accept indicate that our son or daughter is not keeping the right company, is engaged in the drug trade or is participating in some stage of criminal behaviour.
As a community we must set limits for our sons and daughters. There must be consequences for unacceptable behaviour. We must support teachers and principals when they seek to address this also. This means that everything must attract our attention and scrutiny; right down to what our young people wear and with whom they hang. This must start as early as possible. Young people must know that the gang lifestyle in whatever form is not acceptable and they must also know that we as adults do not accept it.
As parents and guardians we cannot allow ourselves to be the last to know these things about our children. We must talk and talk and talk some more until there is a clear understanding and level of comfort in sharing established between us and our young people.
There are numerous agencies available to help where situations are difficult. In our own communities and through our schools’ professionals and experienced friends and colleagues, we can facilitate discussions. No-one should feel alone in this challenge. But we must be honest.
In too many instances, the common thread of victim and perpetrator is some illicit activity that unwittingly makes one a target and fuels the aggression of the other. An analysis of many of these serious crimes indicates that random attacks are incredibly rare. This means that we must tell our young people that their involvement in this destructive lifestyle makes them targets. The cycle can only be broken if we prevent lifestyle choices that lead to serious crime.
This is community work. This is neighbourhood work. This is parental work. It is for all of us to do because solutions begin at home.