Protected: Kovan Smith, compliance and ­training officer with Security Associates Limited, in a ­bulletproof vest. *Photo by James Whittaker
Protected: Kovan Smith, compliance and ­training officer with Security Associates Limited, in a ­bulletproof vest. *Photo by James Whittaker

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8: Increasing gun crime has spawned a growing trade in bulletproof vests in Bermuda.

A number of known gang members are regularly seen in protective vests, according to street intervention workers.

And several high-profile civilian figures — involved through their work in dealing with gang violence — told the Bermuda Sun they had invested in protective vests.

One businessman has been selling them on the streets to anyone willing to pay the price — understood to be around $1,500.

And local firm Security Associates Limited says it is seeing an increasing demand for stab proof and bulletproof clothing from its clients.

Carlton Crockwell Snr, who runs Security Associates, said his own staff use the vests on “high risk” jobs.

And he said the firm — which provides security assessments for businesses and organizations — could and had brought protective clothing in for its clients.

He said the vests — which can be bought online from stores like Amazon for around $380 — come with different levels of protection at widely varying prices.

And he said his firm would only bring them in for clients as part of a full security assessment that involved training in how to use them.

Samples

He said the company had been offered a number of vests by a local businessman who came in off the street with samples to sell.

But he said he only bought from a reputable overseas supplier.

“When you are talking about something that is designed to save someone’s life there needs to be a chain of liability.

“We need to be sure that it is top quality first of all and we need the reassurance of a company that has a reputation behind it.”

He said enquiries about bulletproof vests came mostly from people in security professions but also from other civilians who work on the periphery of gang violence and from shopkeepers concerned about armed robberies.

“We’ve brought them in on a couple of occasions. We have a training officer that works with them on how to use the vests and will advise them on personal safety.”

Safety concerns

Other islanders told us they had bought vests online because they were worried for their safety.

Some said they had been offered them for sale on the streets but didn’t feel they needed them.

And Leroy Bean, founder of gang intervention organization CARTEL, said they were commonly worn by gang members.

He said: “There’s quite a few guys who have been getting them and they have been seen wearing them.

“It shows they are genuinely fearful for their life. It makes sense for them and I can’t say I would discourage it — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But we have to remember this is not the answer.

“Bulletproof vests aren’t going to make them safe. They have to fix what is inside.”

Pastor Bean said he was considering purchasing vests for his own workers – who are often out on the streets attempting to assist young men in getting out of gang lifestyles.

“If it provides a degree of extra comfort for CARTEL’s staff then its something we may have to think about.”