Minister Perinchief meets with Mr. William Steward at the World Boston Organization Offices. *Photo supplied
Minister Perinchief meets with Mr. William Steward at the World Boston Organization Offices. *Photo supplied

TUESDAY, DEC. 13: Minister of National Security Wayne Perinchief travelled to Boston, Massachusetts last week to learn more about Operation Night Light, Operation Ceasefire, Street Safe Boston and the Hyde Square Task Force initiatives from the representatives who work to decrease youth violence and rebuild families and their communities.

“Having heard from members of the Volunteer Visitors Programme and the Inter-Agency Gang Task Force (IGTF), I decided that I wanted to see and speak to representatives from some of Boston’s most innovative anti-gang behaviour and anti-gang initiatives first-hand,” Mr. Perinchief said.

In the Speech from the Throne, the Government undertook to consider further proposals based on the recommendations from the Parliamentary subcommittee on crime and violence, the IGTF and other outside agencies. The Speech further promised a Bermuda Ceasefire initiative and a more structured collaboration between all partners in the IGTF.

The Minister met with Mr. William Stewart, Co-Director/Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Trial Court of Massachusetts to discuss his role in Boston’s Operation Night Light, and Operation Ceasefire initiatives. Mr. Stewart shared his wealth of experience in tackling youth violence in Boston.

Of the many tips and advice shared, his ‘think out side of the box to tackle your issues’ method was one that inspired me the most. I have challenged the members of the IGTF continue to broaden their approach as we work towards using existing practices, and in the creation of new and innovative ones, always thinking outside of the box,” Mr. Perinchief continued.

The Minister added Mr. Stewart confirmed that the implementation of Bermuda’s own Night Light initiative is the ideal first step in implementing a ceasefire initiative for Bermuda.

Minister Perinchief also met with representatives from the Street Safe Boston initiative, Ms. Tara Small, Director of Operations and Mr. Conan Harris, Streetworker Manager, and Mr. Robert Lewis Jr., Vice President for Program and Ms. Brianna Boggs, Philanthropic Partnerships Officer from the Boston Foundation to discuss their innovative street level gang intervention and neighbourhood based service delivery model.

Street Safe Boston was founded by Mr. Robert Lewis, Jr. and Executive Director Mr. Edward Powell. The initiative is widely recognized as an innovative model that relies on the entire community and was recently sought out by the UK Government for their experience and expertise in the field after the London Riots.

Street Safe Boston deploys 20 streetworkers into 20 of Boston’s most violent gangs to build relationships with ‘impact players’ to mediate conflict and interrupt violence amongst proven-risk youth and gangs. The Initiative also uses Programme Coordinators to expand and customise access to programmes and services focusing on jobs, education, health, housing services, legal services, re-entry services, recreation and family services.

“Finally, I met with Ms. Yi Chin Chen, Director of Lifelong Learning and Economic Development at the Hyde Square Task Force. The Hyde Square Task Force was founded in the 1980’s by a diverse group of neighbours in an effort to reverse the trend of youth violence in Hyde-Jackson Square neighbourhood between Jamaica Plains and Roxbury,” the Minister furthered.

Over a period of 30 years, the Hyde Square Neighbourhood Watch Group has evolved into a nationally recognised, non-profit youth community development organization whose goal is to build a stronger, safer and more vibrant Hyde-Jackson Square environment by developing the skills of its young people so that they can improve their lives and strengthen their community.

He concluded: “I am very grateful to all of the representatives from Operation Night Light, Operation Ceasefire, Street Safe Boston and the Hyde Square Task Force initiatives who took the time to meet with me and share their first hand experience. I believe that we are on the right track but we have much more to do. I look forward to providing further updates in the coming weeks.

“Perhaps the greatest lesson learned from the Boston Experience is that the bedrock of sustained, successful action is community based. Our focus on building stronger, empowered communities is supported by clear successes in other jurisdictions tackling similar challenges.”

TUESDAY, DEC. 13: The One Bermuda Alliance is pleased the Government has finally come around to the idea of an Operation Ceasefire for Bermuda. The need for a powerful intervention between gangs is imperative. As we’ve said before, Operation Ceasefire is not a cure-all but a vital step Bermuda needs to take to stop the shootings.

Operation Ceasefire has achieved remarkable successes in some of the toughest environments in the world. Their operations help lower the temperature on the streets and that is something Bermuda needs. In addition, the Island is well-positioned for a ceasefire operation. Police appear to be on top of the job of identifying all gangs, gang members and their turf. This is essential information for the programme to get off the ground. In addition, Bermuda has a community of social workers, active clergy and community activists who can be enlisted for the helping hand side of the operation.

We appreciate the Minister’s visit to Boston, where the programme had its origins. It’s essential that he get the Government up to speed, but we will really know it means business when we see Operation Ceasefire operatives coming to Bermuda to make frontline observations on the best way forward.