* Photo by James Whittaker. Drugs bust: Armed police arrest a man found to be in possession of an illegal substance.
* Photo by James Whittaker. Drugs bust: Armed police arrest a man found to be in possession of an illegal substance.
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The Police Support Unit is the first line of defence in Bermuda's fight against gun violence.

Every night officers are on patrol in known gang neighbourhoods, stopping and searching suspected gangsters and occasionally knocking down doors in search of guns and drugs.

In the wake of four shootings in a week, the Bermuda Sun's James Whittaker took to the streets with the PSU to witness the action on the front-line of Bermuda's gang war.

It's approaching midnight outside the Southampton Rangers sports and social club. A party is supposed to be in full swing but the place is nearly empty.

The handful of cars in the parking lot are outnumbered by police vehicles.

The rumour mill has been buzzing all afternoon with talk that members of the Parkside Crew are heading west, with weapons, to seek revenge for the murder of Gary 'Fingas' Cann.

Police are here in force to try to make sure it doesn't happen. The armed patrols, K-9 units and a van full of officers in bullet-proof vests from the Police Support Unit prove a turn-off to some of the regulars at Rangers.

Either that or the fear of further violence has kept people at home.

After four shootings in a week, including two deaths, no one is confident this will be a quiet night.

Already there have been unsubstantiated reports of shots fired in Friswell's Hill. There could be something to it. Or it could simply be the frayed nerves of a community plagued by gun violence.

From behind the curtains of a bolted window in Pembroke, the epicentre of the so-called gang war, an edgy neighbour could easily mistake the sound of a car back firing or a bottle smashing for gunfire.

The Police Support Unit did a circuit of the area early tonight and found it a ghost town.

INTELLIGENCE

The usual gang corners were empty and word was that many of the major players had gone to ground.

Fuelled by reports from the police intelligence department, our unit heads west and sets up a roadblock along South Road, near Southampton Rangers.

Police, empowered by new legislation to stop and search randomly in anticipation of violence, wave down cars and bikes, patting down passers-by in search of weapons.

At least one known gang member passes through the roadblock. He has a small quantity of cannabis.

Nothing serious but enough to take him off the streets for the night.

An extendable baton is recovered from another vehicle, a couple of petty drug users are arrested and a handful of crooks with outstanding warrants are rounded up in the van.

Fairly soon the roadblock loses its effectiveness. The BlackBerry grapevine is buzzing and anyone who needs to know now knows to avoid South Road.

The PSU heads back to Hamilton Police Station to book their prisoners, while the armed response unit stays on patrol, ready to react to reports of gunfire. I head out with a regular squad car. The radio occasionally crackles with activity but it's run-of-the-mill stuff - a traffic stop, a domestic assault, a brief patrol of an industrial estate to check for burglars.

Despite all expectations, it's a quiet night.

BOOZY

Even at 2am in Hamilton with the Police Support Unit back in action, there is an eerie absence of activity.

None of the known gang members are at their usual hangouts.

As the regular boozy Front Street crowd dwindles to a few harmless drunken stragglers, the night peters out without incident.

"It happens that way sometimes," said Inspector John Clutterbuck of the PSU. "When there's so much information going around about gang activity, you often find that nothing happens.

"They're getting some of the same information and they know we'll be out in force.

"It's when the rumour mill goes quiet that you need to worry."

It's shortly after 4am in the cramped office of the PSU at police headquarters when Inspector Clutterbuck thanks his men and tells them to stand down for the night.

It's been a qualified success. Their presence on the streets has played a part, perhaps, in keeping things quiet for tonight.

But no one can say with any certainty that tomorrow won't bring another shooting.

Plenty more nights like this await Inspector Clutterbuck and his unit.