Hundreds of islanders concerned about crime packed a church hall in Devonshire tonight for a public meeting hosted by police and government officials. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Hundreds of islanders concerned about crime packed a church hall in Devonshire tonight for a public meeting hosted by police and government officials. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

THURSDAY, MAY 5: Hardened offenders may be sent to tough jails overseas to do their time.

National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief told a town hall meeting on Thursday night: “While I believe in rehabilitation, I believe punishment comes first.

“I will be recommending to my colleagues that we incarcerate hard core offenders in other jurisdictions.”

Mr Perinchief’s hard line stance on the worst offenders drew applause from the crowd of more than 200 people who packed the Devonshire Seventh Day Adventist Church in Devonshire to hear Mr Perinchief and Commissioner of Police Mike DeSilva discuss the wave of gun crime that has swept the island.

Mr DeSilva said police officers had launched a total of 60 investigations into attempted murders, murders and firearms offences over the past two years.

But he added that there have been a total of 13 convictions and another 18 people have been charged in connection with serious and violent offences.

And he warned that – in order to concentrate on the most serious crime – some tasks routinely performed by police in the past would have to fall by the wayside.

He said: “We will always choose quality over volume – drugs, gangs and violence will always get first attention.

“We are going to scale back some of the non-essential roles we provide.

“Our priorities are guns, gangs drugs and violence. I will always choose that over sending a police officer to a damage only collision. That’s what insurance is for.”

But he said that simply flooding the streets with officers and carrying out stop and search patrols in a bid to catch gun criminals red handed “is not enough”.

And he said that intelligence-led policing with careful targeting was needed to put an end to gun killings and drug-related crime.

Mr DeSilva said: “It’s very comforting to say ‘why don’t you go and kick these guys’ doors in and drag them off to prison?’ The law doesn’t support that.

“Where there is evidence to get a warrant, we will get one. And the more stuff people tell us, the more we can build a case against people.

“But I will not break the law to enforce the law.”

Mr DeSilva added: “This is a form of domestic terrorism because of the impact it has on people’s lives and the economy.

“I would not ratchet up Bermuda’s gang problem to the level of terrorism, but the advice is the same – don’t let it disrupt your lifestyle.”

Mr Perinchief said that there were probably no more than a dozen illegal guns on the island — and that there was evidence that criminals had sometimes run out of bullets.

Mr DeSilva added: “We can’t confirm the number, not because we don’t want to answer, but because we don’t know.

“As we put all the forensic evidence together, we know one weapon is being used multiple times. There isn’t a proliferation of guns on this island.

“Not only can we link guns to multiple crimes, they are having to share weapons. And the lengths these people go to hide them are unreal.

“They’re hidden in places you would never find unless you knew it was there. They wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t a precious commodity.”

In response to suggestions that guns were coming in by sea, Mr DeSilva – a former Marine Police officer – said that a trial using Bermuda Regiment boats crewed by soldiers from the boat troop with one police officer on board each would allow police to spread their resources over a wider area.

He said: “It means we can put more boats out there, which is a deterrent.”

See Friday’s Bermuda Sun for an interview with Minister Perinchief in which he proposes a slew of measures to combat gun crime.