WEDNESDAY, MAY 30 UPDATE: A law aimed at cracking down on thugs terrorizing neighbourhoods is to be used for the first time in Somerset from tomorrow, the area’s police chief pledged.
The law is to be used to move on men who have put the Somerset Road area of Sandys under siege.
And Western Area Commander Robert Cardwell predicted the new law would be used in other areas as police flexed their legal muscles in the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour.
Police in the will be able to move on people causing disturbances on — and ban them from congregating in the area for two weeks — with up to three months in prison and a $2,500 fine for those who ignore the order.
Western Area Commander Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell said some of the men had been identified as being linked to the MOB gang, while nearby Cambridge Road was known as “Gun Alley.”
He added: “These men sit at the entrance to Cambridge Road and block the road or delay the free passage of the residents when they are returning to their homes.
“The men are seen to sell and use illicit drugs which is supported by the drugs seizures and drug possession arrests that have occurred in the area.
“The men use offensive language towards the area residents and their behaviour under the influence of drugs and alcohol causes intimidation.”
Ch Insp Cardwell said that tourists staying at hotels and guest houses in the area had also been subjected to abuse and intimidation.
He added the move – the first time a 2010 change in the law has been used – was taken after meetings with concerned local people and consultation with prosecutors.
Ch Insp. Cardwell said: “I listened as they explained to me that they are living in fear and live with daily intimidation caused by these men.”
He added: “Unfortunately, despite the increased law enforcement in the area, this has not reduced the level of fear and intimidation suffered by residents.
“When the police leave, these men return to their appalling conduct that causes alarm and distress. Everyone appreciates this is unacceptable.”
The order will be in force for a fortnight – but can be extended further by senior officers if needed.
He added that additional police patrols, including specialist support units and armed response vehicles, would also be used to step policing up even further.
The dispersal order move was backed by Philip Barnett of the Cambridge Road Community Group and Mangrove Bay Neighbourhood Watch and Dawn Simmons of Sandys Parish Council. Mr Barnett said: “We’ve basically come together and decided enough is enough and to do everything we can to make sure our neighbourhood is safe for our families and our children.
“This could very much be a turning point because many turning points have happened where we as Bermudians refuse to accept what is wrong and decided to go for what is right.”
He added local people would be throwing a neighbourhood party and barbecue to show the community spirit that existed in the Cambridge Road area, despite the problems.
Mr Barnett, a prominent businessman and restaurateur, admitted he had some concerns for his own safety after taking a public stance against disorder – but added it was more important to do the right thing.
He said: “We are the majority and we’re not so silent any more.”
Ms Simmons added that the local groups were also committed to providing opportunities and jobs for people who felt they did not have a future.
She said: “They are relatives, friends, even people we went to school with. The police will play their part, but we also have to do our part to help them seek alternative lifestyles.”
Ch Insp Cardwell added that — if the dispersal order only moved the problem elsewhere — police were ready to launch a fresh crackdown if needed.
He said: “We will be monitoring this and we will deal with it wherever they go. “
Police Community Action Team PC Valerius Jean-Louis added that community police were committed to working with the community and with partners to help people out of a spiral of drugs and crime.
But he added: “With a clear police presence there, that will make a difference. It will be a deterrent. I believe it will make vast difference.”