Public concern: Last night’s meeting on crime, held in Devonshire, drew a large crowd looking for solutions. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Public concern: Last night’s meeting on crime, held in Devonshire, drew a large crowd looking for solutions. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
FRIDAY, MAY 6: There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about anti-gang legislation.

It is the kind of policy that sounds tough on paper. But I have serious reservations about whether it will work in practice — and its implications.

My concern is that this will take away the rights of people who are not involved in gangs at all.

It is going to set up young black males to be targeted because of how they dress or where they hang out, whether they are involved in gangs or not.

We are in drastic times but that does not mean we should be taking away people’s liberties and constitutional rights.

I am not knocking anyone who is trying to help the situation but we have to be careful.

We fought too hard for our rights just to see them taken away under the auspices of gang legislation.

We have to understand that these things could have other implications for us further down the road.

We have to be very mindful that we do not wake up one day to find our liberties have gone and we do not even recognize how we got there.

You only have to look at other countries that have tried this kind of legislation to see that it does not work.

Vague

In the US, similar legislation has been overturned in the Supreme Court because it is vague and disproportionately affects Hispanic and African-American communities.

Australia’s Law Council condemned anti-biker laws because they shift the focus from a person’s conduct to their associations.

The Cayman Islands have not brought one case in six years under this legislation.

I am not against people trying to do something about this problem but where does it stop?

Will police be able to arrest people now for the clothes they wear, for the tattoos or jewellery they have?  This kind of policy is open to abuse and can, and has led to, concerns about racial profiling.

The powers already exist to prosecute people who break the law.

We need to think very carefully before we start prosecuting people based on how they dress and those they hang out with.

If they have committed a crime, convict them of that crime. You do not need gang legislation to do that.

There are serious judicial and social implications to naming someone as a gangster when they are not on trial for a specific crime.

We have already seen cases in Bermuda where the police have called out the names of people they believe to be gang members.

Fair hearing

So what happens if those people face trial for a shooting in the future? The jury is automatically going to think they are guilty — or their defence lawyer will try to get the trial thrown out because they cannot get a fair hearing.

That, too, has happened in other countries.

Gang and gun crime is the number one crisis in Bermuda.

But we need real solutions. I thought we would have seen more effort put into programmes that help rehabilitate gang members.

I want to encourage the powers that be to coordinate with the pastors in this community and use their experience in counselling suffering families to help with crisis management and intervention.

We are relying on volunteers to do the important work for us while this problem gets worse and worse.

Pastor Leroy Bean is head of anti-gang group CARTEL.

 

Special report: Gun crime, the human toll