Bermuda set to adopt CeaseFire scheme to help gang problem
Bermuda looks set to adopt its own CeaseFire programme where reformed gang members return to the streets to defuse violent situations between rival gangs.
National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief has confirmed he is keen to put the global violence prevention programme to the test on Bermuda's streets.
Mr Perinchief was “inspired and encouraged” to try out the radical approach by former gang member Ricardo ‘Cobe' Williams, who used his street knowledge to help break up gangs in Chicago.
Mr Perinchief invited Mr Williams to meet him after hearing he would be on Island to promote ‘The Interrupters' as part of the weekend's Bermuda Docs film festival.
The award-winning film, which was shown to a sell-out crowd on Friday, tells the moving story of Mr Williams and two other former gang members tackling gun violence.
The CeaseFire programme has had a dramatic impact in some of the world's most troubled cities by treating violence like the spread of an infectious disease.
Mr Perinchief said he was looking at a “focus on intervention” as a way to end the unprecedented violence occurring between the 42 and Parkside gangs, which has resulted in 16 murders in the last two years.
He said: “We're going to have our own CeaseFire programme. It has to be a systematic programme, that's what we are looking at setting up.
“To get going we plan to get in touch with the people who started it (CeaseFire) up and invite them over here.
“We want them to come in and train some people up. We want people who are well-versed in gangs to give formal training to our gang members”.
Mr Perinchief added: “I really see this as the beginning, I see light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to ending gang violence”.
Several months ago Mr Perinchief said there would be “no harm in investigating the programme” and a team of Bermuda Government officials even visited the East Coast to find out more about CeaseFire initiatives.
But Mr Perinchief said it was Mr Williams visit that really got the ball rolling in terms of “introducing all the elements” of CeaseFire to Bermuda.
Bermuda's CeaseFire looks set to be a cross-Ministry initiative between the Ministries of National Security, Community Development and Justice.
Mr Perinchief said: “We have started to implement some aspects of the programme as community groups have been speaking to gang members on the streets and in their homes.
“But this has always been done on an ad hoc basis, we now need more of a structured approach. I'm really enthusiastic about the mediation part of this programme to try to stop the violence. We need to involve the gang members themselves, we also need to get mothers on board to try to calm down situations.
“We need to communicate with gang members on their level … to present alternative, positive life choices”.
The Royal Gazette published an interview with Dr Gary Slutkin, who founded the CeaseFire programme, last Tuesday. He explained it would take “just a phone call” for his team to move in and get “fast results” in Bermuda.
On the same day we also reported how Mr Williams, who used to carry a gun and sell drugs for a living, urged Bermuda to try CeaseFire as he believes it can work anywhere if the right gang members are selected.
Mr Perinchief said he read about Mr Williams' visit then received tickets for the screening of ‘The Interrupters' from Bermuda Docs director Duncan Hall.
Mr Perinchief said he “put two and two together” and realised it would be the perfect opportunity to meet Mr Williams and find out more about CeaseFire.
Mr Williams also got to talk to Bermuda's Inter-Agency Gang Task Force who happened to be meeting when he visited Mr Perinchief at the Government offices.
Members include Assistant Police Commissioner David Mirfield, church and community leaders, and representatives from court services.
Mr Perinchief said: “He was able to meet us all, tell us his story and let us all know what the programme was about.
“It gave us a better handle on things so we know how to put it into effect.
“I was quite surprised to hear of the scope of the programme, it really has gone international as its been replicated in so many countries.
“Gang violence is relatively new to us in Bermuda so looking at other places in the world we can now understand gang dynamics better than before”.
Mr Perinchief called Mr Williams “an icon” who had “lifted his spirits” as to what could be done to tackle gang violence.
Mr Williams, who left Bermuda yesterday after a five-day stay, proudly posted a photo of himself with the Minister on his Facebook page.
He also described how he'd gone “from hanging on the block to travelling all over the world” saying that Bermuda had showed him so much love that he planned to return.
When in Bermuda Mr Williams also told his story to a total of 600 students at The Berkeley Institute and at CedarBridge Academy.
Mr Perinchief said watching ‘The Interrupters' on Friday evening had been “a heartening and enlightening experience”.
He added; “After seeing the film, I really hope we can replicate things in Bermuda”.
Mr Perinchief said of Mr Hall: “I applaud him for taking the initiative to bring Cobe here.
“I want to thank him personally as he saw the timeliness of what was happening in Bermuda and reacted accordingly by wanting to show the film”.
Mr Hall said he had invited the Minister to the film so that he could see the value of the work being done by those at CeaseFire.
He said: “I programmed the film for Bermuda Docs because I want the festival to have a positive impact on the community in addition to its value as a cultural event.
“The film showed how one community in crisis was helped, and I thought perhaps we could learn something from that. I hoped that by bringing the film and Cobe to Bermuda, it would stimulate discussion about what our community can do to reduce the number of shootings and killings.”
* Due to popular demand ‘The Interrupters' is to be shown again on a yet-to-be-announced date in about two weeks time.
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