Crockwell: Ask anybody in this community do you feel safer and I guarantee you nine out of ten will say no
There was very little dissension on the floor of the House of Assembly yesterday on the need for anti-gang legislation.
One Bermuda Alliance MP Shawn Crockwell said : Were going to support it and we say that individuals who are involved in gang activity need to be punished more harsh than others.
But he questioned whether or not the new penalties were enough to create a deterrent. He recalled recent comments made by Progressive Labour Party MP Terry Lister on how the Government increased the tariff for murder to 35 years.
The very next day we had the barbershop murder and interestingly, a few weeks prior to that Senator Jonathan Smith in another place got up and he was talking about how theres been a steep decline in violent crime, said Mr Crockwell.
At the end of the day it is how people feel in the community. You can get up and say look at the overall statistics of crime in this country its going down and then you have a Chicago style mafia type assassination in broad daylight in a barbershop.
Ask anybody in this community do you feel safer and I guarantee you nine out of ten will say no. Thats the Bermuda we are living in now, that is our reality, so the 35 year tariff had no deterrent on those gunmen, he said.
We have a group of individuals in this country who are terrorising this community. We can have all the statistics in the world, an election is coming were all out on the doorsteps canvassing, people are stopping us on a regular basis especially when we have such an egregious act like we did a few weeks ago.
When you speak to people they will tell you that they dont feel comfortable and my concern is whats going to happen next. What if the target was in a restaurant, a man was in a barbershop that had people in there and it could have been children what if the target was somewhere else, he asked.
PLP MP Ashfield DeVent noted that this is the first piece of legislation to actually recognise and define a gang. We hear now about 42, Parkside and MOB but we had Frontline, we had Whitewall which were all the beginnings of gangs.
In my mind gangs are an outgrowth of the drug culture they dont form to discuss the origins of mankind, they come together for illicit activity to protect turf and it comes out of drug activity, he said.
This is a country that has accepted drugs which have become an intricate part of our culture, drugs are a part of who we have become.
Until we begin to talk specifically about drugs and how we as a community are still very accepting of drugs, said Mr DeVent.
I live in one of the areas most affected by it, I have had the misfortune of seeing one young man lying in the street dead and could have seen another one all within in a radius of about 200 yards.
I live in a community where people have a hard time renting their apartments because as soon as you say the name of the area people say no. And it all stems back to drugs, gangs get together to defend the money and the profits that they make from drugs and the country now needs to set some standards and be prepared to keep those standards.
He also referred to the erosion of standards in sports. Why would parents want to send their young person involved in a programme where they have to walk through the sale of illegal drugs to go play football or cricket.
We see the erosion all around us, our standards in sports have dropped and it stems back to illegal drugs and it has generated millions and millions of dollars in this country. Huge houses, huge boats and we kind of tip toe around it.
Were in a very serious place and this is a step, I dont think were going to solve this easily or anytime soon and I see some of them now in another role, they are getting more organised and with resources and they can hire lawyers.
Were talking about generations of drug dealers now who are now carrying weapons to defend it. Weve become a society thats more interested in money than principles, thats the society we have become and we see it reflected all over the country in all kinds of ways — corruption all over the place because its a mindset thats not very principled in many ways.
Principles have gone out the door, and we seem to think of everything in isolation. But now its bullets flying around, now everybodys saying what are we going to do. This didnt happen overnight this has been going on and on and allowed to grow and fester like a cancer.
Weve got lots of young people out there who really dont seem to have a conscience. To pull out a gun and shoot someone takes a special individual but the person who pulls out that gun and shoots someone in cold blood in my view is no different and no less cold hearted and cruel than the man who says heres a package of heroin, heres a package of cocaine; theyre cut from the same cloth.
It might not be as bloody or as gory but to put somebody in a state of slavery, be it mental through drugs is just as bad. Until this country honestly begins to deal with illegal drugs and the huge profits it makes and the culture surrounding it this is not going away, and it will get worse.
Kim Swan who was elected under the United Bermuda Party banner said in order to fix a problem you have to go back to basics. And he recalled speeches made in the House by the late Austin Thomas who warned of the perils of illegal drugs if left unchecked in a community and what it could do.
If this society wants to tackle the strangle hold that the drug culture and the drug economy has on our families then weve got to go back to basics. In golf its grip, aim and posture, how you align yourself, said Mr Swan.
Drugs have a grip on our society and if you talk about alignment, the criminals are aligning themselves up for our youngest generations to make them a part of that culture.
This matter transcends politics, I cant go around cherry-picking in my family because my family is divided politically. But they are not divided by that drug dealer thats looking to get my nephew involved in drugs.
They are not divided in their zeal to go after my grandchild, if I should ever have one in this country to get them to enlist, and they dont care if they wear green because its PLP or red or whatever colour my party should be showing, they are going after people to carry on the drug industry in this country, said Mr Swan.
And he stated that he has yet to meet a drug dealer who doesnt want more for his child than he does for himself.
One Bermuda Alliance MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin spoke about the importance of strong parenting, and said politicians need to set aside their party allegiances to work together.
If we want to continue to politic over this, people will continue to see what they can do to get away with whatever crime they choose to do, said Mrs Gordon-Pamplin.
Environment Minister Marc Bean pinpointed the Wellington Oval machete fight of 2004 as the moment Bermudas gang problems began to visibly escalate.
That incident came during a major marijuana drought, said Mr Bean, who said sales of strong beer, ecstasy and other hard drugs soared.
Noting the violence sparked from substances other than cannabis, the Minister questioned what the Opposition was trying to achieve calling for drug testing for MPs.
You cant score political points on that. The people are not resonating with you, Mr Bean told the OBA.
He said the downward spiral in Bermudas community coincided with the move to the middle school system, which had helped develop a territorial mentality and removed social cohesion from youngsters lives.
Mr Bean also cited the Mirrors programme as an example of the preventive measures put in place by the Progressive Labour Party.
Premier Paula Cox said Governments priority now is to act on the recommendations of research such as the Mincy Report which reflected on the gap between the haves and the have notes.
She said early intervention work is being done in schools to give young people more options, while social programmes aim to address issues such as unemployment.
National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief wrapped up the debate by reflecting on the role of globalisation and the recession on Bermudas gang troubles.
When there was a lot of money around, drug dealers didnt particularly care if they shared turf, said the Minister.
He said with cash more scarce dealers began issuing severe punishments for those selling drugs on their territory.
Authorities know who is benefiting from money gained from the decimation of our young men, he said, but have been unable to bring them to book.
Some people live very on the hog. We do know who they are, said Mr Perinchief. This legislation certainly attempts to claw that back and change that anomaly.
The untouchables will be touched through this legislation.
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