Dispersal action brings quiet to West End community

Walk through Cambridge Road, in the area commonly referred to as ‘Gun Alley’, and it is more quiet than it has been in years.

One business owner said she has been “seeing new faces” in her establishment for the first time in months. At Charing Cross they are hopeful it is a positive sign for business in the lead up to the Cup Match at Somerset Cricket Club next month.

When contacted by The Royal Gazette, the officer responsible for command at the Somerset Police Station said he is “very pleased with the results that have been achieved on Cambridge Road in partnership with the Cambridge Road Community Group”.

This comes after the Bermuda Police Service issued the ‘green light’ on May 31 for police to disperse groups under Section 110 of the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2010.

Acting Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell said the success to date is due primarily to “the hard work of the Western Community Action Team of police officers and the Cambridge Road Community Group” as part of the ‘policing in partnership’ strategy.

“This group actively participated in returning Cambridge Road and its environs to one where there is a general feeling of safety and has eliminated the elements that were previously causing alarm and intimidation,” said Chief Insp Cardwell.

“The men who had previously been congregating and exhibiting antisocial behaviour have been moved out of the area and have not returned,” he said.

Stakeholders in the west end community “removed the attraction that had previously drawn the men to the entrance of Cambridge Road”.

“This involved acquiring the use of machinery, skill and pure hard work to clear overgrown lots of vacant land and these results speak for themselves and it is my hope that it will sustain what has been achieved.

“Western Community Action Teams have been deployed into neighbourhoods in the White Hill area over recent weeks and are actively setting up Neighbourhood Watch Groups,” said Chief Insp Cardwell.

While noting that “exercising police authority to disperse groups is not in itself a solution”, he stressed “this power should be considered only an option to assist in bringing about solutions to problems being experienced”.

“Exercising this authority must be proportionate to the problem being experienced. I continue to look very closely at the White Hill area with a view to assessing a range of options,” he said.

Officers have also run into a new set of problems since the new enforcement order went into effect. “One such complaint that I have received recently are problems that are being faced by females who are harassed and exposed to offensive language by the men who congregate in the area of the Jews Bay public dock,” said Chief Insp Cardwell.

“We are actively working through our Community Action Team officers to identify and work towards a meaningful solution to this problem as well as directing our patrols to give this area some attention.

“Forcing the men to disperse may not be the right solution. Groups congregating in some areas throughout the Island can be considered somewhat of a natural Bermuda past time, and I don’t believe anyone has a problem with this in itself.

“It becomes a problem when the groups congregating begin to demonstrate unacceptable, disrespectful and antisocial behaviour that causes anyone alarm or intimidation. I would prefer to engage these men first and encourage them to ‘self-police’ to avoid other policing initiatives that we can introduce,” he said.

He has also been made aware of “groups of men who regularly congregate just around the corner from the Jews Bay public dock at the Riddell’s Bay public dock.

“I have seen these men ‘self-police’. They are respectful and helpful to other users of the public dock and among themselves they do not tolerate bad behaviour,” he said.

He noted that “the men keep the dock litter free and have even received a letter formally thanking them for their efforts by KBB”.

He added: “There is a lot that can be achieved by encouraging groups to police themselves.”

Meanwhile, Chief Insp Cardwell said: “Area Commanders of Central and East are actively looking at some of the community problems faced in their areas and are assessing options to deal with the problems including issuing the Section 110 authority to disperse groups.”

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Published Jul 17, 2012 at 8:56 am (Updated Jul 17, 2012 at 8:55 am)

Dispersal action brings quiet to West End community

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