A year without murder
Newspapers often get criticised for reporting only the “bad news”, but the announcement last week that there were no murders recorded in 2019 is good news indeed and should, with a caveat, be celebrated.
The caveat, of course, is that Bermuda’s experience with violent crime in the recent past means that there is no room for complacency and that some of the conditions that led to the explosion of gang violence in the early part of the last decade are still present.
But it is also important to recognise what progress has been made in this area, both by the Bermuda Police Service and by the different community groups who joined in the efforts to reduce and prevent gun violence.
It is, as the police noted, important to say that there were also only two firearms-related injuries, and this, too, is a tremendous change over previous years.
Credit is due to the police, who have improved their approach to gang violence immeasurably, to the government agencies who have come together to deal with this threat and to the community groups and neighbourhood watch teams who took part.
This is also an area where Bermuda’s political leaders have put their differences aside to tackle this problem in a non-partisan way. While some of the personalities have changed, the approach by national security minister Wayne Caines and his predecessors, Jeff Baron and Michael Dunkley, were quite similar, and the same is true in the community groups now being led by pastor Leroy Bean.
When Bermuda was reeling from the onslaught of gang violence, it was said that it would take a community effort to deal with the problem, and that remains as true today as it was in 2010.
But it is also fair to say — and the leaders of this effort have been quick to say it — that this is not the time to relax or to prematurely declare victory.
There were five murders in 2018, the same number in 2017 and seven in 2016. Now, in 2020, the community needs to resolve to start a new trend of no murders every year.
To do that requires the community groups to continue to work with young people to move them away from the gang culture and into healthy and productive lifestyles, and to continue to discourage young people from drug abuse and the drug trade.
That can happen only when young people see that life outside gangs and on the straight and narrow will be beneficial financially and can lead to the kind of stable and healthy lives we all should live.
This has to start with families and helping people to be supportive parents who also have the financial security to allow their children to do well in school, to get a good night’s sleep and to go to school with a full stomach. Too often this does not happen now.
In our schools, we need to be alert to children who are at risk and to support those children who as a result of learning difficulties or distractions outside of school struggle to make “normal” progress.
This means giving them the support they need and not promoting them through the system, and it means early diagnosis and treatment of learning challenges, which are much more prevalent than many may think.
After school, young people need to know that there are pathways to success through education at the Bermuda College and elsewhere, or through learning a trade, which can lead to successful careers, small businesses and the like.
Only by showing young people that there is a structure and the prospect of a successful life in mainstream society will they turn away from the superficial attractions and false bonds of the gang lifestyle. And only then will our young people be safe.
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