Silence surrounds gang contract cancellation
Government officials remain tight-lipped on the cancellation of the contract with an American-based organisation designed to fight gang violence.
Pastor Leroy Bean, Bermuda’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator, declined to comment on the controversy at an anti-violence seminar on Saturday.
Mr Bean said the termination of the contract would be discussed by Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, in a ministerial statement. Mr Bean did not say when the statement would be released.
A spokesman for the National Network for Safe Communities confirmed to The Royal Gazette last week that the Government had cut short the Operation Ceasefire programme.
Desmond Crockwell, chief editor of anti-violence magazine Visionz, said that data gathered from the programme should have been used to determine its success in the battle against gang violence.
Mr Crockwell explained: “If it was making inroads into the situation, as mentioned by the former minister, then I think it would make sense to keep it going.
“However, if it was a waste of money, as the current minister may think, then of course it makes sense to cancel the contract. Only those who are privy to the statistics would know that answer.”
Mr Crockwell added that it came as “no surprise that much of what the former government started would be overturned by the current government”.
He added: “That’s politics.”
Mr Crockwell stressed that he did not believe the problem of gang and gun violence in Bermuda was a “one man or one ministry problem or solution”.
He said he would welcome tighter border controls to keep guns off the island and the use of Royal Bermuda Regiment personnel to act as a “police reserve”.
Mr Crockwell said he was also interested in an update on the status of the Confiscated Assets Fund.
He questioned whether assets were still being confiscated and distributed to charities.
Mr Caines said in September that the fund had been “substantially depleted” and announced a moratorium on grants to island charities.
He added that given how the cash was collected, the timeline for fresh funds was “unpredictable”.
Mr Caines said that community organisations would continue to benefit from cash from the fund once it had replaced spent funds.
The NNSC’s Group Violence Intervention, first developed as Operation Ceasefire, has been used to combat gun and gang-related crime in US cities including Boston and Chicago and has won several awards.
The programme started in Bermuda last year.
The two-year deal between NNSC and the Bermuda Government, which was scheduled to end in the first half of next year, cost about $370,000.
The introduction of Operation Ceasefire to Bermuda was first considered almost a decade ago after a sharp spike in gun deaths.
Mr Caines was sent a number of questions regarding the cancellation of the contract last Thursday.
Responses had not been received by the time of press yesterday.
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