Minister: Bermuda-centric’ anti-gang drive
The anti-gang programme Operation Ceasefire has been axed in favour of a “Bermuda-centric” programme, national security minister Wayne Caines announced yesterday.
The United States-based programme would have cost $200,000 for this financial year, but Mr Caines told Parliament that a locally based programme “better serves Bermuda economically and socially”.
Mr Caines emphasised that “we cannot arrest ourselves out of any problem” and called for a change in the island’s narrative as well as “a cultural shift” in tackling serious crime.
The minister added: “A suppression-heavy element no longer fits the Progressive Labour Party’s plans for reducing gang violence.”
The island began adopting Ceasefire in 2010, subsequently taking on several more inter-agency groups.
Ultimately the National Network for Safety Communities’s Group Violence Intervention model was implemented in April 2017 as an unbudgeted item under the One Bermuda Alliance administration.
However, Mr Caines said that early this year, local working groups opted to terminate the NNSC contract for “localised programmes” to tackle “the root causes of violence, and address the years of multi-generational, unaddressed trauma”.
“Such methodology should reflect an anthropological, ethnographic and clinical approach,” Mr Caines added.
“We want to develop programmes and policies that include a therapeutic and restorative aspect which was lacking from the GVI model.”
Prevention was “key to success in stemming violence in Bermuda”, he said.
The NNSC programme had been scheduled to end in 2019 at a cost of nearly $370,000, but Mr Caines said no penalties would be incurred by the early stop.
The minister said that plans had first been made public by gang violence reduction co-ordinator Pastor Leroy Bean at a meeting on March 24 at Sandys Rotary Club.
That presentation had included the Reverend Jeffrey Brown, head of a US community movement called the Boston Miracle, which reduced the city’s violent crime by almost 80 per cent.
Mr Caines said he and Mr Bean had been “overjoyed when Reverend Brown endorsed our path”.
Responding to questions from Opposition MP Michael Dunkley, the minister said that a case manager, Darren Woods, had been seconded to the department from another ministry to assist.
“A huge part of this programme is to make it therapeutic,” Mr Caines said.
Meanwhile, MPs heard stark figures for the human toll of the island’s gang-related violence.
Since 2009 there have been 35 young black men shot and killed, 92 injured by illegal guns, and more than 400 young people deemed “at risk of falling prey to the gang lifestyle”.
Mr Caines also asked the public to turn out on May 9 for a national day of peace, to be held from 5pm to 7pm at the National Stadium in Devonshire.
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