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Gang violence report could be debated on Friday

Carlton Simmons (Photo by Mark Tatem), president of Youth on the Move.

A wide-ranging parliamentary report on gang and gun crime could be debated by MPs this week, five months after it was tabled in the House of Assembly.Randy Horton, chairman of the parliamentary joint select committee on the causes of violent crime and gun violence in Bermuda, told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “I’m hoping to debate it on Friday. That’s my goal. I hope it does [get debated] because it’s been too long.”Mr Horton first proposed a joint select committee on gun and gang crime in May 2010, after the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Dekimo Martin.At the time, Mr Martin was the ninth man to be shot dead since May 2009. There have been seven further gun murders since and numerous non-fatal shootings.The joint select committee was formed and seven cross-party politicians met for the first time in September 2010, after which they urged members of the public to participate by making presentations.The first public meeting was held in November last year and the sessions continued into the New Year.The committee listened to 45 presentations in total, from various government organisations, non-government organisations and private individuals involved in finding solutions to the problem, including prison inmates.A 101-page report, containing a raft of recommendations for tackling gang and gun crime, was tabled in the House of Assembly on July 15 this yearCarlton Simmons, President of Youth on the Move, said the whole process had taken too long and the gang problem had worsened in the meantime, with many young men unable to leave their parishes due to safety fears.“When we first told Government about the gangs, it was in 2006,” he said. “We wanted to set up a headquarters so young people could come in and get assistance.“Now having a headquarters in one area is no good because all we can service is the people in that area. We have a situation where we need a headquarters in every parish.”The community activist, who made a presentation to the committee on December 10 last year, said work on gang violence needed to be done swiftly or “it will become irrelevant.”“These things can’t be a long drawn out two-year process,” he said. “All the information from that study is going to be no good by the time they debate it.”He added that there had been more shootings and more murders since the committee wrapped up its meetings at the start of the year.Mr Horton, the Deputy Speaker of the House, said he didn’t disagree with the claim that the process had taken too long.“We need to get it done,” he said. “We need to get it out there.“I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure there will be robust debate on it.”One Bermuda Alliance Senator Michael Dunkley, a member of the committee, said he didn’t expect the report to be debated before Christmas but added: “There is no reason why the lack of a debate needs to stop progress.”Sen Dunkley, who was Shadow Minister for National Security until recently, added: “Nothing is obsolete.”He said: “The Government has come forward and made a lot of progress in certain areas but I still think they have fallen short in lots of other areas.“Unfortunately, politicians are often slow to move. They make a lot of promises and it takes a lot of time to actually happen. That’s just the nature of some politicians.“With public safety and the economy, we don’t have time for dilly dallying any more. We need action and we need firm action to help move this country forward.”The report’s top recommendation was that rival gang members should be encouraged to take part in peace talks.It called for gang members to be brought together to negotiate a truce and for all the Island’s agencies to meet for a national summit to “assess what can and cannot be reasonably done”.* Read the full report at www.royalgazette.com.

What the Joint Select Committee had to say

Recommendations from the joint select committee report on gun and gang crimeGangs and legislationArrange mediation meetings with gangs in an attempt to negotiate a truce.Ban tinted visors.Don’t release dangerous offenders into the community after they’ve completed two-thirds of their sentence without parole and supervision.Ensure all drug and gun crime cases are tried by a panel of judges.Bermuda Police ServiceProvide additional staff and equipment and updated technology.Place sub-police stations in high-profile gang areas.Install CCTV cameras Island-wide and at all ports.Address perceived disparities in the treatment and promotion of Bermudians and non-Bermudians.PrisonsSplit up prisoners who can be rehabilitated and those who show no signs of being rehabilitated.Introduce more drug, alcohol treatment and anti-gang programmes for inmates.Conduct a full review of probation services, plus all remedial and rehabilitation programmes.Border controlsCreate a single unified agency to enable Customs, Immigration and Bermuda Police Service to combat the importation of illegal drugs and guns.DrugsIntroduce harsher penalties for trafficking.Do background checks on all sports coaches and team administrators and ban known gang members from existing sports facilities.EducationOpen a school for severely at-risk students offering alternative education.Give strong consideration to an all-boys school.Introduce technical education in all middle schools and effective parenting programmes at all schools.FamiliesForm a government board to oversee the operations of community social services agencies, as well as a national youth service to build skills and training and provide mentoring and work experience.Form an emergency response team for dysfunctional families.