Friswells Hill: ‘A Town-on-Town gang problem’
Schoolboy gangsters have been ignored by police after they launched a reign of terror in a residential area, local people claimed yesterday.
Residents in Friswells Hill in Pembroke said a gun incident on Tuesday night was sparked by a gang, some as young as 15, locked in a dispute with another group in Hamilton.
They said a group of about 12 youngsters aged between 15 and 20 congregated outside homes around the clock and took part in antisocial behaviour, including drug dealing.
One single mother, who asked not to be named, said: “Over the last three weeks, the presence of boys in the area has grown dramatically.
“There is obviously a gang problem, but it's a Town-on-Town (Pembroke) gang problem. These aren't people coming from the country.
“The incident on Tuesday was not targeting any householder; this has been brewing for a while.
“There's something going on, on the streets; that makes all these guys congregate there.
“All summer it's been quiet, but in the past couple of weeks something has ramped up.”
The woman warned: “I think there's a serious gang war going on in Town right now and the police are not paying attention.”
A car and house were damaged in the 10.40pm shooting on Tuesday. The attack came just after a police Community Action Team meeting held in the wake of complaints about trouble on the streets.
The woman added: “The police drive by and they see 15 or 20 guys. But they don't say, ‘Disperse, everybody leave.'
“The police need to take more action. They need to be more present. You can't just drive through doing the speed limit. It makes them feel the police are afraid of them.
“It's intimidating when you have these guys in the front of your house; you fear you are going to have damage done to your property.
“Do I want to be the one to antagonise the gang on the street? I play it cool.”
The mother said the root of the problem was a lack of help for at-risk young men and neglect of the Friswells Hill area.
She added: “I'm just a mom. I have children. I don't know where these children came from, what their house is like. I see some children in the same clothes all weekend.
“A couple of the little children are not in school. They can't get a job; they can't get on the Hustle Truck.
“These guys don't have any fathers, and they don't have any way of making money. They are selling drugs; they are stealing bikes.
“It's one thing to be neighbourhood children riding bikes together, but as they get older it turns into something different.”
The woman added that abandoned and boarded-up houses in the area had helped breed street crime like drug dealing.
She said: “If it looks like s***, people will treat it like s***.
“It's such a sweet neighbourhood. But as long as I have lived in Friswells Hill, the first thing I have seen the community do is this neighbourhood watch thing, only because the number of men on the streets has risen.
The woman added that area residents could help restore order with a trash clean-up, trimming trees and helping residents “take pride in their neighbourhood”.
Another woman from the area said: “They are only 16 or 17 and should be at school, but they have been weaned into the gang situation. I feel they have upset someone.
“The boys who came into the area are after somebody and they will be back until they get them.”
The Bermuda Housing Corporation, which manages the Hustle Truck, said the programme was still operational, but declined to comment further.
A Bermuda Police Service spokesman said: “It is believed Tuesday night's shooting was gang related, however detectives continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding that incident.”
He added officers were aware of the concerns of residents.
He said: “However, tackling antisocial behaviour is not just a job for the police alone, the support of the community and relevant helping agencies is also vitally important.”
Police have appealed for witnesses to the shooting incident.
A Ministry of Education and Workforce Development spokeswoman said attendance officers monitored attendance and followed up on absences to check if they were legitimate.
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said last night: “The Friswells Hill residents have a right to feel safe in their neighbourhood, as should all residents in Bermuda, and I welcome having a dialogue with the community regarding the challenges we face in reducing violence.”
Mr Caines added that he, along with members of the gang reduction team, have met with area residents on at least four occasions.
He added: “We will be out there to talk with residents directly this weekend.”