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Pembroke Parish Council told community must take back the streets

The owner of Art Mel's restaurant who has seen family members and friends gunned down has urged the community to “have courage” and take back the streets.Speaking at a meeting of Pembroke Parish Council, Arthur Smith said he had seen loved ones including Perry Puckerin, Kumi Harford and Kenwandee Robinson lose their lives to gun violence.Mr Smith said the only way to catch the perpetrators was for everyone to stand up and tell police it was “so and so”.“If people really listened we would know what was going on,” he said, adding that parents also needed to get to know their children and know when something was happening in their lives.The meeting, attended by Pembroke MPs, police and members of the City of Hamilton, addressed a wide range of issues, including rehabilitation for criminal offenders and solutions to soaring violence.Mr Smith, who operates on St Monica's Road, spoke about his own childhood where people were poor, but families were close. Today everyone has something yet people remain distant, he said.“People do not even see their family even when they are next door. We need to be more in touch with one another,” he told Thursday's meeting.“The problems happening in the Island (are) because love has grown cold. We do not love any more. We do not care any more unless things are happening to us.“Today we have cell phones and all this internet and people are so far (disconnected) from each other. We have to remember who we are. We are our brother's keepers. The only way to solve what is happening in this Country is if we all change.”Mr Smith recalled when Mr Robinson was shot dead in May 2009 and said he was “a really nice little guy”. “He wasn't even involved with those things that had happened,” he said.“People come to the St Monica's Road area to shoot these guys and the shooting victims are looked at as the bad guys,” he said. When in reality, it's the people that target them that are the bad guys.Mr Smith said the St Monica's neighbourhood was a “nice area”, but urged stakeholders to take back the community.“A lot of people are afraid to stand up for what is right. People need to build and have that courage to do these things that are right.”He said everyone on the Island was needed all the time, not just when there was a problem. People need to know and understand others every day, not just when it is convenient, he added.Mr Smith blamed many of the problems with violence and gun crime on materialism and said: “It is creating the biggest problem. We have (a situation where) everyone wants what everyone else has.”He said people dedicated so much time and placed so much importance on wealth, when it meant very little.As a result, the mindset of the people has changed and some have become evil and have no feelings, he explained.“If another man can take another man's life and walk around tomorrow like he hasn't done anything, his heart is so cold. It is sad.”He said Bermudians were all one people and needed to stop feeling jealous because someone had something they don't. “When we make change, we can change the world.“We have to stop pushing blame all over the place and come together. We should know our children and be in touch with them and when they do wrong there must be consequences.“If we do not decide to stand and do these things that are right the problem will never cease. It's up to the people to make a change,” he added.