‘Kids can’t walk home from school without being accosted by a gang member’
Drag queen and social campaigner Mark Anderson says school children are scared to walk home in case they're accosted by gangsters.
Mr Anderson, who works as a bus driver when not performing as his alter ego Sybil, addressed his concerns to a parliamentary joint select committee on violent crime and gun violence.
“They can't even walk home from school from Victor Scott or Dellwood, that's a red zone area, to call it conservatively,” he said.
“These kids can't walk home from school without being accosted by a gang member asking them to be a look out for police.”
Mr Anderson has also observed troubling behaviour in the bus terminal in Hamilton.
“As young as 12 years old these kids are at the bus terminal drinking rum in cups and everyone thinks it's soda,” said Mr Anderson, who accused Bermudians of “turning a blind eye” to the problem.
He called for churches to adopt schools, so their members can counsel and guide children against falling into a bad lifestyle.
Mr Anderson, who is openly gay, told the multi-party committee he had a lover for 15 years in New York who was in the Latin Kings gang.
While he does not have links with gang members in Bermuda, he said his job driving buses gives him insight into some of the issues surrounding them.
He made a series of recommendations to help address the problem.
“Every police officer, in my opinion, should be armed,” said Mr Anderson, who also suggested a mandatory 9pm curfew for under-16s.
He advocated roadblocks to deter criminals, boot camps for troublesome teens and “more uncomfortable prisons”.
He said of Westgate Correctional Facility: “Some West Indians say they would rather do their time over here than other islands because our Island is a resort hotel. Our prison is not a prison.”
Among the other tactics he recommended were:
l Round-the-clock monitoring of all Bermuda's ports of entry by police and Customs officials, along with CCTV cameras
l CCTV at other crucial points such as the Causeway, Somerset Bridge, Paget stop lights and Crow Lane.
l Closer collaboration between the police, prison and customs departments to share intelligence.
l More experienced prosecutions to ensure “flawless” presentation of evidence in court.
In addition to the get-tough measures, Mr Anderson believes that gang members who want to change their ways should be given more support to reintegrate into society.
“All businesses over a certain size should retain one former gang member,” he suggested, explaining this would help them “feel wanted” after they've undergone rehabilitation.
The joint select committee has previously heard from speakers including senior police officers and child welfare workers.
It's due to reconvene on January 19.