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US Consul General: ‘Now is the time for action on gangs’

US Consul General Robert Settje has expressed confidence that the new One Bermuda Alliance Government will get a handle on gang and gun violence in Bermuda.

The former SWAT team member who is also a former prosecutor stressed that the unique set of challenges transcend law enforcement parameters.

And the solutions require a holistic approach across the board, from the bottom up.

“The Bermuda Police Service can continue to arrest people but in the end you’re not going to solve the problem if the society keeps producing children who are at risk and will turn to gangs for whatever it is that they need,” said Mr Settje.

“In order to solve this problem you have to look at the bigger problem, you need to get the community involved, you have to work to strengthen families, you need to make the school system strong.

“You need to give children hope and opportunities and to do that you need everyone involved. The churches are a big thing in Bermuda, they play a very powerful and important role, they must also be involved,” he said.

“This is not new to this Government, the previous Government talked about this as well, unfortunately, up until now, people have talked about a lot of things, now its time for action.

“And it appears to me that the current Government really does intend to take action along those lines, to start moving from the talking stage into the true implementation stage.”

He was mindful however, that positive change won’t happen overnight, just as internal family problems take a “very long time”.

But the number one objective must be to pave the way and provide what’s needed on the front end for children to “choose the right path and not the wrong path” when they grow up.

And he was confident that members of the Opposition Progressive Labour Party will be on board.

“I know many of them are people of goodwill and have concerns about the situation, so I’m hopeful,” he said.

“I have a great deal of contact with the Ministry of Public Safety, the Ministry of Community Development and with the police. I’m willing to support what happens in any way I can in this struggle,” said Mr Settje.

The former police officer who has also worked in an anti-gang environment in Colorado pledged his full support.

He admitted however, that in a small country like Bermuda, the problems are compounded by its small size.

“It makes absolutely no sense to me that a young man from Pembroke cannot travel freely to other areas, I just think that’s a horrendous situation,” said Mr Settje.

“If somebody gets in some trouble in one neighbourhood in Boston you can run to another neighbourhood or you can move them to Arizona.

“But Bermudians in need of protection must physically leave their home.

“You can’t move them to St George’s because they will find them in a heart beat, it doesn’t work like that here.

“I think Bermuda faces some special challenges. Right now its like this festering boil and you have to try and get that part under control.

“But you also want to start working on the disease that causes that boil, and that’s a much longer process.

“What I see in Bermuda now is a lot of will, a lot of knowledge and a lot of energy being directed toward dealing with those causes as well as trying to heal the boil itself; and I’m really hopeful that it will work.

He said he “has no idea whether a gun bounty will help. “Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, I just think that somebody needs to try,” said Mr Settje.

“We can talk a situation to death, we can talk about the pros and cons of offering cash for guns, or offering cash for information about guns forever, but how effective is that?

“Until somebody tries that we’re not going to know,” he said. And he was more than pleased that the attempt will be made later this year.

Mr Settje concluded: “I hope that no one thinks I came here with the idea that I know how to fix everything because I certainly didn’t come here with that in mind.

“What I have said is I’m available to help if you want it and I will use my resources as best I can to help.

“I never said that we have all the answers and I certainly would acknowledge that we have problems in the US that we haven’t solved.

“But that doesn’t mean that we can’t work together and it doesn’t mean that my Government, the people of the US and I couldn’t help.”

US Consul General Robert Settje

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Published February 27, 2013 at 8:36 am (Updated February 27, 2013 at 8:35 am)

US Consul General: ‘Now is the time for action on gangs’

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