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DeSilva: Community effort needed to combat gang violence

Bermuda is taking a holistic approach to tackling the “devastating phenomenon” of gun and gang violence, according to Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva.

He told a conference of police chiefs yesterday that harnessing the whole community to tackle the problem was the best approach.

“Our enforcement and our legislative measures do not address the behaviours that create the violence in the first place,” he said.

“There is no single reason why people join gangs or engage in criminal activity. The Bermuda Police Service advocates a more holistic approach.”

The Commissioner was speaking at the opening of the annual conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP) at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess.

He acknowledged at the start of his remarks that gang and gun crime was “a phenomenon that has swept across our islands with devastating effects”.

Mr DeSilva said more than two dozen lives had been lost due to gang violence in Bermuda, with three dozen men incarcerated for their involvement in gun crime.

Governor George Fergusson and Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley also addressed the delegates, who represent 17 countries.

Mr Fergusson said smaller islands without immediate neighbours faced a particular challenge in tackling crime.

“A conscious effort often has to be made to keep in touch with new lessons as they are learned — sometimes painfully — elsewhere. If everyone has to invent the wheel individually, progress can be slow, and uneven.”

He said it was important for small countries to not simply follow blindly the crime-fighting methods of larger jurisdictions but to make appropriate adaptations.

The Governor spoke of the need for good communication between police services and praised BPS, which is hosting the ACCP conference, as a “very good police service”.

Deputy Premier Mr Dunkley said: “With few exceptions, this region is faced with the phenomenon of gang violence and antisocial behaviour.

“This Government is fully supportive of the police in their focus on guns, gangs, drugs and violence.

“Those operational priorities align with the Government’s promise to make Bermuda safer.

“Strong enforcement has been the order of the day and the Bermuda Police Service has an enviable record of crime prevention, investigative success and safe convictions secured as a result.”

He praised Mr DeSilva for considering the root causes and social consequences of gang crime, despite not being required to do so.

“The violence emerging from gang affiliations is a symptom which we in law enforcement are called upon to address,” the Minister said.

“The root causes must also be addressed, not simply to reduce budgets or the work of law enforcement, but to save our communities and to preserve our quality of life for future generations.”

Useful websites: www.bps.bm and www.accpolice.org

Commissioner Michael DeSilva gives the welcome address to the attendees at the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police Conference at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess yesterday morning. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 30, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm)

DeSilva: Community effort needed to combat gang violence

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