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Community urged to help tackle crime

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Crime fall: Michael DeSilva, Commissioner of Police, shares the latest statistics (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Tips for heading off violent crime are to be shared tonight amid police concern at younger recruits continuing to join gangs.

Sharing the latest crime statistics, Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said that while more than a dozen cases were ready to go before the courts, “the gang members coming to our attention now are newer, and younger”.

Figures show crime generally has declined, although there has been a spike in the second quarter of this year.

Four helping agencies will accompany Mr DeSilva at a forum aimed at discussing “what works”, Mr DeSilva said: Martha Dismont from Family Centre, Kimberley Jackson from Mirrors, Gina Spence from the Champions Programme and David Lovell from Men on a Mission.

The public meeting is from 6pm to 8pm, at the Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton

“There seems to be a lot of focus lately on naming and shaming, and attributing blame, when it comes to violent crime,” Mr DeSilva told The Royal Gazette.

“That comes from wanting to make sure that people are held accountable. We have to balance that with coming up with solutions.”

Gun crime has fallen over the past three years, and Mr DeSilva cautioned against “comparing quarters” with the second quarter increase.

“Total crime is less than 1,000 per three months. When something goes up 10 per cent or 5 per cent, these are not statistically significant events.”

While crashes are down overall, fatal collisions have been an area in which “we are just not having the impact that we hoped”, he conceded. Serious crashes have tended to be “quite horrific”.

However, yesterday’s announcement focused on gangs and violent crime: police have had an “incredibly busy summer” with Community Action Teams pulled back from their primary functions, and likely to remain so until the start of next year.

“It ebbs and flows,” Mr DeSilva said.

“We have said before that Bermuda cannot arrest itself out of this problem. Since 2010, we have had more than 50 convictions for murder, attempted murder and firearms offences with sentences being handed down for life, and minimum imprisonment terms of 25 years.”

Concurrent with policing, he said it was “equally important that the community is fully engaged in tackling the conditions that lie beyond the influence of law enforcement”.

“We come across a lot of agencies that are doing a lot of good work,” he added. “We want to get these agencies talking about what works, what their experiences are and what they need to have their efforts replicated. We want to contribute to a positive dialogue free of destructive criticism.”

Appearing alongside Ms Dismont, who urged as many people as possible to attend tonight’s meeting, Mr DeSilva said officers had charged people as young as 18.

“It’s clear that their gang life at that age started before then.” Police decided to hold the forum in part after a detailed assessment: numbers of incidents, as well as the levels of tension in the community.

Part of what drives gang violence is called “the three R’s”, Mr DeSilva said: respect, revenge and revenue.

“It is almost entirely about revenge, and almost entirely starts with a respect issue,” he said, pointing to 2009 as the year that tit-for-tat violence started to snowball.

His observation that younger gang members were being noticed by authorities was echoed yesterday in this newspaper by Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security.

Senator Baron will be attending tonight’s forum, along with Walter Roban, the shadow minister.

“This will be a solutions-driven conversation that will appeal to everyone who wants to make a real difference in tackling gang violence and making Bermuda safer,” Mr DeSilva said.

“The meeting is open to everyone, and I hope to see you all there.”