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Football: crackdown on gang activity

Acting Deputy Commissioner Martin Weekes

Footballers who use social media to promote their gang activities and allegiances will be told they are not welcome to play at Police Field.

Players recently convicted of violent offences or antisocial behaviour, or those on bail for a serious offence, will also receive a letter from the Bermuda Police Service telling them to steer clear of the pitch.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Martin Weekes told The Royal Gazette he estimates that about 30 letters will be sent out in the coming days, and cautioned that those who ignored the warning would be arrested for trespassing.

“The letter has been with the Attorney-General’s department but I anticipate it being sent to the individuals we have identified this week,” Mr Weekes said.

“There will be three criteria for receiving a letter and if individuals fulfil one of them they will receive a letter.

“First, a recent conviction for violence or antisocial behaviour.

“There is obviously room for manoeuvre on the word ‘recent’.

“Secondly, if you are on bail for a serious offence.

“And thirdly, if your social media presence clearly indicates to everyone that you are involved in the gang lifestyle.”

Mr Weekes maintained that the third criteria would not burden officers with more work and pledged to listen to those who claim they have wrongly been written to.

“Checking social-media profiles is something we do as a matter of course,” he added.

The move is the latest stage of a major police crackdown on gang activities in sport and is designed to safeguard the family-friendly environment of the Police Field.

In a letter sent to the Bermuda Football Association this month, which was then passed on to the clubs, police promised a “zero tolerance” approach and warned that it was time for clubs and teams to stop allowing gang members to travel to away games.

Mr Weekes also urged presidents of the island’s football clubs to invest in a social-media expert to look at their players’ profiles.

He said: “They would be shocked if they saw some of the stuff that their players are posting on Facebook and Twitter about their gang lifestyle.”

The Acting Deputy Commissioner maintained that the crackdown was designed to ensure that the Police Field was a child-friendly environment, and it was not “the BPS against the BFA”.

“There are success stories out there,” he added. “Woody’s has come under new management and done excellent work in deterring certain people from frequenting the establishment.

“Somerset Cricket Club too has sent letters to certain individuals saying they are not welcome in their establishments.

“We hope that this approach we are taking ensures that the Police Field remains a family-friendly environment where people feel comfortable bringing their children.

“I would hate to think that clubs are turning a blind eye to this problem.”

He added: “This effort is about creating a family-friendly environment at Police Field and not an effort to single out any clubs or indeed any particular sports. To this end at this stage letters will be going out to individuals not clubs, and no clubs have received a letter other than the one passed on from the BFA to all clubs.”