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Police: no spike in knife crime

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Two knife-related arrests per month: Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley

A change in the mindset of young people is needed to tackle violence in Bermuda, a community activist has warned.

Desmond Crockwell claimed an “aggression” that permeates the island lies at the root of attacks with weapons.

He believed incidents involving knives were less likely to be linked to gangs, but could be sparked by others who feel the need to protect themselves.

Public attention was caught when two alleged blade attacks happened within days of each other last month.

However, Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley said this week these did not indicate a “sudden explosion” and the number of knife-related incidents has remained stable in recent years.

Mr Crockwell, the director of YouthVision Promotions, said: “With the guns, initially it was this gang thing but I would say that with these knife incidents we see a lot of non-violent people getting stabbed.”

He described a knife as “more of a personal weapon” and added: “I think it’s a form of protection, probably young people using it to protect themselves from gang members.”

The anti-violence campaigner said knives will always be a “weapon of choice” for some.

He continued: “It’s the frame of mind that definitely needs to change. “It’s aggressiveness, these gangs going around pick on people, so people feel they need to be defensive, that’s just where we are as a country.

“People are so aggressive, Bermuda has gone a long way back from where it used to be. Everybody’s stressed out. If the parents are stressed out, the children are going to be stressed out.”

In October, police appealed for witnesses to two alleged knife-related incidents, on Harbour Road in Paget and near Bulldogs Bar in Hamilton, that fell within a week.

Mr Corbishley said: “There is a focus by the BPS to address incidents involving knives and obviously we will investigate robustly and bring people to court.

“The actual fact of the matter is that offences we have recorded are quite low and shouldn’t indicate any public concern or sudden explosion that knives are a problem in Bermuda.

“Consistently over the past three years the number of arrests that we’ve had for knife-related offences have been around 20 to 25 for the whole year, so you could argue about two a month.

“In regards to offences of unlawful wounding, a very similar picture; in fact, a slight fall from 2016 when there were 26 recorded offences, 23 in 2017 and so far 23 in 2018, noting that we’ve still got a period in November and December to go. So I don’t expect it to be significantly higher.”

Mr Corbishley acknowledged knife-related problems in other countries and his experience in Britain. He said: “We’re mindful of sometimes the links between knife-carrying and gangs, but it’s not something that is apparent. However, we’re not complacent about that issue.

“A lot of our work in relation to gangs is looking at engaging through education, advice to young people, not just around the risks of being involved within gangs but also the risks of carrying any form of weapon.

“My experience in the past is that quite often the dangerous situation is when people don’t necessarily carry a knife to cause injury but they’ve got this perception that they need to carry a knife to protect themselves, and when that happens, often it can lead to serious if not tragic circumstances.”

The commissioner said courts “take a strong stance” on people convicted of knife-related offences. He added: “If you choose to carry a knife you expose yourself to significant risks.

“You are likely to be arrested, you’re likely to be convicted and therefore you would receive a criminal record that would significantly impact on your life going forward, particularly if you’re a young person.

“Additionally, if you carry a knife, then the likelihood of you getting involved in a dispute, suffering injury or causing injury, again, is increased.”

He said analysis does not suggest a link between guns and knives and added that firearms possession on the island is “extremely low”.

Mr Corbishley said the BPS was aware of the challenges faced by young people but added: “Statistically and in reality, Bermuda remains a very safe place.”

Gina Spence, a community activist who is the founder and CEO of outreach charity Gina Spence Productions, said: “I would love to see an amnesty for guns and knives because that’s going to be one less knife and one less gun that could fall into the hands of someone who wants to take a life.

“If you can tell me a reason why it wouldn’t be good to get those knives and guns off our streets, out of the hands of those that might be involved, then I will shut up, but I don’t think anyone could refute that would be a good thing.”

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, earlier told the The Royal Gazette a number of schemes operated to curb gang violence, and a recent discussion with local stakeholders helped shape future efforts.

He added: “This continues to be a community problem and we must work together as a community to solve it.”

Desmond Crockwell (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Gina Spence, community activist (File photograph)