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OBA demands concrete plans to beat gang violence

Michael Dunkley, the shadow Minister of National Security (File photograph)

More action has to be taken to tackle gang violence, the One Bermuda Alliance shadow national security minister said in parliament on Friday.

Michael Dunkley, added the Government had revealed few details on how it planned to beat the scourge of gangs.

He said that Renee Ming, the Minister of National Security, discussed the subject in the House of Assembly last Friday, but her speech was a “vague rehash” of earlier statements.

Mr Dunkley asked: “How many more young people will lose their lives to gang violence before significant, meaningful plans can be put into place?

“We did learn that Pastor Leroy Bean and others are still employed, but little was gleaned about the success of any work they have done."

Mr Dunkley said Ms Ming gave a “shortlist” without any details about how effective the programmes had been when she was asked about programmes in schools to help youngsters at medium to high risk of becoming embroiled in gangs.

He added: “Gun and gang violence has rocked our community, torn families apart and ruined many lives.

“It is not acceptable that our focus on this scourge is only reactionary after each incident.

“Instead, the consistent efforts being made to reduce and combat the impact of gangs on the island should be highlighted.”

Mr Dunkley agreed with Ms Ming’s view that the island could not “police its way out of the problem”.

But he insisted that the police played an important role and had to work with reduced budgets, a backlogged court system and “strained” probation services.

Mr Dunkley said: “Support and focus in these areas in combination with gang violence programmes is the only way forward.

“Any weak link in one area allows this problem to fester and grow. We can do better.”

Ms Ming highlighted the work of the Gang Violence Reduction Team, led by Mr Bean, which she said had launched several programmes to tackle the problem.

She said: “Most recently, the Redemption Farm programme has provided 15 men with a 30 week work placement and ten out 15 trainees have now transitioned into full-time or part-time employment or into education pursuits.

“The GVRT administers programmes within every level of our public school system that provide pro-social networks for students at medium to high risk for antisocial behaviour.

“Over the course of the summer, the GVRT partnered with local companies to provide mentorships and internships to students involved in these programmes.

“The primary objective is to encourage a transition away from antisocial behaviour into a life of meaningful work.”

Ms Ming added her ministry would work with charities and businesses to offer extra services and opportunities for young people, including counselling, mentoring, employment opportunities and career guidance.

She said: “There is no one size fits all and each at risk youth will be assessed to match the right services and programs to meet their needs.

“We must work to rebuild the sense of community that has eroded in recent years.”

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Published November 29, 2021 at 7:55 am (Updated November 29, 2021 at 7:39 am)

OBA demands concrete plans to beat gang violence

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