Weeks appeals for an end to ‘senseless cycle of violence’
Shootings and knife crime have become so commonplace they are now regarded as normal, according to the Minister of National Security.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Michael Weeks revealed that there had been 71 murders involving weapons since 2001, when the first gang-related shooting murder was recorded.
Describing the statistic as “sobering” Mr Weeks said: “This included 43 murders involving a firearm and 20 involving a knife.
“There have been 58 persons charged before the Courts in relation to these 71 murders. During this period we have had 294 confirmed firearm incidents.
“Our generation remember a time not long ago, when a single murder would shock the Island and we struggled to comprehend it.
“We now have a generation who believe the level of violence today is normal, where a gunman can walk into a family restaurant and execute two people in cold blood.”
The minister reminded MPs that there had been four murders already this year, adding: “These numbers do not even begin to include the dozens of violent crime occurrences that have resulted in public disturbances and injury.”
He said that violence was not limited to gangs, “but an issue where it is becoming commonplace to resolve issues with violence”.
“We cannot allow this senseless cycle of violence to continue,” he said.
Mr Weeks said he had teamed up with government ministries and departments, charities, grass roots organisations and the private sector in a bid to inject renewed vigour in the war on violent crime.
He praised the police and legal system for bringing criminals to justice and said his ministry was doing all it could to support front line officers.
He said: “It has been robust policing and prosecution that have led to the successful convictions of perpetrators of some of our most violent crimes.
“However, the fact remains that Bermuda cannot simply police, arrest and incarcerate its way out of the violence problem.”
Mr Weeks said police had implemented a gang violence reduction strategy involving partnerships with other agencies.
The strategy consists of three pillars – prevention, catching and convicting criminals, and rehabilitation.
He said: “The strategy of Prevent and Deter is to stop young offenders escalating into prolific offenders and to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in criminality in the first place.
“The BPS deploys a Police Support Unit and a Gang Targeting Unit that are primarily focused on disruption and enforcement activity specifically as it relates to those involved with gangs.
“Further the approach with our partners is to focus on the same key groups of offenders who are causing the most crime.
“The BPS chairs the multi-agency offender management team that provides ongoing assessment and supervision for high-risk offenders in an effort to encourage effective rehabilitation and resettlement of persons leaving prison services.”
Mr Weeks also praised the record of the government-funded Gang Violence Reduction Team, which was formed in 2017.
He said: “Since its inception, the GVRT has directly supported hundreds of young men and at-risk youth through it various programmes in the community and in our public schools.
“Following any incidence of violent injury or death, the GVRT’s coordinated crisis response team continues to be available to de-escalate tensions and reduce the likelihood of immediate retaliation.
“It is difficult to quantify and qualify the work of the GVRT as the measuring stick of success is the number of lives saved, but even one life lost bears more weight than all of the lives saved. ”
Mr Weeks said that the entire community had a responsibility to provide young people with “an abundance of opportunities” so that gang activity will lose its appeal.
He said: “In order to successfully eradicate violence in our community, we must collectively address the socio-economic root causes.
“The work will involve difficult introspection. We will need to investigate how the actions and in some cases, lack of action, of responsible citizens have contributed to the cancerous growth of violence in our community.
“Each of us has a role to play. Parents and families must work to rebuild strong family support units. Fathers need to step up and take responsibility.
“Community organisations must develop programmes that support young people and help them to develop a love and respect for the communities they occupy.
“The private sector must utilise its depth of resources to assist community organisations in their mission.
“Each of us must determine how we can individually and collectively contribute to the common goal of stopping the cycle of violence.”
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