National security minister Michael Weeks pledges to ‘turn the table on gangs’
The national security minister has vowed to “turn the table on gangs” and “close the borders to drugs and weapons” as he launched a series of monthly town hall meetings held by the Progressive Labour Party on community violence.
Michael Weeks, who was appointed minister on April 4, said he would review proposals to ban the use of tinted visors on crash helmets – which have been implicated in a string of crimes – and seek tougher options to combat drink-driving.
Mr Weeks told a gathering of about 50 members of the community at Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club last night that he aimed to come down harder on “violence, drug trafficking and drug-related activity, particularly targeting high-crime neighbourhoods”.
“We know that we do not manufacture or make guns. They are getting into our 22 square miles somehow, some way.
“What I intend to do, and we are in the process of doing it, is formulate a multi-enforcement task force of police, customs, the Coastguard, that will address our ports of entry and start to man them, hopefully, 24-7.”
The Pembroke East Central MP said an “active police presence” needed to be bolstered in neighbourhoods where residents “live in fear”. He added that it would be done “one neighbourhood at a time”.
Mr Weeks, who took over the National Security portfolio from former minister Renée Ming just over ten weeks ago, told the meeting there had been three murders on the island since he started on the job.
He added that one victim, Laje Franklin, was found shot dead on Clearwater Beach in St David’s the day after his appointment.
Mr Weeks said police estimated there were 200 to 250 gang members on the island, who should not be allowed to “control the majority”.
“I will not allow 250 people to hold this island hostage.
“As long as I sit in this seat, I intend to stand up and fight back.”
Leroy Bean gave figures for the Gang Violence Reduction Team’s case management, mentoring and outreach with at-risk people aged 18 to 35, saying there were 20 to 30 meetings “monthly” with agencies ranging from Workforce Development and Financial Assistance to the Department of Child and Family Services.
Mr Bean said that the team attended court daily and advocated 15 to 20 times monthly for clients who broke the law, helping negotiate community service for those who could not afford to pay fines.
He insisted schools “are the recruiting ground” for young people slipping into the gang lifestyle and said the team maintained a constantly presence in schools to counter it.
He added that the team conducts “restorative justice within schools, with parents, and, at times, groups that are in rivalry”.
Mr Bean said connecting young people with work of any kind was crucial and urged anyone able to help to call him at 799-7972.
He appeared with Leroy Bean, the pastor and co-ordinator of the Gang Violence Reduction Taskforce, whose latest contract with the Government runs until August.
Mr Weeks warned instigators of violence that they faced a choice between “remediation or incarceration” but pledged support and incentives for gang members to become “law-abiding members of society”.
“This is not just an enforcement issue. I want to stress that. You all have roles to play.”
Mr Bean gave a range of figures on the taskforce’s work in schools and the number of people it dealt with.
Although the body has three full-time members, he said its crisis response team could extend to as many as 50 or 60 workers.
Mr Bean warned that “every cause has an effect” and “where you are from influences everything”. He said that young people had to break free of a mindset that allowed their surroundings to dictate their behaviour.
“If we do not tackle these roots, this particular phenomenon will repeat itself every time a generation starts to rise,” he said.