Log In

Reset Password

‘Alarming increase’ in knife crimes

Assistant Commissioner Antoine Daniels (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A growing trend of young people carrying knives for protection has contributed to a surge in violence, according to a senior police officer.

Antoine Daniels, Assistant Commissioner of Police, said he had been told that bringing weapons to school had become “normal”, and that a rising number of young women as well as men had begun to carry blades.

“People take knives to school for protection,” Mr Daniels said. “This is the scale of the problem that we have in Bermuda.

“We have met with the senior high schools and provided some advice about how we can mitigate risks among kids.

“We need to mitigate the risk because some students are going to school and they are too scared to use the bathroom because they are afraid they are going to get jumped or stabbed by some opposing groups.

“If kids can tell me, the Assistant Commissioner, that this is normal, it tells you a lot of the state of Bermuda today.”

Police in February highlighted “an uptick in violent incidents involving the use of bladed articles”, and Mr Daniels spoke out in March after a spate of attacks, including one at a football match in the National Sports Centre.

He told The Royal Gazette last week that about a dozen serious woundings involving bladed articles has been reported so far this year, which he described as “alarming”.

“What’s also concerning is many of the victims have no interest in helping police — they are stuck on this thing of revenge or avenging,” he said.

“The problem continues to spiral because they are going to carry a knife. Every household has knives. Every restaurant. It’s easy to purchase a knife from a store.”

He said that those who carried knives “for protection” created a greater risk of harm to themselves and bystanders who attempt to help, and often lead to pre-emptive attacks on potential threats.

Mr Daniels said: “They think that they may not live to 25, and before someone puts me down I’m going to take them too.”

He said the rise in knife violence could not be solely linked to gang activity as statistics have shown a rise in the amount of domestic violence — including incidents that involve knives — across the world in the wake of Covid-19.

“Everyone looks at knife violence as if it is young people out on a Friday or a Saturday, an incident arises and they stab each other,” he said. “Yes, that happens. However, some incidents are in different categories. Not all of the incidents are gang-related.”

He added that the Bermuda Police Service had seen a sharp surge in antisocial behaviour overall in the past two years.

“In 2020, 768 incidents of antisocial behaviour were reported,” he said. “That’s just police attendance. In 2021, it was 722.

“I looked back over a ten-year period, and in that period it was nowhere near that. The highest we got in the two or three preceding years was in the 300s. That is the vast difference since the pandemic, the number of antisocial incidents.

“In 2012 it was 550, and that was when we were dealing with a big issue with gangs and guns. To see that in the last couple of years I thought I was seeing things.”

He added that between those who have been killed, those who have been jailed for such offences and those who have left the island, Bermuda has lost a great many young black men over the past decade, which highlighted the need for a wider community strategy.

“It has become a public health issue, almost,” Mr Daniels said. “Before this becomes a pandemic, we need to act.

“The Government is attempting to create a plan around violence, which is positive, but for me it is the impact across families that is profound.

“There is so much carnage across the board beyond the victims.”

Timeline of soaring knife crime in 2022

A 17-year-old was stabbed at Devil’s Hole in Smith’s on July 4, while a 26-year-old man came ashore from a private boat on the evening of July 3 with multiple stab wounds.

Other recent incidents were a double stabbing on June 14 at John Smith’s Bay over what police described as an altercation after a traffic collision, and a stabbing on June 11 in Hamilton after a brawl in the area of Court and Elliot Streets.

A 26-year-old woman sustained life-threatening injuries in a stabbing on May 1 in the car park of Horseshoe Bay Beach.

A 31-year-old man was stabbed in the arm on April 16 at a popular West End restaurant, while a 13-year-old boy was treated in hospital for a stab wound from a fight in the Hamilton bus terminal on April 2 — with two teenagers subsequently arrested.

It was preceded by six separate knife attacks, including the stabbing on February 4 of a 14-year-old boy as he waited as a bus stop on Parsons Road, Pembroke.

It is illegal under Section 315 of the Criminal Code to possess a knife in public — including a pocket knife if the blade exceeds three inches — without lawful reason such as work.

Summary conviction can come with a prison term of no less than three years, with five years for conviction on indictment.

Possession on school premises draws a higher penalty.

Police powers under the code include officers being authorised to stop and search “any person or vehicle” suspected of carrying a weapon.

The law was ramped up with the Criminal Code Amendment Act (No 2) Act 2005, which put in place strict mandatory sentences.

The move initially curbed knife violence, with two arrests on offensive weapons charges in the second half of 2005 compared with 17 before the penalties came into effect.

Mr Daniels said that mandatory minimum sentences for knife possession were challenged in the courts, but statistics showed the success of stop and search strategies.

“The figures show when the stop and searches were high, the violence was low,” he said. “When the stop and searches decreased, the violence increased. There was definitely a correlation.

“That was one of the reasons we really stress to our guys and girls on the front lines that when done lawfully, it can be a powerful tool.”

However, Mr Daniels added that law enforcement was only one piece of the puzzle and wider community change was needed to make a lasting difference.

“Without the whole change of mindset, these things will get you some results, but you cannot solve this with handcuffs,” he said.

He said the police have been working with other agencies to support young people who are at risk, but more co-operation is needed.

“The police cannot do it all. No organisation or department can do it all,” he said. “We can share skills, we can share information. All of these things need to be put in place sooner rather than later.

“If you go out in a boat with a hole in it, it’s going to sink.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published July 18, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated July 18, 2022 at 8:13 am)

‘Alarming increase’ in knife crimes

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon