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‘If you are committing acts of violence and selling drugs, you’re going to get some special attention’ – Darrin Simons

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Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Reducing violent and serious crime as well as road casualties will continue to be top priorities for the Bermuda Police Service, its leader said.

Darrin Simons added that improving the organisation’s response to domestic abuse reports and building community confidence were also high on the list.

The Commissioner of Police told The Royal Gazette how efforts to disrupt drug activity were targeted at people thought to be likely to cause most harm.

Drugs seized or intercepted by police and customs officers this year had a total estimated value of at least $8.8 million.

Mr Simons said last week: “Particularly as it relates to drugs, we target those that are the highest harm causers, and the highest harm causers are usually in the violence arena.

“So if you are committing acts of violence in the community and you’re selling drugs, you’re going to get some special attention.

“That’s not to say that anybody just selling drugs, for example, isn’t, but in terms of how we allocate our resources and prioritise our targeting, that’s going to be where we put it.”

He added that over the past year “there were some pretty sustained investigations that have yielded some positive results”.

In targeting the highest causers of harm, the police commissioner explained: “You’re looking for any lever you can pull to reduce their ability to commit violent acts or criminal acts in the community and very often the lever that is pulled is drug enforcement, because that’s the activity that they’re involved in every day.”

Mr Simons, who spoke to the Gazette before Tuesday night’s fatal shooting in Paget, said that the reality was that “tensions will rise and fall according to what might be happening in the community”.

He explained: “Without a doubt, as individuals are incarcerated that impacts the levels of crime, but I’m certainly not going to say that if we lock up a couple of individuals that are involved in drug dealing, that’s going to immediately translate to reductions in violent crime.”

Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, at a recent community workshop about gang violence (Photograph supplied)

Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, told 100 representatives at a two-day workshop earlier this year that violence in the community was a health and safety crisis.

Mr Simons, who attended, said last week he was “encouraged every time” there is a conversation on the topic.

He added: “For me, the whole ministerial conference, workshop was about looking at what are some of the fundamental social issues that contribute to a person’s choices around violent crime.

“Almost always those underlying social causes have nothing to do with crime, criminality and the police’s ability to impact that.

“When we’re bringing together individuals that are looking at things like education, employment, what happens when a person is incarcerated, what programmes can we bring together that are going to divert individuals from a life of crime or protect them from making those choices – I think that can pay dividends in the long run.

“We didn’t get into this situation overnight and we are not going to instantly crawl ourselves out of it.

“We’ve got limited amount of resources in Bermuda and we need to ensure those resources are as focused as they possibly can be in addressing some of the underlying social ills.”

The commissioner said: “What the research will unequivocally show is that people that live in denser populated neighbourhoods, people that have less educational attainment, people who are underemployed or unemployed – you will see that clustering around violent crime.

“Policing doesn’t address those issues.

“Yes, we can continue to lock up and incarcerate individuals that commit those violent crimes but there’s another crop coming behind them, so it’s just an endless cycle and very few countries have the resources to just stop violent crime.”

Redeployed parish constables to return to neighbourhoods in 2023

Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons said that parish constables who were earlier redeployed to cover general duties were expected to return to their usual beats next year.

He explained: “Because of the staffing numbers I’ve had to take … parish officers and deploy them on to patrol, and I do hope to be able to fully resource that in the new year.”

Mr Simons confirmed the same constables would return to their positions.

He added: “That really is about relationships and the community really does express frustration whenever they have to be redeployed to other areas.”

Police said a year ago that a proposal to carry out roadside breath-test checkpoints without warning was being examined by the Government.

Mr Simons said last week: “I remain optimistic that the matter is still under consideration.

“We now have a new Minister of Transport and we have to open up that dialogue and begin to establish that relationship around that particular point.”

The latest figures from Operation Vega showed that 7,869 tickets were issued since the start of the crackdown on motoring offences on July 6, 2021.

Mr Simons said: “I think we have definitely ramped up our traffic enforcement efforts around ticketing and I’m always a little reticent to say that it’s a causal relationship between the amount of tickets we issue and the amount of accidents that are happening.”

He added: “What we are seeing is a decline in serious accidents.

“I think enforcement is always going to be part of the thing that helps shape public opinion but it not the only thing.

“You really need to look at things like education, what can you do just to change more people’s attitudes? And things like engineering, what our roads look like, what kinds of vehicles are we bringing in and how are they equipped on our roads, are they too wide, too long?”

The police commissioner said that speed cameras were expected to be "part of the next generation of CCTV procurement process“.

David Burt said in February that $1 million was budgeted to start upgrading the island’s CCTV network and a procurement notice was issued by the national security ministry in July.

Mr Simons explained that the initial roll-out of the new system will be “focused on CCTV first and some traffic enforcement technologies will probably be in the later iterations”.

He also said that a draft report from a survey launched earlier this year with SafeLives, a UK charity, was completed and will cover how responses to domestic abuse reports can be improved.

Mr Simons added that applying World Health Organisation data to Bermuda suggested that 3,000 women a year were subjected to intimate partner violence and 12,000 in the population would have been affected over their lifetimes.

“That’s quite sobering,” he said.

“One of the important things coming out of the survey, of the workshop that was done, is definitely, what can we, as a policing organisation, do to increase confidence in reporting?”

The commissioner added: “It has come up as an issue in the survey that we need to do more to reassure victims of that crime or victims of crime, period, that they can come to us and that they will be believed and we will respond to their complaints.

“We’ve got some work to do there and this year we will be putting some energy and focus into developing training programmes to raise officers’ awareness, increase their empathy, make sure they understand a bit more about how domestic abuse works and some of the challenges that are going to be inherent in responding to that crime as opposed to other types of crime.”

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Published December 08, 2022 at 10:53 am (Updated December 08, 2022 at 10:53 am)

‘If you are committing acts of violence and selling drugs, you’re going to get some special attention’ – Darrin Simons

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