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Another Cleansweep would not go amiss

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There is a theory doing the rounds that it will take “the wrong person” to be shot and killed before this island readily can get to grips with the gun violence that has now claimed 30 lives since May 2009.

What qualifies as the wrong person if neither of those who has been slain in that seven-year time frame fits the description?

Does it have to be a person of status? Does it have to be a woman? Does it have to be a child? Does it have to be a senior? Does it have to be a politician? Does it have to be a white person? Any white person?

And if, God forbid, that is the criteria finally that lifts this place up by its bootstraps, where was said movement when Jason Smith was cut down in the prime of his life in May 2011 or the more elderly George Lynch 12 months earlier — both egregious cases of mistaken identity?

No one can credit the thugs who commit these heinous crimes with being the sharpest tools in the box, so it would come as no surprise were “mistaken identity” to rise in number as the murder count swells, Patrick Dill in May this year said to be the most recent case.

There are many well-intentioned people in the community and many with sound ideas at tackling a problem that is more deep-rooted than some care to admit. But much of the talking and much of the ideas die at the keyboards of desktops and handhelds of those in cyberspace — those who are slaves to social media without having the collective wherewithal sufficiently to mobilise against an evil that is threatening our futures.

The upper hand instead is held by people who have no more than high school educations, if that, and who hold the trump card: malice in their hearts, allied to unpredictability.

We have a feel in the community for when it is going to kick off. Those with their ears to the ground — and sometimes your ear does not necessarily have to be that close to terra firma — can predict the next shooting incident. The million-dollar question, though, is: where?

In the hours before Jason Mello was murdered, one prominent community leader gave his views in a social-media post that suggested a violent few days that began with the shooting inside Hamilton Parish Workman's Club were about to be extended.

How did Lou Matthews know? Not because he has the keys to the underworld but because the flow of information moves freely to all but those who need it most — the police. In Matthews's words, before opening a lengthy thread that is high on solutions but low on call to action, he “heard from word” — presumably from the streets.

How difficult, then, should it be for law enforcement to have access to the same intel, and perhaps more?

The frustration felt by Matthews and the many others who agonise over what can be seen as nothing other than self-inflicted genocide of the young black male is that within a fortnight Bermuda will turn a blind eye to the death of Jason Mello — and the conversation will end.

With or without his killer being captured and then being found guilty of first-degree murder, this conversation should not end. And like most conversations, it is logical to expect that it should actually lead to something.

Otherwise, the commenters are cut off at the knees when in fact that is what should be happening with those who would lure teenagers and those of high school-leaving age into a life of crime on the false pretence that Bermuda does not care about them. To the list of guilty should be added parents and other accomplices, such as girlfriends.

The early signs of our most recent non-scientific poll — posing the question “Who bears the brunt of responsibility for spate of gun violence in Bermuda?” — reveal that a significant percentage holds parents accountable. The criminals themselves rank an overwhelming first on the hit list, understandably, but the lack of support before entering into a life of crime and, in many instances, the wilful acceptance by loved ones of the proceeds it yields lead to a serious pointing of the finger at the family structure — or, rather, the lack of it.

It is a bit early to determine how fondly Michael Dunkley will be remembered for his effectiveness as Premier of Bermuda or as a politician in general. But one truly great feat, and one that should stand the test of time, is the creation of the programme where the proceeds of crime can be funnelled back into the communities most affected by those who will do us ill.

It was in his role as Minister of National Security that Dunkley got the ball rolling two years ago, with community clubs and action groups among the beneficiaries of a $200,000 windfall, and the ball has now been passed on to a new minister, Senator Jeff Baron, who exudes more than the required zeal to get the job done.

It is to be hoped that his powers will not be restricted to preclude a more invasive approach into the homes of those who would actively aid and abet murderers, standing by while their sons and boyfriends take the lives of others.

To borrow from Opposition leader Marc Bean's well-worn phrase “living high off the hog”, how do these people actually live with themselves?

If only Colin Coxall had been allowed to finish what he started with Operation Cleansweep as long ago as June 1997. Stopped in his tracks by a backlash that is no different to what we see today, with families harbouring criminals and others failing to tell what they know, how far would the former Commissioner of Police have reached in his attempt to clean up Bermuda's streets?

The odds are the streets would be relatively clean, the guilty would have been sent away to serve periods of rehabilitation, the attraction to join a so-called gang before leaving high school would be far less appealing and far less rewarding, and there might be at least 30 more young black Bermudian males alive today.

Mistaken identity: Patrick Dill was shot dead in May (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Times of predictability: community leader Lou Matthews, in a Facebook posting a few hours before Jason Mello was murdered, sensed something was about to happen. He would have liked to have been proved wrong

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Published August 24, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 24, 2016 at 3:26 pm)

Another Cleansweep would not go amiss

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