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A different but equally dangerous virus

Police blocked off Court Street after two men were wounded in a shooting on July 26 (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Crime stories have been vying with Covid-19 headlines for attention in recent days, and that is bad news for Bermuda.

Two different shootings that left four people wounded on Court Street over the past eight days have been the most shocking incidents.

But it was not long ago that another man was shot on Darrell’s Wharf by gunmen in similar circumstances — the suspects were again dressed in dark clothing and were riding a motorcycle. The murder of Jason Outerbridge on Ord Road also remains unsolved.

Violent crimes not involving guns have also occurred. Three people were stabbed at John Smith’s Bay during a fight last weekend. Police had to call for help while trying to break up another fight, also on Darrell’s Wharf, over Cup Match. In that case, it is alleged that one of the fighters was subdued with a taser. And police also came under attack while trying to break up a fight between a group of women on Front Street.

Some of these cases are now before the courts, so care needs to be taken in commenting on them unless and until they go to trial and all the facts come out.

But it is indisputable that each of these instances create victims of one kind or another. In the worst of them, people have died who, regardless of their histories and innocence or lack thereof, leave families and friends to mourn them.

In other instances, their injuries will stay with them long after the public have forgotten the incidents themselves. In some cases, people will be convicted of crimes, and these, too, will stay with them for years afterwards — marking their lives in ways they will come to regret.

The wounding of a 73-year-old man on Court Street, along with the death of Mr Outerbridge, are among the most egregious since these individuals appear to have been caught in the middle of violent acts that had nothing to do with them.

Who will be next? A child? A baby? Is that what it will take to stop the madness?

And make no mistake, crime surges of the sort Bermuda is experiencing are madness. No one benefits from gang rifts or rivalries, least of all the participants. And the harm that is done to the communities of the gangs themselves is limitless and long-lasting.

The police have rightly voiced their frustration at how few people are willing to assist them with information. The misplaced loyalty to an individual from the neighbourhood who may well next end up killing a loved one makes no sense.

But the police can do better as well. Officers who are in the community, and not just cruising past in an SUV while dressed like part of a paramilitary militia, will have access to information and trust that is clearly missing now. So will detectives who are truly engaged in their work. It is not clear if the police as constituted have enough of these officers. Certainly, there has been a marked reluctance to investigate more minor crimes.

The Government, too, has a role to play. Area MPs should also know who may be involved, or people who do. They have an obligation to make sure these culprits are apprehended and dealt with.

Starting with the Premier, David Burt, they can also use the powers of their offices to encourage people to obey the law and to make sure those who endanger the safety of children and the elderly are stopped. They can encourage people to co-operate with the police and not obstruct them.

More broadly, there is still much work to be done to move people away from the gang culture and the idea that crime is acceptable. It is not.

This starts with gang reduction programmes and neighbourhood watches and extends to outreach programmes such as Mirrors and Beyond Rugby. Convincing young people that there are paths other than gangs and that the gangsta lifestyle is not glamorous, but nasty, brutish and short, is critical.

So, too, is better education, jobs that pay well and a sense of being part of a positive and productive community.

None of these solutions are particularly new, and too often they get discussed only when there is a crisis. They need to be a part of everyday efforts to improve the community.

Certainly, the Government and other agencies have been distracted by Covid-19. But crime and gang violence is another form of virus that is just as dangerous to the community. Bermuda needs to act now before it has another pandemic on its hands.

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Published August 06, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated August 06, 2021 at 3:22 pm)

A different but equally dangerous virus

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