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The time for talking about violence is over

Bermuda has experienced too many crime scenes in the past year

There was a time, and it was not that long ago, when the shooting murders of a 24-year-old man and an 18-year-old man within 48 hours of each other would have brought this community to a standstill.

It is a sign of the times, and not one that anyone should be proud of, that this is not the case now. Instead, there seems to be a numbness to these most recent tragedies.

This is known as “normalising”. When what was once deemed to be shocking becomes commonplace, the community no longer demands that it change.

In terms of crime, it means ordinary, law-abiding people take steps to avoid areas where violent crime occurs, withdraw from ordinary life and become less trusting. In the meantime, they cede parts of the community to gangs and lawbreakers.

The solutions to this are varied, and need to be co-ordinated. Michael Weeks, the new national security minister, correctly echoed predecessor Renée Ming’s view that Bermuda cannot police its way out of the problem of violent crime, especially among young people.

But that does not mean that the police do not have a role to play. If people believe that the Bermuda Police Service and Crown prosecutors will arrest, charge, convict and jail murderers and serious violent offenders, then this will act as a deterrent to people thinking of committing these premeditated crimes.

To accomplish this, the police and the judiciary must be given the tools and resources they need to effectively do their jobs.

This includes ensuring that they have the intelligence and crime-detection capacities to catch those who commit these terrible crimes.

They must also have the confidence of the communities they serve. This newspaper hears of incidences of minor and major crimes not being investigated or not being forced through with vigour.

But witnesses also need to have confidence that the police will treat suspects fairly and will ensure the right person is charged. That confidence is often lacking; fear of being accused of being a snitch outweighs fear of the criminal. That is an indictment on our society.

It was good to see the Bermuda Police Service stepping up their presence on the weekend. It is more likely than not that there will be more violent crime over the Easter holiday. The police need to maintain a high-visibility presence to prevent and deter crime over the coming weeks and months.

A concerted effort a decade ago brought to an end what was, until then, the worst period of violent crime in Bermuda’s history. Now, as Bermuda seems to be descending into similar turmoil, the concerned policing effort that largely worked then needs to happen again and quickly.

However, what did not happen then was the follow-up. Once the crisis was over, the efforts to change the conditions that caused gangs to thrive happened, but not enough was done. So that work needs to start again.

Gangs and gang violence do not exist in a vacuum, and the reasons for them are not that much of a mystery. Splintered families and, in some cases, generations of low incomes and poor living standards are root causes for gangs.

There’s no doubt that Bermuda’s history of segregation has contributed, and the lack of equity on the basis of race play a part as well.

So the causes of gang violence are the causes of other problems in Bermuda as well. Some of these are harder to fix than others, and some will take longer.

But giving young people a greater sense of purpose and meaning has to be central to this, as does ensuring that they have good choices to make other than joining gangs.

Better education and setting higher aspirations for young Bermudians would be a start. Finding ways to make the economy grow — and ensuring that the opportunities that ensue are equal — would be another.

Reducing the stresses that cause tensions in the home and the community, including delivering a level of financial security, would help.

Bermuda is long past the point where residents can or should wait for someone else to fix this problem. The community must come together to do this. The police and the Government cannot do it alone.

There are a great many organisations that are already doing valuable work in these area. They include churches, sports clubs, youth organisations, educational groups and more.

The problem is that they are often preaching to the converted; to the motivated and engaged young people who already have an idea of what they want to do and how they plan to succeed.

These groups need to figure out how to reach the people whose horizons do not extend much farther than the corner of the next block.

Where Mr Weeks, who has a track record in these areas, can be effective is in bringing these groups together to make a plan and to set some dates for when it will achieve its goals. The time for talk is over.

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Published April 11, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated April 10, 2022 at 4:17 pm)

The time for talking about violence is over

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