A community’s role in tackling serious crime
Bermuda is grappling with a second pandemic and, just as with Covid-19, there is a potential remedy available to reduce the spread and eliminate associated risks.
This second “pandemic” is a lack of community support that equates to a reluctance of individuals to share information with law enforcement that can assist to mitigate the risks of violence occurring, support police investigations and/or criminal prosecutions. There is ample data to demonstrate that when police and community work closely together, the quality of life for residents improves.
Notwithstanding the vast improvements in forensic science in supporting criminal investigations, human accounts often assist law enforcement, as well as prosecutors, in forming reasonable grounds to lay charges and assist the courts in reaching a decision that the charge against an accused person has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
As per approved professional practice in “working with victims and witnesses” at the College of Policing in Britain, “the success of any investigation depends largely on the accuracy and detail of the material obtained from witnesses”. There are multiple examples of this here in Bermuda where offenders have been convicted based on witness testimony and have received significant sentences, having been found guilty by a jury of their peers for committing high-profile, violent crimes. Some of these cases include but are not limited to the murders of Aaron Easton in 1985, Raymond Troy “Yankee” Rawlins in 2010, and Prince Edness in 2014, as well as the attempted murder of Daniel Adams in 2018.
Many viewers around the world observed the tragic murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, and the subsequent conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Despite the incident being captured on video, the addition of witness testimony further influenced jurors that the defendant Derek Chauvin was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. At the conclusion of this particular trial, the prosecution team, jurors, as well as legal analysts highlighted the importance of witness testimony overwhelmingly contributing to the unanimous guilty verdict.
Since May 2009, there has been a disturbing trend of gun violence in Bermuda. During this period, the Bermuda Police Service have recorded 276 incidents involving the use of firearms. There have been 66 murders — 41 involving firearms and a further 17 with the use of bladed weapons. Additionally, 108 persons have been shot and injured.
In 2021 alone, there has been one personal injury as a result of firearms use, occurring in St George’s on March 30, and one death — the fatal shooting of Jordan Outerbridge on Ord Road in Warwick during the night of April 6. Many of us witnessed first-hand the inconsolable grief of the Outerbridge family, who in the blink of an eye had to contend with their beloved husband, father, son, brother and friend having been gunned down in the streets of Bermuda.
I can only imagine how they feel. As a police officer, I have lived with grief for far too long; the devastation is deep and irreversible. I again hereby express my sincere personal sympathy to the Outerbridge family and all of the other families who have suffered from the loss of love ones as a result of this careless, irresponsible and selfish behaviour.
Violence, no matter in what form, has a significant impact on our community. Whether it is domestic abuse, gang activity, or any incident involving the unlawful use of force, violence creates fear, can tear families apart and burdens our health services, which are left to deal with great physical and emotional trauma.
We the BPS, together with our many law-enforcement partners, accept that we cannot arrest our way out of this violence crisis and that crime-suppression efforts must be part of a whole system approach that is linked to competent prevention, intervention and community-stabilising investment strategies. In sum, despite decades of research into gangs and violence, there is no single, definitive formula for success in reducing either.
As articulated previously, there is clear evidence that demonstrates community support is critical in any crime-reduction strategy. The Bermuda Police Service aim to work closely with all victims of crime. We always encourage victims, and indeed witnesses, to come forward and speak with officers in an attempt to resolve their concerns. Officers must continue to recognise the individual needs and concerns of victims and witnesses, and treat them with dignity and respect. This can have a significant impact on how witnesses co-operate with the investigation and any subsequent prosecution.
Having myself been born and raised in Bermuda, in a small, tightly knit community, I fully recognise the reluctance of community members to speak with police, particularly regarding serious offences committed by individuals who are potentially their family, friends, work colleagues or neighbours — this is not an easy decision to make.
This is a perennial problem that is not unique to Bermuda, as policing from a global perspective experiences these challenges of how to encourage victims, witnesses or persons with information to come forward. Our efforts here in Bermuda are further exacerbated by our relatively small size, whereby we are widely known through our social and professional connections.
Some other barriers include:
• Close family links
• Reluctance to relocate to another area or jurisdiction
• General mistrust of police and the wider criminal justice system
• Genuine concerns over not wishing to criminalise young Black men
• Denial of reality — “not my child”
• Fear and Intimidation
• Not wanting to get involved (“I do not want my name mentioned”)
• Lack of empathy (“Not my problem because this doesn’t affect me or my family/neighbourhood”)
This is a complex problem with no easy answers. The BPS recognise the need to improve our response to guns, gangs and antisocial behaviour. Professionalised investigations of violent crime have adapted and evolved since 2009. Some of the steps taken include:
1, Creation of a Gang Violence Reduction Strategy
2, Establishment of a Gang-Targeting Team
3, Training to better understand gangs
(a) Professionalising the investigations process
(b) Increasing firearms capability
(c) Achieving best evidence courses
(d) Digital forensics
4, Review and amend BPS organisational structure
5, Closely review and align to best practice
6, Support and guidance from the FBI, the US Department of Homeland Security and Britain’s National Crime Agency
7, Develop closer working relationships with local law-enforcement partners
8, Embed community officers in various hotspots
9, Targeted approach to antisocial behaviour/guns/gangs
The detection of a large proportion of criminal offences can be attributed to information, intelligence and evidence provided by the public. If the community has trust and confidence in police, this makes it much easier for individuals to engage with officers. Additionally, if there are successful prosecutions, the community tends to get involved. That’s why overall positive and regular engagement is paramount; what in policing terms we refer to as the cycle of confidence.
In closing, it is appropriate for me to reassure the public that no murder victim is ever left forgotten, and the Bermuda Police Service remain committed to ensuring justice for all victims and their families. It is incumbent that the community is united and stands together, and supports each other when faced with those bent on destabilising our society.
Those persons that do not feel comfortable speaking directly with police about persons committing crime can contact Crime Stoppers Bermuda directly via their confidential hotline at 800-8477.
The call is answered outside of Bermuda, so any information provided is done so anonymously. This allows law enforcement to receive information that can assist in keeping our communities safe. Crime Stoppers also offers rewards for information that leads to the arrest of individuals, or seizure of firearms and illicit drugs,
• Bermuda has experienced 66 murders since May 2009
• There have been 41 murders with the use of a firearm, 22 of which have been unresolved, although six defendants are awaiting trial
• There have been 17 murders with the use of a knife
• Of the 25 murders not related to firearms, there have been 18 closed and detected (seven remain outstanding)
• There was one murder where the cause of death was strangulation
• There was one murder with the use of a baseball bat
• There was one murder with the use of a motorbike; however, the defendant was found guilty of manslaughter at trial
• There were two murders where the cause of death was classified as violence
• There were three murders where the cause of death is unknown
• Forty-four persons have been appeared before the courts charged with 31 murders
• Of those, 33 persons were found guilty at trial for 28 murders — one of which is now awaiting a retrial after being overturned by the Court of Appeal
• Eleven persons were acquitted/found not guilty/had verdict overturned at the Court of Appeal for six murders
• Twenty-nine murders remain without prosecution
(NB. In some cases there were multiple defendants charged and who appeared before the courts for one murder where one was found not guilty and the other guilty.)
• Antoine Daniels is the Assistant Commissioner of Police