Gang Violence Reduction Team should be in results business too
National security minister Michael Weeks and Leroy Bean, the Gang Violence Reduction Team Co-ordinator, were recently interviewed to enlighten the public about the work that is being done to deal with gang violence in Bermuda. Historically, we have not had regular press conferences or updates on the team’s progress, so hopefully interviews such as this are the beginning of more to come. After all, Bermuda taxpayers are paying more than $300,000 a year for a three-man team that we do not know much about or what we are getting for that money.
Mr Bean’s interview left me with many questions, but mostly I wondered, how are they measuring success of their initiatives? He spoke quite a bit about gaining trust and building relationships, which is understandably difficult to measure, but surely there is more to their work that can be revealed without giving too much away.
Gang violence reduction teams around the world produce annual reports that are easily found using a simple Google search. Have we seen an annual report highlighting the Bermuda team’s work? Where is the data showing progress that the team has made and are the initiatives put in place working and sustained? What type of training has been conducted in the community and in our schools? How many people have been trained? How many community partners have been engaged, trained and deployed to assist with the team’s initiatives?
How is the team’s success of the training provided being measured? Where are the regular reports and/or press conferences held with Mr Bean and his team to highlight and inform the public about the work performed? We all see and hear the news reports when there are acts of gang violence in the community, but we do not hear directly from Mr Bean or other members of his team to give us assurance that he is addressing the situations.
The Bermuda public receive statements from the Minister of National Security that offer little to no information on what is being done by the GVRT so how can we feel confident that it is doing the job it is being paid to do? Shouldn’t the public have knowledge of what the Gang Violence Reduction Team has accomplished at least on an annual basis without the team revealing information that will jeopardise its progress?
Addressing gang violence in Bermuda is as complex a subject as the root causes for participation in such activity. As Mr Weeks said in the interview, a collaborative approach is needed to help make inroads. It is interesting that such a tactic was taken via Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on the Causes of Violent Crime and Gun Violence in Bermuda headed by Randy Horton in 2010-11.
This initiative saw many entities — which are working on the front lines such the police, corrections and customs departments, education representatives, helping agencies and support groups and members of the public — appear before the committee and give observations and suggestions on addressing gang violence.
In fact, this now 11-year-old, comprehensive 120-page report gives recommendations on what the country should do to combat not only gang violence, but also other types of violence in Bermuda. Mr Bean and the former minister, Wayne Caines, and others were among those who addressed the committee and there were many good suggestions made in the committee’s report that are still relevant today but have yet to be implemented. Why not?
We are in a crisis and need to have confidence that the GVRT is doing all it can to address gang violence in Bermuda. Perhaps Mr Bean and his team could take a fresh read of the report and find something that it can work on and report to us about what it is doing.
• Robin Tucker, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, is the Shadow Minister for Social Development and Seniors