Taking action against gangs
Gang violence and the murder of our countrymen in the streets is something we must see come to an end.
We are all tired of losing loved ones, going to yet another funeral of someone gone too soon, and seeing too many of us become desensitised to this all-too-frequent occurrence.
In the last sitting of Parliament, your government acted and strengthened the laws to give our Bermuda Police Service and our courts more power to deal with violent offences.
A decade ago, we passed the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2012, a series of temporary measures to combat gang violence. At that time, few could have predicted that gang violence would become a seemingly permanent part of Bermudian life.
Still, over the years those measures were repeatedly extended as government after government sought to come to grips with this problem and the deaths it causes. This is the background.
In 2012, Bermuda was slow to accept the new reality that gangs were present and operating on the island.
Out on the doorstep and in our community, you told us that action must be taken, that our laws aren’t strict enough, and that Bermuda needed strong, permanent, gang-specific criminal offences and harsher penalties to protect our community.
You told us and we listened.
We collaborated and consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police, and concluded that enhancing our gang legislation would be crucial in the effort to stop the growth and spread of criminal gang activity.
After listening, consulting and collaborating, your government has been forced to conclude that, despite sustained police efforts and inventive, government-wide policies to dissuade young people from joining gangs and participating in unlawful or antisocial conduct, more needs to be done.
The passage of the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2022 means going forward in Bermuda, gang activity will be defined by law. From now on, instructing someone to commit a gang crime will be a criminal offence, and additional jail time for gang-related crimes will be imposed. Furthermore, additional fines for gang-related crimes will be imposed.
We heard your concerns and we have acted, making these laws a permanent fixture in the arsenal for the war on crime. And while the Government, the Gang Violence Co-ordinator, the courts and the Bermuda Police Service are doing their part, this remains a community problem.
Remember: “If you know something, say something.”
Please take advantage of the anonymous Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1 (800) 623-8477.
Bermuda is too small for us to allow gang violence to go any further. We have tough laws in place and the police have the resources they need to take back our streets. All we need is you!
• Reverend Emily Gail Dill, DMin is a government senator and the Junior Minister for National Security and Transport