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Family plans to leave Island to escape gang persecution

Driven away: A mother says she has no choice but to leave Bermuda to avoid persecution by gang members

A desperate Pembroke mother said gang-fuelled bullying has left her with no choice but to leave the Island with her sons.The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said teenage boys from her neighbourhood were regularly “jumped” if they went into the City of Hamilton.“I’ve gone to the police and they can’t do nothing about it — they just say don’t go around that part of town.”Insisting that her sons have no gang associations, she said her home is close enough to the turf of the 42 gang for her family to draw flak from its rivals.The residence has been pelted with eggs and her car tampered with by young men claiming to be Parkside gangsters, who she says persecute her sons.“So many people on this Island are so scared of these little boys, it’s pathetic,” she said. “I would like to know what the gang mentality is giving them. Really. Is it money? Food? How can they grow up and have a wife, children, a job? They live a life for today but they don’t see no future for themselves.”Recently, her son had to leave a supermarket job because the company said they were unable to provide security for him after a group of young men beat him up on the premises.“I just want advice — how can I get my boys off the Island?” the single mother said.“I don’t see how it can get better here for them.”With her sons unable to move around unless accompanied by large groups of friends, the woman described networking with other parents whose children are being targeted, she claimed, solely on the basis of their neighbourhood associations.Largely confined to home, her sons are “not the same”.“They’re missing out on childhood because they can’t go anywhere. They’ve missed school trying to avoid these boys.”The family is saving “every penny” in an effort to travel to the UK. The woman said the problem went back about two-and-a-half years.“First it was just threats. There have been fights since last year. They are saying my children stay up 42nd.”She added: “It’s crazy. These boys who are saying this live ten minutes away.”The Coalition for the Protection of Children is contacted “daily”, chairman Sheelagh Cooper said.Stories like that of her unnamed client are “an all-too-common occurrence”, she said.“Not a day goes by that we don’t have frantic women whose children are being pressured and they want to leave.”She added: “I hate to think our community can’t sort this out — and I refuse to accept that we can’t.”Nonetheless, mothers from gang-afflicted neighbourhood come to the agency pleading for “help getting out of here — they don’t see any alternative”.Ms Cooper added that, of the families who had emigrated to the UK that she kept in touch with, “not one has gone on the dole”.“Mothers go back to school, which they can’t afford to do here, and get their children into a safer environment,” she said.Of the bullies themselves, Ms Cooper said: “One thing we find almost invariably is that they have been removed from the school system from around the age of 14, which puts them out on the street with nothing to do, no job prospects and no attachments.“They’re ripe for becoming gang members, and the gang becomes something like their family.”She conceded that, for some, Bermuda offered no choice but departure, invariably for the UK.“But we’re committed to changing the trajectory,” she said.Useful website: www.coalition.bm.