DeSilva: My gun crime frustration
Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva says his officers can't fix the Island's gang problem “at the front end” because young men here are so indoctrinated into a life of violence.
Mr DeSilva, speaking to The Royal Gazette ahead of a town-hall meeting tomorrow night, said dealing with years of shootings had convinced him and many of his officers that more patrols, more police and more CCTV cameras were not the answer.
“When you get called twice a week to go to a shooting, you can imagine these detectives, they have to put their blinkers on because they have a job to do,” he said. “But it hits you when it's protracted and you're convinced that simply throwing more and more law enforcement at this is not going to solve the problem.
“When you see that play out and we've got armed police, we've got police in the neighbourhoods, we've got night patrols, we've got CCTV cameras, we're throwing all of this at it and we can't stop it.
“And the reason we can't stop it is because we can't fix the problem at the front end.”
He will tell tomorrow night's 6pm session at Victor Scott Primary School in Pembroke, where several pupils have lost loved ones due to gun violence, that Bermuda Police Service has a high success rate in fighting gang crime.
But he will also warn the community not to get too comfortable after an arrest is made or a criminal jailed.
“On Thursday night I'll tell you how many cases have gone to court, how many have been convicted, how many have been acquitted, and how many we have where the people are charged and they're waiting for trial,” said the Commissioner. “It's good news because the numbers are high.
“My concern is that success will reduce the urgency of dealing with this overall problem of this whole gang problem as a national issue. What tends to happen is, when the bullets are flying, pardon the pun, everybody wants all kinds of action.
“They want the police to do this, they want the Government to pass laws. As soon as it goes quiet, everybody's comfortable. And there's not much impetus behind addressing the problem.”
He said his force was fighting an uphill battle against the Island's gangs, with “years of indoctrination” into gang culture proving stronger than the multiple resources he has at his disposal.
Mr DeSilva said many young men lacked a positive male influence and felt they had little alternative to joining a gang.
The real question that needed to be asked, he added, was “makes a young man who, but for the grace of God could be me, or anybody else, what makes him decide to become a gang member?”
The Commissioner said: “He doesn't wake up one day and say ‘you know what I think, today's the day, I'm going to join a gang and get a gun and go shoot and kill somebody'.
“It's years of indoctrination and it's because there's nothing else, there's no alternative, there's no powerful influence.”
Mr DeSilva claimed Bermuda was too slow to respond to the rise in gang activity and is now paying the price for that mistake.
“My opinion is that we've been slow to respond as a country,” he said. “What I would like to see now is more energy towards what we're doing across the whole board.
“And this not a criticism because I think there's lots of evidence that there's lots of things happening [in the community].
“The issue is all of this activity that's going on would be better served if it could be pulled together.”
He said Victor Scott Primary School was the right place to hold tomorrow's meeting due to the heavy toll violent gun crime has taken on families in the area.
“If you're going to use an area that's centrally located, you may as well go into a neighbourhood that actually has lived and breathed everything that I'm talking about for the last four years,” he said.
“It's to keep bridging and closing the gap between the police and the community so that ultimately will clear up our cases. We want the public to tell us what they think, tell us what they want, tell us what they don't want.”
The Commissioner will be joined by Deputy Commissioner Michael Jackman and Assistant Commissioners Paul Wright and Antoine Daniels at the meeting.