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Knife-crime shift concern — community group

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Police press conference: Acting Inspector Jason Smith and Chief Inspector Na'imah Astwood (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

An apparent switch from gun to knife crime in recent months is in line with trends being experienced in the UK, according to the Inter-Agency Community Response Group.

There have been at least five knife-related crimes in Bermuda since May, including the fatal stabbing this week of 23-year-old Sandys man Job-Solomon Tucker, who has no known connections to gang crime.

Kimberley Jackson, co-chair of the group, attended the Grange Holburn Hotel conference on behalf of the Ministry of National Security in May and met with several organisations during the trip. The conference was titled Guns, Gangs and Knives: Tackling Serious Youth Violence and one of the issues emerging was the fact that there can be trends in the types of weapons used to inflict violence within communities.

Ms Jackson explained: “During the trip we visited Scotland Yard to see what they were doing about the problem of youth violence.

“They communicated to us that one of the main things to be aware of is once you suppress guns, knives tend to rise. As you begin to intervene in a particular area to solve a problem, say, firearms, you have to be aware that the criminals are going to go to other means.

“It can happen. It is not necessarily what is going on here, but we have to be aware.

“The ‘taking away’ for me was, let’s look at the violence and keep our hand on the pulse on all areas of violence whether it is fighting or knives or guns. Scotland Yard said they have to adapt to these types of changes. It’s about targeting the right people and targeting the right harm.”

The Inter-Agency Community Response formed a special outreach for the West End back in November following a multiple shooting that took place outside of Somerset Cricket Club. It aims to reach out to the community, providing them with support while looking at prevention and resources that may be needed.

In recent months there have been several knife-related incidences in the West End, including a stabbing at Woody’s Sports Bar and another stabbing in Sandys Parish in June. Further incidences have taken place elsewhere including at City Hall in June and one in Par-la-Ville Park in April.

At a police press conference yesterday, The Royal Gazette asked whether there was any information about an apparent rise in knife incidents but Acting Inspector Smith said he could not speak to that.

“This is our first murder for the year, so in those circumstances I can’t speak unto whether there is a rise,” he said.

Gina Spence, of Gina Spence Productions in Christ, lost two family members to shooting incidents – her nephew and son-in-law. Her organisation reaches out to families of victims of violence.

She said: “It appears that attacks using knives have increased. Anybody can get their hands on a knife. I know that just before the shooting started around 2007 there was a serious number of these types of incidents.

“Then they put the bladed weapon law in place which could have you arrested and prosecuted for articles of a certain length. What is concerning is that people are still being murdered.

“Whether it is a gun or a knife, a young life has been taken.”

The Bermuda Police Service has urged anyone with information about Tuesday’s fatal stabbing “to be bold” and assist with the investigation.

Mr Tucker was named as the Island’s first murder victim of 2015.

At a press conference yesterday, Acting Inspector Jason Smith, who is heading the investigation, said: “There are people in the community who are close to the deceased and who live in that community, who can assist us with this investigation and we are appealing directly to those individuals.

“We would like to assure the public that this was not a random attack, but what appears to be a targeted attack by unscrupulous individuals.”

But he added that nothing has come to their attention to suggest the incident was gang-related, a revenge attack or a robbery attack. Mr Tucker was stabbed in the abdomen during an altercation with a group of men outside of his residence shortly after 11pm, Acting Inspector Smith said.

“After being stabbed the victim retreated into his residence, where he sought refuge from his attackers.

“The assailants broke windows in an effort to gain entry into the house, but despite their attempts to gain entry they were unsuccessful.”

He added that Mr Tucker was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, where he died as a result of his injuries at about 6.45am on Wednesday.

Acting Inspector Smith called on members of the public, in particular residents of the Woodlawn Road area familiar with the victim, his friends and movements, as well as those who may have heard glass shattering and arguing, to “come forward and to assist us with this investigation and to bring closure to the victim’s family and to his friends.

“One death is one too many, but we must all work together and rally together as a community if we are going to make any difference in the community and our lives.”

Police are appealing for anyone with any information to contact the Serious Crime Unit on 247-1739, the confidential Crime Stoppers Hotline on 800-8477 or e-mail Acting Inspector Smith directly at jsmith2@bps.bm.

Police press conference: Chief Inspector Na'imah Astwood (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Police press conference: Acting Inspector Jason Smith, the officer in charge of the investigation (Photograph by Akil Simmons)