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Community figures urged to be moral voices

Senator Jeff Baron (File photograph)

National security minister Senator Jeff Baron has encouraged respected community figures to step forward as “moral voices” to help in the fight against gang violence.

In last week’s Throne Speech, the Government announced its intention to resurrect Operation Ceasefire, a “community-collaborative initiative”, which has been proven effective in reducing gang warfare in the United States.

The programme appoints “moral voices” — such as former gangsters, those who have lost loved ones to gang violence and members of the clergy — to share their thoughts and experiences with young offenders, or those at risk of following that path.

“Operation Ceasefire aims to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks, while simultaneously removing the attraction to the gang lifestyle,” said Mr Baron of the initiative, which originally launched in Bermuda in 2013 but faded from view.

“It’s telling them that this pipe dream they have of a glamorous, moneymaking lifestyle is complete garbage.”

As part of Operation Ceasefire, gang members looking to leave the lifestyle behind are provided with workable exit strategies.

“We need to make sure that we’re giving them positive and realistic off-ramps,” he said.

Mr Baron emphasised that far from being a “fluffy” approach to gang violence, Operation Ceasefire allowed the law-abiding community to directly voice its displeasure with those involved in illicit activity.

“This isn’t a battle just between law enforcement and criminals — it transcends that,” he said.

“That’s why ‘moral voices’ are so critical because the community members themselves are saying to gang members enough is enough, what you are doing is not acceptable and if you want to stop, we will help you.”