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Fight against gangs to move into schools, Minister

Schools are to be directly targeted by police as part of the fight against gang crime, Minister of Public Safety Michael Dunkley told to the House of Assembly this morning.

Mr Dunkley said: “On the intervention front, I am pleased to advise Honourable Members that in conjunction with the Bermuda Police Service, the GREAT gang education programme will be reintroduced into Bermuda’s schools. In September of this year trained Police Officers will directly engage with our young people in schools to further stem the tide in the growth of the gang culture.

“Education is a key component in any anti-gang strategy and I am pleased to advise this Honourable House that we will start with eight schools and we intend to expand to more. Early intervention with alternatives to the gang lifestyle is critical.”

This is the Minister’s statement in full:

Mr. Speaker, in the weeks since this Honourable House rose for the Easter recess, a tremendous amount of work has been done to further the cause of making Bermuda safer.

I am pleased to advise this Honourable House and the people of Bermuda of the significant steps taken by this Government on several fronts in this area.

Mr. Speaker, as part of his keynote address at the 28th Annual Conference of Caribbean Commissioners of Police, Professor David Kennedy spoke to the importance of whole-community efforts in the fight against the gang lifestyle.

The engagement of moral voices as a means by which to return young people to the path of productivity in this society cannot be underestimated. David Kennedy is the well-known and leading expert in the development of Ceasefire programmes.

His time in Bermuda was extremely useful as he spent an hour on live television breaking down the parts of a successful Operation Ceasefire and demonstrating an independent opinion of Bermuda’s positive steps in this regard. He also met with the newly formed community level of the Inter-Agency Gang task Force and found a group energised and poised to make an impact on the gang situation.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to Professor Kennedy’s visit, I am pleased to advise this Honourable House that a structure has been put in place around gang mediation. Using the work of the previous administration as the starting point, a governance structure is now linked through a recognised local charity and empowers a trained professional in the area of street mediation as the lead.

Direct intervention with gang members is an effective strategy to ensure that disputes do not evolve into shootings.

Mr. Speaker, again on the intervention front, I am pleased to advise Honourable Members that in conjunction with the Bermuda Police Service, the GREAT gang education programme will be reintroduced into Bermuda’s schools. In September of this year trained Police Officers will directly engage with our young people in schools to further stem the tide in the growth of the gang culture.

Mr. Speaker, education is a key component in any anti-gang strategy and I am pleased to advise this Honourable House that we will start with 8 schools and we intend to expand to more. Early intervention with alternatives to the gang lifestyle is critical.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will be aware that in partnership with Crime Stoppers Bermuda, the Ministry of Public Safety this week launched its Gun Bounty Programme. As I indicated to the public, this is just one of the ways in which we hope to get the guns off our streets.

Mr. Speaker, information received is held in the strictest confidence.

Calls are received in the United States and no one will know the source of the information provided. This campaign will run through July and is targeted through print ads, social media, radio and direct mailing.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members can likewise encourage their constituents with the campaign’s powerful tagline: If you know something, say something.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, strong policy initiatives require a strong legislative foundation. This Government promised action in 2012’s election campaign and in the previous session of this Honourable House I indicated that specific legislation would be forthcoming to assist in the fight against guns, gangs, drugs and violence.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise this Honourable House that I will introduce two important pieces of legislation today.

Firstly, Mr. Speaker, the Prison Amendment Act 2013 will make it an offence for anyone to bring prohibited, high-risk items into any prison. Highlighted in that list is the cell phone or any parts of one. Secondly, the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2013 creates the mechanism for “cash back for communities”.

Mr. Speaker, we promised in the election campaign that the proceeds of crime would be put to use improving the communities affected. This Bill will achieve that.

Mr. Speaker, any period of relative calm is welcomed. However, these periods do not allow us to rest on our laurels. In fact, we should work even harder. Make no mistake; the era of gang violence and shootings has not ended.

But as I have indicated to Honourable Members today, this Government is working hard every day on making Bermuda safer.

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Published May 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm (Updated May 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm)

Fight against gangs to move into schools, Minister

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