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Baron vows to steer students away from gangs

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Educational programmes designed to steer schoolchildren away from the perils of gangs could be expanded further in Bermuda, according to Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security.

The GREAT initiative has already helped more than 600 children from primary and middle schools by teaching students how to avoid falling into the island's gang lifestyle.

Mr Baron told The Royal Gazette that the Bermuda Government was developing an anti-bullying programme to compliment GREAT that will be aimed towards grades higher than P6 and M1 students.

He also revealed that his ministry was exploring how to expand the level and the pool of GREAT trainers that presently go into primary and secondary schools to speak with pupils.

“Members of my Inter-agency Gang Task Force are discussing how best to craft and deliver gang resistance training to senior school students,” Mr Baron said.

“Conflict resolution, as a practice, is different for an 11-year-old student and a 17-year-old student.

“We need to show, at all age levels, that the reality of gang life is soaked in paranoia, violence and sadness. It is not, in any way, glamorous, safe or prosperous.”

Mr Baron said that police, customs and corrections officers would all be “engaged and empowered” to deliver the programme to students.

The GREAT programme is a joint initiative between the Ministry of National Security and the Bermuda Police Service that was reintroduced into the island's schools in 2014.

Its goal is to help youth avoid gang membership, prevent violence and criminal activity, and develop a positive relationship with law enforcement, resulting in safer communities.

Mr Baron said: “We see YouTube videos encouraging young people to join gangs and we have to pull them away from that. We need to make it unattractive to be a gang member, rebalance priorities and disrupt the criminal networks.

“But we also need to place an equal emphasis on pulling everyone away from the gang lifestyle.”

He added: “More than 600 children have gone through the GREAT programme so far, at a cost of just $14 per child.

“The work being done by the GREAT initiative is so important to these young people. And when you hear a ten-year-old say what it means to them and making good choices about not wanting to join a gang that is huge.

“The relationship building with police officers and enforcement officers is another really important thing. If we can get officers in uniform bonding with children outside school that's a really positive move.”

Key initiative: Jeff Baron addresses students at a GREAT graduation ceremony at Northlands Primary School. The minister wants to strengthen Government's anti-gang message
Anti-gang work: Jeff Baron, Minister of National Security, with some young students

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Published June 28, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 28, 2016 at 7:14 am)

Baron vows to steer students away from gangs

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