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Baron’s pledge for those ‘left behind’

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Calling for change: Senator Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Senator Jeff Baron has called on all segments of society to actively help “tear down the imagery of two Bermudas”.

Yesterday in the Senate, the Minister of National Security pledged to invest in those people “left behind”, as he vowed to tackle the gun violence that has killed 29 people in Bermuda since May 2009.

“Every effort must be made to transform our society into one where no group feels left out or ignored,” he said.

“We cannot pull against each other, failing to appreciate our history, our present and our desires for the future.”

During his speech, titled “Can we Break the Cycle?”, Mr Baron suggested that the answer to the island’s social problems lay in “jobs, economic security, quality of life and an outlook on life that promotes equality of opportunity”.

“To those in the demographic that have never stood at the casket of a young man shot in his twenties, to those who don’t recognise the names of the roads where shootings have occurred, to those who demand more of the police without recognising just what they do every day, this is your problem too,” he said.

“How do you help? Invest. Treat this like any other issue you would resolve in business, your family or in your organisations.

“Every person hired is one person fewer wondering how to explain to a child why there’s no breakfast.

“Every dollar invested in a community club is a brick in the wall that builds up programmes promoting positive lifestyle choices.

“Every pro bono hour of mentoring or community engagement is a means by which to tear down the imagery of two Bermudas, one unconcerned about the other.”

Mr Baron said society could not simply “arrest or incarcerate this problem away”, but instead must focus on the deeper roots of the issue.

The One Bermuda Alliance minister added: “It was shocking to see the recent images of homeowners showing where stray bullets had damaged their property.

“Our collective sense of outrage should not be tempered by the location of this incident, to whom it happened or whatever the reason behind it might be.

“Instead, it should serve as a wake-up call, a reminder that a whole community effort is required to ensure our neighbourhoods remain safe.”

Mr Baron praised the Bermuda Police Service, saying that it “can be counted on to do its part and do it well”.

“Too often, our reaction to word of another shooting is to call for stronger enforcement or harsher penalties,” he added.

“The new phase of public engagement on these issues must deal with the ‘why’, and in so doing start a march towards ‘never again’.

“Gun crime and antisocial behaviour are symptoms of wider issues that have clearly not been satisfactorily addressed. There are too many common factors that surround gangs and guns for this to be a string of coincidences.”

Mr Baron acknowledged the “volatile mix of socio-economic factors” that drive some individuals into the gang lifestyle.

He pointed to Bermuda Government initiatives, such as gang mediation group Street Safe, which aim to show the positive side of law enforcement and thereby reduce suspicion and disenfranchisement.

After his speech, the senator told The Royal Gazette: “We’re trying to disrupt and dismantle the attraction to the gang lifestyle and we can only do that by investing in social agencies.

“We can’t continue to gloss over the realities of public safety. We have some very daunting challenges in the community.

“If we are to break the cycle of antisocial behaviour and violent crime in Bermuda, we need to have honest conversations and recognise some ugly truths.”

Close call: Jeff Baron described his shock at seeing images of how stray bullets had damaged residents’ homes. A man had been sitting at a table beside this window, at a home near Rambling Lane, when a bullet came through