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OBA calls for solutions to break cycle of gang violence

Cole Simons, the Opposition Leader (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A gang-linked daytime shooting near the centre of St George’s last week in which a 22-year-old man was injured prompted a call from the Opposition for ’solutions to break the cycle’.

Cole Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance leader, said the shooting last Wednesday underscored the need for the Government to ramp up programmes offering the island’s young men the opportunity to learn trades.

Mr Simons said the attack in Somers Garden off York Street “amplifies the need for solutions for those who want to break the cycle and find a way out of gang crime and violence”.

“While we are mandated to remain within our bubble to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, we must not do the same when it comes to managing gang violence,” the Opposition leader said.

“If we look around at those within our bubble or just beyond it, we may know someone who is caught up in the gang lifestyle or is benefiting from the proceeds of criminal activity.”

He called on people acquainted with gang members to give them encouragement to make “more productive choices”.

Mr Simons said he was aware that many in gangs were “decent young men and women” who found themselves unable to provide for their families in traditional ways.

He cited a lack of skills for the island’s main business centres, or a lack of qualifications to meet positions that became available.

“The frustration of being unemployed and the pressure to provide, often leads them down the road of criminal activity and even violence,” he said.

“Families and Government must work together to support and partner with each other to break this intergenerational cultural behaviour.”

Suggestions included developing new life skills, jobs retraining, Bermuda College courses and technology training online.

The OBA also called for a “halfway house” for gang members to get training, protection and rehabilitation to transition to normal life.

Mr Simons said at-risk students needed continued support in school.

He warned: “Left unchecked, gang violence has the potential to not only impact us in the moment, but to be passed down as acceptable behaviour from one generation to the next.

“I am convinced that we can change the trajectory of the lives of these young people who want a way out of the gang life, if we work together and target one son or daughter at a time.”

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Published April 05, 2021 at 5:18 pm (Updated April 05, 2021 at 6:01 pm)

OBA calls for solutions to break cycle of gang violence

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