Stakeholders Meet & Discuss Community Violence

October 3, 2022 | 1 Comment

More than 100 key stakeholders representing charities, Government agencies and helping organisations met at the Hamilton Princess last week for an event which “brought together invited stakeholders working on the frontline against community violence for focused and robust discussions over the issue.”

A spokesperson said, “The list of agencies in attendance includes Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda [CURB], MWI, the Department of Child and Family Services, Raleigh Bermuda, the Family Centre, the Coalition for the Protection of Children, the Bermuda Police Service, sporting clubs, the One Bermuda Alliance and representatives from the Mirrors Programme.”

Minister Michael Weeks opened the retreat by highlighting the societal nature of the violence problem when he told those in attendance. He added: “The sooner each of us on the island comes to terms with this concept, the faster we will solve this issue.”

“I believe that this violence issue is the proverbial 800-pound elephant in the room that poses a threat to us all; it poses a grave threat to our young people, our peace of mind, our schools, our societal expectations of normal behaviour, and the very fabric of our Bermudian culture.”

In his opening remarks, Premier David Burt said: “The Government is committed to tackling the root causes of violence and crime in Bermuda. While much work has already been done, including the appointment of a Gang Violence Reduction Coordinator, Bishop Leroy Bean [here with us today], and expanded Gang Resistance Education and training programme in our public schools, we know that there is still much work to be done.

“Over the next two days, the conversations, questions and ideas that come from this diverse group will help us build a national strategy to address the violence in our community. I thank the Minister of National Security and his team for putting this workshop together and for the dedication they show every day to our community.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Good morning,

I sincerely thank each of you for heeding the clarion call and being here today. I appreciate it.

This national security strategic session was born out of the idea that if these community violence issues are ever going to be addressed, then crucial stakeholders and those on the front lines of the response to this problem, needed to be brought together in one room for some candid discussion. But not just to talk, but to propose real solutions to this pandemic.

Before we immerse ourselves into this day, let me first state that no one person, entity or agency is to blame for today’s crisis. You may have heard me publicly state over and over that this problem is a community problem, not a Police problem. I meant it then, and I mean it now.

The sooner each of us on the Island comes to terms with this concept, the faster we will solve this issue. I believe that this violence issue is the proverbial 800-pound elephant in the room that poses a threat to us all; it poses a grave threat to our young people, our peace of mind, our schools, our societal expectations of normal behaviour, and the very fabric of our Bermudian culture. Colleagues, friends, make no mistake – this is a Health & Safety Crisis and a matter of National Security!

It is therefore necessary to acknowledge this 800-pound elephant and decisively focus our resolve to wrestle it to the ground and subdue it once and for all.

Let me say that I’ve been National Security Minister for just over five months, [with all that has gone on from the moment I started, it seems like 5 years – smile], and during this time, the country has seen numerous incidents of physical violence, domestic violence, stabbings, shootings and murders.

This issue is personally heart-wrenching. I constantly receive frantic phone calls from worried parents fearful for their sons who are involved in or affected by the violence in some way, and I have the unpleasant task of offering sympathies to murder victims’ families when tragedy strikes. I also find myself consoling and giving counsel to those who have been impacted by physical violence and guiding them to agencies that can help.

Because we’ve heard the phrase ‘community violence’ many times over recent years, I think I should try and define it.

To me, community violence in Bermuda is characterized as violence that happens in the public sphere involving a small group of individuals whose behaviour ultimately causes a sudden disruption to the broader public, resulting in lasting trauma to the community.

According to Police estimates, around 1000 people are actively involved in gangs, which to me, are complications of much deeper societal problems. In other words, gangs do not form out of thin air.

They are an abnormality and a result of serious delinquencies within, let’s be frank, the home and the family structure, a failure within our criminal justice and education institutions, and also a result of how we in positions of authority have responded to these warning signs dating back decades.

I find it utterly unconscionable that around 1000 people can cause this much disruption and devastation to a population of just over 60 thousand people on a 21-square-mile/4 square mile wide island. I ask each of you here today, how long are we going to allow these about

1000 people to hold our community hostage? How long? We cannot allow these actions to become the norm.

As the person in charge of the Island’s national security, I recall someone asking me what I intend to do about this problem. I felt this question was the wrong question to ask. It’s clear that these approx. 1000 individuals feel that they are the ones with the power – and we need to change that false narrative immediately!

Now is the time to come together, but not just to have a discussion, for real action! Everyone in this room today has seen the consequences up close and personal. If you are a helping agency, a person in some form of leadership or working with our youth, let’s put our money where our mouths are! Roll up our sleeves and get busy!

If there is something that we as a Government could do better, I want to hear about it so we can change course and do better. Now is not the time to hold back. And equally, if there is something that collectively as organisations we can do better, then here is where we brainstorm and discuss, without criticism or blame, so that we can arrive at real solutions. Additionally, if there are things that are working well, then we also want to know about it, so that we can build upon it and share with our fellow organisations.

We are losing too many young black men. This is an existential threat, and I want to know the ‘WHYS’ and the ‘WHATS’ – why are we losing these young men and what can be done to stop this crisis.

So today, I am asking you, to check any egos we may have brought here at the door. Speak among each other frankly and honestly, with a sense of purpose and problem-solving. Let’s use our intelligence and experience to make relevant contributions and in full transparency assist in making inroads as we attempt to turn this crisis on its head.

Thank you.

The Premier’s full statement follows below:

Good Morning Minister, members of the legislature, members of Clergy, Commissioners of Police and Education, and everyone here today to participate in this vital two-day workshop focused on understanding the violence in our community.

The Government is committed to tackling the root causes of violence and crime in Bermuda. While much work has already been done, including the appointment of a Gang Violence Reduction Coordinator, Bishop Leroy Bean [here with us today], and expanded Gang Resistance Education and training programme in our public schools, we know that there is still much work to be done.

We also recognise that the Government cannot do this alone and that this must be a collective effort where we address these issues together. That is why I am extremely grateful that in this room, such essential parts of our community are represented; government and opposition, local churches, sports clubs, community organisations and activists, charities and more.

Over the next two days, the conversations, questions and ideas that come from this diverse group will help us build a national strategy to address the violence in our community. I thank the Minister of National Security and his team for putting this workshop together and for the dedication they show every day to our community.

And I thank every one of you for giving your time and valuable contributions to the betterment of Bermuda. Thank you.

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  1. Dunn juice says:

    Now let’s form another committee to go over what we discussed. Now give the pastor a raise for this.
    Problem solved

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