Recognising the economic impact of the global pandemic, Minister of National Security, Renée Ming stated outright that COVID-19 “has caused significant socio-economic challenges” for countless Bermudians.

“What has been evident is that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant socio-economic challenges for a large portion of our community,” she said.

“What we’ve come to understand is that social and financial instability leads to stress and added tension.

“And added tensions can often lead to anti-social behaviour and violence.

Updating the public on the work of Bermuda’s Gang Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) headed up by Pastor Leroy Bean at a news conference held on Monday (Feb 22), she said: “The GVRT continues to be an important force in tackling gang violence.

“There is still much work to be done in the area of reducing violence in our community,” said Ms Ming.

“The Team’s multi-pronged approach, strategies and methodologies have proven to be quite effective within the various communities.

“In order to do this, we have been utilizing our existing mechanisms to address gun, knife and gang violence,” she said.

This includes continuing with initiatives such as:

  • The GREAT Programme, which restarted with the resumption of schools last year; and
  • The Redemption Programme, which also restarted last year with a new cohort of trainees

“While the work of the GVRT is mostly done behind the scenes, the impact that they have in the lives of our young people, families and neighborhoods is unquantifiable,” said Ms Ming.

“Their proactive measures within the subcultures are very systematic,” she added.

“As an example, the team first identifies the past, present and future challenges.

“These could range from mental health issues, emotional trauma, or socio-economic challenges that have disadvantaged many in at risk families and vulnerable neighborhoods.”

Overall, she said: “The team’s overall objective is to assess and provide critical support to the valued individuals whom they engage with.

“This involves, but is not limited to such measures as providing food and/or food vouchers, medical assistance, or shepherding them to the relevant organizations that can assist with meeting their various needs.”

The Minister also confirmed that there are currently eight (8) individuals “who are now taking part in the latest Redemption Programme training”.

“Through our Redemption Programme, the GVRT provides job placement as well as vocational skills training.

“The plan was to have 13 trainees in the program however, due to many of the jobs that we partnered with having to downsize their staff, they were unable to take many of our trainees.

“The outreach to the primary, middle and high schools is also an important focus for the GVRT,” she added.

“In the primary schools we have implemented programmes that encourage our young people to express their thoughts and concerns while, at the same time, empowering them to have a positive view of themselves.

Pastor Leroy Bean

“And the GVRT conduct innovative interventions focused on group dynamics as well as individual sessions in our schools.

“I am also pleased to advise that in partnership with clinical, social and education professionals, the GVRT will embark on several pilot programmes to assist our young people.

“These include initiatives that focus on anger management, cognitive therapy, mood therapy, behavioral therapy and parenting classes.

“The GVRT also continues to conduct restorative justice forums in our schools and throughout the community.

“The Team’s goal is not only to bring peace and harmony within the various communities, but to assist with the development of specific plans to help our vulnerable young people, individuals and families so that they can be thriving members of society.”

In closing, she stressed that the GVRT has “provided our affected communities with much needed emotional support, counselling and emergency services during these times of hardship”.

On that note, she said: “For our part, the Ministry of National Security will continue its priority of supporting the GVRT in its efforts of tackling the root causes of crime and working towards reducing violence in our community.”

We are also thankful for the work of the DRRM Team who have embraced their work under often, short timelines. As with the Gang Violence Reduction Team, the Ministry of National Security will continue to support the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team.