Tackling the root causes of gang violence in Bermuda will take a collective effort to combat a problem “we will not police our way out of”.

This from the Minister of National Security, Renée Ming, who told MPs on Friday (Nov 26), that it will take a “multi Ministry” effort on the part of employers, the third sector and Government departments.

Moving forward, she said: “We must provide opportunities to the next generation that makes being a productive and law abiding member of society a better alternative than joining a gang.”

The Minister also described many of the island’s young people as “victims of generations of economic inequality”.

“The breakdown of the family unit, poor education and employment opportunities make it very difficult to break the cycle and enable social mobility,” said Ms Ming.

“There are many reasons why individuals join a gang. Unfortunately it is a lifestyle that is glamorized in television, movies and music.

“A gang provides identity, respect, security, a sense of belonging and support that they may not be getting at home or from the community.

“The reality is that for some, it provides a more attractive lifestyle than being a law abiding productive member of society.

“Gangs offer social support systems and the opportunity for financial gains that our young people are struggling to find through traditional home and work pathways,” she added.

On the work of the Ministry’s Gang Violence Reduction Team’s (GVRT) programmes, Ms Ming said: “The Redemption Farm programme has provided 15 men with a 30 week work placement.

“Ten out 15 trainees have now transitioned into full-time or part-time employment or into education pursuits.

“The GVRT administers programmes within every level of our public school system that provide pro-social networks for students at medium to high risk for anti-social behavior. Over the course of the summer, the GVRT partnered with local companies to provide mentorships and internships to students involved in these programmes. The primary objective is to encourage a transition away from anti-social behavior into a life of meaningful work.”

On the programmes offered, the Minister added: “There is no one size fits all and each at risk youth will be assessed to match the right services and programs to meet their needs.

“We must work to rebuild the sense of community that has eroded in recent years.”

Highlights of the Minister’s full statement:

We will not police our way out of this problem. We must assist those who are in gangs with a way out and tackle the root causes. We must provide opportunities to the next generation that makes being a productive and law abiding member of society a better alternative than joining a gang.

Through our actions, and in some cases lack of action, as a community, we have created a gap that gangs are filling for our young people. The Ministry of National Security’s Gang Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) offers several programmes that attempt to address this gap.

Our goals are:

  • To change the pattern of behaviour of individuals involved in group and gang violence, and reintegrate them back into mainstream society
  • To prevent preteens and adolescents from joining gangs and engaging in anti-social behavior by reestablishing positive social bonds
  • To create opportunities of employment for young people and individuals who have previously not been employable due to anti-social backgrounds
  • To connect at-risk youth, men and women with the necessary helping agencies that will aid in addressing mental and social health issues
  • To place more focus on fostering and sustaining positive interpersonal relationships

GVRT clients carry life histories marked by poverty, violence, marginalization and intergenerational abuse and neglect. Many have incarceration experiences or have pending charges and cases. The young men we support face additional challenges presented by institutionalization, discrimination, community judgement, major educational gaps, negligible work history, and criminal records/ criminal proceedings which can preclude employment. For many of our clients, substances are a way of coping with the pain of gang involvement, homelessness, and mental health issues.

to meet our goals we have are taking a multi-agency approach that includes the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Social Development and Seniors, Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, Ministry of Legal Affairs as well as the Ministry of Public Works. We will also be partnering with third sector agencies and employers to provide additional services and opportunities for our at risk youth including:

  • Counseling services
  • Individual programs of social support and care
  • Education assistance
  • Mentorship
  • Pathways to further education
  • Opportunities for social mobility
  • Careers guidance
  • Family counseling and support
  • Financial assistance
  • Employment opportunities

There is no one size fits all and each at risk youth will be assessed to match the right services and programs to meet their needs.

We must work to rebuild the sense of community that has eroded in recent years.