Strong enforcement is a large part of the solution to gang violence and the antisocial behaviour that goes with it, but as a country, National Security Minister Wayne Caines stated outright that “we risk losing a generation if we fail” to address the root causes of the violence and the “ongoing activity” that goes with it.
Flanked by the Premier, Cabinet Ministers and Progressive Labour Party MPs, Mr Caines said the new administration will take a rounded holistic approach to combat the scourge of this country’s social ills that are claiming the lives of young Black males through gang and gun violence in Bermuda.
Speaking at his first news conference as Minister at the Cabinet Building on Tuesday, he said a big part of the new approach has everything to do with education and economic disparity in this country.
“Strong enforcement is a part of the solution, but we must also address the root causes of violence and ongoing gang activities.
“Solutions to these problems demand a cohesive approach on education, in our homes and in our families, by our churches and every institution playing a part in Bermudian life.
“The impact of poor educational outcomes and income inequality must now form the foundation of our understanding and drive the work to find solutions,” said the Minister.
Condensing the three main elements of gang and gun violence in Bermuda, Mr Caines said “Respect, Revenge and Revenue” were the top three factors driving the ongoing spate of this antisocial behaviour.
“Employment and a living wage lies at the heart of social ills and must be addressed to mitigate the illegal activity. We risk losing a whole generation if we fail. We have never looked at this as a systemic problem,” he said.
Reflecting on the outbreak of gun violence in 2009, he noted that both government administrations “have sought to combat the gang lifestyle”. “Much of what has been done over those years remains in place; but any system under stress needs to be refreshed and refocused,” said Mr Caines.
“My aim today is to issue a community call to action. National economic success will yield no return if we cannot enjoy that success in safety.
“Violence in this community is founded in systemic inequality and the solution will only be found with an ‘all-in’ community approach. In the coming weeks the Ministry will be organizing structured outreach to members of the clergy and other leaders in the faith community.
“These men and women are this community’s leading ‘moral voices’ and our intention is to expand the reach of those ministries and their authority to empower the congregations and communities they serve as a powerful means by which to stem the multi-generational trauma and the violence it causes.”
The Inter Agency Gang Task Force will also be “reactivated” to address gang violence. Mr Caines told the media yesterday that someone has been identified to serve as the new Gang Violence Reduction Coordinator, as promised by the PLP’s election platform. “We should be able to make an announcement in the not too distant future,” he said.
Moving forward he stressed that education and employment will be at the forefront of the holistic approach to stemming gang violence.
The aim, he said, is to zero in on at-risk students with the earliest possible intervention. He also plans to meet with potential employers to boost job opportunities and training.
“As we set about building an economy that works for everyone, I will be meeting with a broad, cross-section of employers to urge them to provide opportunities for men and women whose skills match their employee needs and where they may not, to commit to providing opportunities through training. Where the people are willing to work we must do everything we can to help them earn the living wage that mitigates against alternative choices of illegal activity,” said the Minister.
“The Premier and my Cabinet colleagues have expressed their full support for these initiatives and as a government we know that every ministry, every department, every Authority or Quango has a vital role to play in making Bermuda safer for all.
“Although these are early days in this Administration, the tone has been set for how critical it is to tackle the issue of violence in this community. We risk losing a generation if we fail.”
- Photos: Courtesy of DCI