National Security Minister Wayne Caines announced the appointment of Pastor Leroy Bean as the new Gang Violence Reduction Coordinator, who will play an integral role on the team that will zero in on the gun and gang violence, and antisocial behaviour plaguing Bermuda.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Minister Caines and Pastor Bean was selected after Government “looked around at best practices”, and “comparable people” in both private and public sectors, for a $92,000 one-year contract.
Asked what he brings to the table to combat gang and gun violence in Bermuda , Mr Bean said not only does he have the experience, both he and his family has been personally affected by gang violence, not just from the outside looking in.
“I’ve had family members that have been killed, I’ve had family members that have been shot and wounded, and so to me it’s something that’s personal to see this epidemic being stamped out.
“One of the biggest obstacles”, he said, “is getting people to understand the dynamics that make up the mindset of those that are participating in this antisocial behaviour”.
“I think having an understanding mindset equips us to better deal with the problem. But one thing I do hope is to see the cycle of gang violence or just violence in general reduced within a five-year to seven-year period. And I think this can happen by us reaching back to our young people and retraining to let them know that in spite of your situation, that there is hope, that you could be successful regardless of what type of environment you’re in,” said Pastor Bean.
The Minister noted that as a country, the objective will not be put out numbers and give projections like “we will not have any more gang activity and we will see a decrease”, within a certain period of time.
“We believe that this going to take some work,” said Mr Caines. By re-training educating the children at the primary and middle school levels, he said: “We believe that we’re going to have to develop different modalities of thinking.
Part of the plan includes “finding the young men that are disenfranchised that are finding themselves apathetic finding them legitimate opportunities for employment”. But he rejected the concept, or sentiment, in certain sectors of the community that “if it was white boys” getting shot something would happen to stop it immediately.
“This is something that has plagued our community, and as a community we have to hold each other accountable… So when we look at if from that perspective, let me say this, when we see our sons we have to hold them accountable.”
While “we are very willing to let the rest of society be accountable”, he said, as a community, we have yet to take an introspective look at the core issues and the root causes of gun related and gang related crime in Bermuda. But he said: “We’re not going to allow the country to get away from our responsibility. He’s our son and we as a community, we have to work together to find a solution. Too long have we pointed the finger at everyone else. That is no longer acceptable.”
The team will also reach “down into the inter-faith community” to get them “to go out in this community and say these are the things that we need to do”. “Many of the things are already being done” he said. The Ministry has also facilitated the new ‘Moms on a Mission’ support group for more than 50 mothers who have buried their sons murdered as a result of gun murders in Bermuda.
“Every Thursday they meet and they can help each other get through the crisis with the helping agencies. What am I saying, I’m saying for very long we’ve sat back in the comfort when we call ourselves Monday morning gaffers, or Monday morning coaches when we have all the answers. But we’re saying differently, it’s that this is a community problem. We’re not going to place this on the white community. We’re not going to place this on the business elite. This is a community problem. This is a country problem and together we can fix that.”
In terms of a holistic approach to address the fact that there are family members know who is in the illegal drug trade, the Minister said ultimately it’s a path that “will never lead us to finding solutions”.
“In Bermuda we all understand the nuances of living in a country with a significant racial divide,” he said: “My position is that, that has given us solace, in not doing what is necessary to help our community. I’m saying we have identified that as being a part of the problem. This is a little different, we’re saying that we know what’s wrong in our country but let’s start to work internally in our communities to fix it.
“Often times we want to take the social elements of the country, in other words, the black versus the white community without understanding the key and constituent parts. We believe the key and constituent parts to antisocial behaviour are challenged around employment, challenged around finding their voice in our society, feeling that you are connected with the persons in our society, social challenges, mental health challenges. And so what we’re trying to do is connect all of those pieces together – put all of those pieces together in a holistic approach.”
Part of the multi-team plan includes “working with John Jay University” and re-initiating the Gang Task Force. John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in midtown Manhattan, is the only liberal arts college with a criminal justice and forensic focus in the United States.
Pastor Bean is a part of the team assigned to this “holistic approach” and “part of the puzzle”. In that regard he said it would be unfair or misleading “to ask him in absentia of his colleagues”.
“In absentia of seeing the whole plan you don’t see the best of him and you don’t see the best of the plan,” he said. “Ultimately, how we touch this community… is by making the community whole,” said the Minister. “And we believe that this is a process that will not happen overnight.”
- Photos by Stephan Raynor, Courtesy of DCI