Describing the work of Bermuda’s Gang Violence Coordinator, Pastor Leroy Bean as “high touch, highly confidential and sensitive”, National Security Minister Wayne Caines told MPs last week, that it was “not appropriate” for the Government to provide specifics.
“At the street level,” he said: “The team’s overarching strategy is to target individuals and groups who are known to be players in the cycle of violent behavior.”
But he added: “It is not appropriate for the Government to provide detail on the particulars of this outreach work in order to protect the confidentiality and security of those individuals.”
In a Ministerial Statement delivered on the floor of the Lower House on Friday, the Minister said the team’s efforts continue daily with students considered at-risk in both public senior schools.
Responding to “suggestions that this Government has ignored the serious gang violence problem that continues to plague our island home”, he stressed that the team is out in the community working to combat the risk factors daily.
“The team operates from a coordinated plan to tackle gang violence and anti-social behaviour through a series of strategically designed prevention, intervention and rehabilitation programmes and initiatives.
“To this end, the team works in conjunction with the Inter-Agency Gang Enforcement Team (IGET).”
With the police, there have also been a number of co-ordinated mediation sessions with students involved with rival gangs to provide “intervention through the formation of trust-based relationships that serve to deescalate and mediate tensions when necessary”.
“A major component of outreach at this level is connecting individuals to neighborhood resources and making necessary referrals to case managers.
“The goal is to steer these young men towards pro-social activities by providing a range of opportunities for change.
“One such change opportunity is the so called ‘chicken farm’ attacked by the Opposition Leader in his Throne Speech Reply.”
While still in the planning stages, the Minister said the Redemption Farm “initially will not have chickens at all”.
A “successful meeting with the Bermuda Farmer’s Association” has been held, and the association has agreed “to provide their support and assistance wherever they are able”, with a view to having the farm fully operational within the next fiscal year.
The goal is to “provide successful engagement of at-risk young men in a socially restorative, incentivized employment training programme”, through a holistic approach, to “arm participants with necessary vocational and entrepreneurship skills through various forms of farming”.
“Additionally, case management services will ensure that personal development is also encouraged of those who subscribe to the programme,” said the Minister.
He also noted that the team’s “relationship with community partners underscores much of the important work that they do”.
The team also supports “a wide range of community groups that align with the team’s aims including: Mothers on a Mission (MOM) Bermuda, the Clergy Working Group, and Living Legends Community Group”.
“The work of the Gang Violence Reduction Team is important and should not be understated. The ongoing gang related tensions in the community have not been ignored,” he said.
“Rather, this Government and the Gang Violence Reduction Team have been steadily working to coordinate resources to best address the issues and we are
But he stressed that the team “cannot do this work on its own”.
“I encourage all of us who love this community to roll up our sleeves to assist with stamping the gang culture out of our island.
“Parents and families must continue to be involved with their children. Churches must look for ways that they can support their communities outside of the church walls.
“Charities and sports clubs must develop strategically designed programmes that divert our young people away from anti-social activities. Business owners must create training programmes that lead to gainful employment for these young Bermudians.
“Politicians must agree to support policies and legislation that aim to empower and elevate our marginalized young men.”