The ongoing spate of gang violence and deaths on our roads, has driven some people in Bermuda to become desensitized.

In his Reply to the Throne Speech, Opposition Leader Cole Simons, said: “With over 100 COVID related deaths, and the pain experienced by the affected families and friends of the deceased, unfortunately, many people in Bermuda have also become desensitized to the increase in Bermuda’s road traffic deaths.

“Sadly, this state of indifference has had a detrimental effect on our road use and now places many road users at risk.

“There is an increase in a series of bad behaviours on our roads, such as road rage, driving under the influence, and other irresponsible driving habits which are totally unacceptable and, in most cases, illegal.

Yet these examples continue while the Bermuda Police Service (“BPS”) constantly face enforcement and funding challenges.”

As a result, the One Bermuda Alliance leader called for “a more robust police presence on the roads”, saying: “This dilemma has been going on long enough and must become a priority.

“We need a more robust police presence on the roads if we are to deter traffic fatalities. In addition, the community is urged to play their part. If members of the community see something, then they must say something.”

Switching to gang violence and anti-social behaviour, he said: “Unfortunately, we have had reoccurring spates of violence in Bermuda and the sad thing is that our community appears to have become numb to this type of behaviour and has begun to accept this behaviour as new way of life.

We have had seven shooting incidents so far this year. Just last week we had two young people lose their lives as a result of gang violence at a popular local restaurant in Hamilton. In addition, there were also brawls and youth violence at one of our South Shore tourism properties. This must stop.

We must also stop living and believing that we live in a dream land. When it comes to youth and gang violence, we must stop saying that this is not who we are, and this is not who we want to become.

Sorry Mr. Speaker, this is who we are, and this is who we have become. It is clear that we are killing our own brothers and sisters and our leaders must retire from that state of denial, because youth violence is here, and it appears that it is here to stay as we are unable to arrest this scourge.

As a community we have failed some of these young people. We have failed them in education, we have failed them when it comes to employment and in some cases, we have failed to parent them properly,” he added.

As parents, we must hold our young people accountable for their behaviour, and not enable or support bad and antisocial behaviour.

If our son or daughter comes home with unaccounted amounts of money every week, and they are not working, we must really question those children to see where these funds are coming from. We cannot and must not allow our families to survive on illicit means of income. If we do, those family members are complicit in these nefarious activities, especially if members of the family benefit from these illicit earnings.

Gang violence is a reflection of our society and how society has managed its young people. We all must take ownership of this problem and we all have a role to play in addressing this problem.

One of the fundamental responsibilities of any government is the security of its citizens and ensuring a safe environment in which all can thrive.

“This begins by valuing all our uniformed personnel by providing the best possible conditions of service and physical environment, but it also requires vigorously confronting the causes of crime as well as being tough with the perpetrators of the crime itself.”

On that note, Mr Simons said: “This Government has disrespected our uniformed services. They have slashed the police budget; they have not provided our firefighters with the necessary equipment, and they have allowed conditions at the prisons to fester. They also failed to provide some frontline workers with the necessary PPE during the COVID lockdown. 

We believe in law and order and value our uniformed services. Their performance during the COVID-19 crisis underscored their commitment and diligence and we all owe them our gratitude for their service. They worked above and beyond anything we could have asked.”

Therefore, the One Bermuda Alliance recommends that the PLP government:
● Fully invest in our Uniformed Services by ensuring they do not lack for basic needs such as clothing and equipping them with modern technologies to better ensure safety and crime prevention, including body cameras for police officers, updated fire equipment and emergency ambulances;
● Address the serious facilities deficiencies at our prisons to ensure our prison officers work in a safe and healthy environment;
Ensure our Uniformed Services are fully staffed, so that services are routinely provided, with reduced reliance on overtime pay and the promotion of well-being for those who give service to our Island;
● Provide clerical support to our Uniformed Services so that they are free to concentrate on their important core tasks and not be bogged down by non-critical duties; and
Provide on-call mental health and social workers to support the police in responding to non-criminal calls to provide de-escalation or crisis assistance
Moving forward, he said: “The OBA believes that strong preventative and rehabilitation programmes are important in maintaining safe communities, to provide ongoing support to victims’ families, to support and guide at-risk youth and to give offenders a second chance.
“Tacit support also should be given to the formation of a Police Authority. After all, we all should support the Police with greater community involvement.
“We also should support the BPS by building more confidence and trust in the organization; we commend the BPS for its stance in addressing standards of professional behaviour.
“Having said that though, it is disappointing that the Government has not mentioned the Police Complaints Authority in the Throne Speech. This body is important for public trust and public engagement. Its work should be supported and highlighted,” he added.
“Community policing is critical for the BPS. We should support the Commissioner of Police and the entire Bermuda Police Service in their efforts to enhance community engagement and involvement.”
On that note, Mr Simons concluded: “Too often the Bermuda Fire Rescue Services, Corrections and The Royal Bermuda Regiment are the forgotten children of National Security. This must end. We look forward to the Government sitting at the table with them and addressing their outstanding concerns.”