April 5, 2021, Hamilton, Bermuda: Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. N. Cole Simons offers the following statement regarding the gang-related shooting in St. George’s on March 31, 2021.
“The recent shooting of a 22-year-old man last week in St. George’s amplifies the need for solutions for those who want to break the cycle and find a way out of gang crime and violence, because quite simply – the gang problem in Bermuda, is our problem-we all have a role to play. When a gang related shooting can take place in broad daylight in the middle of a busy city square, we must all have an attitude of zero tolerance.
While we are mandated to remain within our bubble to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, we must not do the same when it comes to managing gang violence. If we look around at those within our bubble or just beyond it, we may know someone who is caught up in the gang lifestyle or is benefitting from the proceeds of criminal activity. If so, I recommend that you reach out and encourage the people involved to make more productive choices, because gang members are not ‘those people’, they are our children, our grandchildren, our sons, daughters, our nieces, and nephews.
From what I have been told, many who find themselves in gangs are decent young men and women who are unable to provide for their families in traditional ways. Either their work skills do not fit into Bermuda’s business sectors or they are not qualified for the positions that are available. The frustration of being unemployed and the pressure to provide, often leads them down the road of criminal activity and even violence.
Families and government must work together to support and partner with each other to break this intergenerational cultural behavior. This could include, the development of new life skills, professional retraining, retooling through Workforce development, courses at Bermuda College, and online training for technology skills. The OBA is also recommending that the government provide the following:
- More programmes for young men to learn trades, so they can earn an honest living;
- The establishment of a halfway house or a safe-haven on one of our islands. for those in the gang fraternity who want to transition to more traditional lifestyles. There, they can receive training for life skills, protection, and redemption and rehabilitation programmes; and
- For students, who have been identified by teachers and counsellors as ‘at risk students’ -we must continue to provide support and programmes in the schools.”
As a community, we know how to support one another after hurricanes and other catastrophic events. Left unchecked, gang violence has the potential to not only impact us in the moment, but to be passed down as acceptable behaviour from one generation to the next. I am convinced that we can change the trajectory of the lives of these young people who want a way out of the gang life, if we work together and target one son or daughter at a time.”