Like many countries globally, Bermuda is confronted with changing behavioural patterns with many young people, especially in the area of gang activity that has claimed a number of lives through a disregard for law and order.
This behavioural pattern has been in the making for decades as the family structure has weakened. There has been an increase in antisocial conduct that threatens our stability.
Despite numerous programmes and community efforts to reverse a disturbing trend for all Bermudians, the grim reality is that not much will change without a big thrust to at least save the next generation. Government and community programmes aimed at trying to come to grips with a climate of behaviour that is unacceptable to any society will always face an uphill struggle as long as the family unit fails as the key learning centre for good values in life.
The invasion of illicit drugs, abuse of alcohol and other elements, including the worst excesses of cyberspace, have without a doubt affected what happens within the walls of the family home. This has made it a far greater challenge to reach young minds with values such as honesty, respect and truth. In fact, there have been reports that in some cases those charged with that responsibility have fallen victim to negative elements themselves. When that happens, the potential for a young mind to drift off course is very high.
In other words, as unpleasant as it may be, when parents themselves turn their backs on proper values, young minds become greater targets for evils lurking in the shadows.
Undetected, they are prone to exploding at little to no notice, with grave consequences for the community.
Everyone agrees it is a serious problem, but there are no clear solutions in sight, outside of some draconian measures by authorities to halt what seems an unending wave of violent incidents involving our young people.
The police know they have a challenging role in an atmosphere where too often people are reluctant to come forward with information out of fear for their safety, even after being assured of protection by authorities.
In a small society such as Bermuda, even holding a conversation on the subject of criminal violence can be sensitive when there is a reluctance to face up to truths.
Holding vigils in an effort to encourage more community participation to reduce such violence involving loss of life is always a positive step.
However, unless those most vulnerable can be reached, it is another case of preaching to the choir.
The drug underworld, even in Bermuda, in addition to gang activity, has always been considered a factor in deadly crimes over the years. In a tightly knit society, with the knowledge that criminals have deadly weapons, police are aware that self-preservation is a key reason for some to remain silent, rather than assist in a police investigation. The problem here is that violent crime will never be stamped out without the full community joining hands in declaring that enough is enough.
It surely is going to be a long, tough road ahead because the illegal drug world and gang activity on the island will not fade on its own overnight. Meanwhile, every family on this beautiful island, especially those with children, will be faced with the potential danger of having a loved one fall victim to such violence.
Every life is precious, and since we know even gang members were once babies, far more attention is needed in equipping young minds with values that make for good, law-abiding citizens. That is always easier said than done in any society.
The Government must focus more on the life quality of families, especially those struggling with financial hardship to a degree where there is little time for teaching values that make a difference. The Bermuda that most people have grown to love must never be allowed to drift to a place where civil order with respect and decency is held hostage by those who prefer to operate outside of the system.
Bermuda can win the battle against violent crime. While it will not be easy, the best place to start is with the family.
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