New approach called for in tackling gangs

An anti-violence campaigner has called for a fresh approach to combat gang culture.

Desmond Crockwell, chief editor of anti-violence magazine Visionz, said the Government had to do more to beat gun violence.

He added: “I believe they are not utilising the resources that they have access to in an effective manner.

“I believe that they now know that the epidemic is larger than they thought it was initially and is spreading faster than they thought it would.”

Mr Crockwell said: “There are a lot of valuable resources in Bermuda that can help reshape the way our violent young think.”

He was speaking yesterday after the island’s latest murder.

Ronniko Burchall, 30, was shot and seriously injured as he stood outside St David’s County Cricket Club in the early hours of Saturday morning and died in hospital on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Crockwell said that his response to the shooting was “one of frustration, hurt and disappointment”.

He added: “I think the feeling is the same among many.”

Mr Crockwell said the idea that members of the public should “all work with government” was a problem.

He explained: “One must understand that this is a full-time commitment — and one cannot volunteer full time.

“The current government has made it clear that the funds are not available to build a major full-time infrastructure, which should include many anti-violence professionals and experienced community workers.

“Therefore, it makes more sense for us to work individually and do what we can in the areas that we have an impact in, and collaborate as often as we can.”

Mr Crockwell maintained the answer to violence was “not a one-man, one-ministry solution”, and that nine gang reduction professionals were needed — one for each parish.

He said: “I don’t think our community would have a problem with the funds that are put up, as long as we see tangible results and evidence.”

Mr Crockwell added that other organisations should be provided with additional resources.

He said: “It is no coincidence that when funding became less available to these organisations, the epidemic started to spread out of control.”

Mr Burchall’s murder was the latest in a string of gun incidents in recent weeks.

Paul Johnson, 33, was shot dead on Rambling Lane, Pembroke, on December 10.

A 21-year-old man was later arrested in connection with the incident.

Mr Crockwell said that people had to show that they cared about the young people involved in the violence.

He added: “We must speak life to our young people. Words are powerful.”

Mr Crockwell said: “Many Bermudians can spread a story without a second thought, and criticise a person, family or situation in a heartbeat.

“But they are not so quick to physically assist a person in need.

“In the end, the community raised our children and will continue to raise our children, so we do and can have an impact on their lives.”

Gina Spence, a community activist and founder of Gina Spence Productions, said that violence has become a part of Bermuda’s culture.

She added: “This level of antisocial behaviour has been a couple of decades in the making, and in my opinion there is no quick fix.”

She said that gun violence appeared to have become an accepted part of life.

Ms Spence added: “I believe this has also fed into the lack of overall community response.”

She said that the rise of gun violence in Bermuda should have been met with a national response similar to a state of emergency.

Ms Spence explained: “I say emergency because the violence is impacting families across the island.

“Ironically, we used terms such as crisis when describing the loss of life from road traffic accidents, but will not use such terms when our young men are killed in an alarming upsurge in gang violence.

“The sad thing is that we trot out the same responses in the wake of more than 35 murders.”

She said that the recent spate of shootings had happened in residential areas, near where families live.

Ms Spence highlighted that government statistics showed there were 400 youngsters at risk of gang involvement.

But Ms Spence questioned whether enough was done to prevent young people from destructive gang culture.

“Only time will tell.”

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