Pastor tasked with beating gang violence

Pastor Leroy Bean was announced yesterday as Bermuda’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator.

However, Jeff Baron, the former Minister of National Security, questioned the appointment and asked what had happened to Mr Bean’s predecessor in the role.

Mr Bean said he hoped to see a more “comprehensive and holistic approach” to tackle the problem that “has plagued our country”.

He added: “With the help of Bermuda, we can conquer this problem.

“And when I say Bermuda, I believe that each one of us plays a part in everything that will be done. It’s not one organisation or one party.”

Mr Bean brings personal experience to the position.

He explained: “I’ve had family members killed, I’ve had family members that have been shot.”

The pastor believes that helping the public understand the mindset of those involved in antisocial behaviour is one of the biggest challenges of the post.

He said: “Understanding the mindset equips us to better deal with the problem.”

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said the one-year contract would pay Mr Bean about $92,000.

Mr Caines added that Mr Bean brought 20 years of experience in working with gangs to the post and had also served as the residential care officer at the former Department of Social Services.

Mr Bean also has degrees in family and addiction counselling.

Mr Caines said: “Through his efforts, many young men have chosen better paths for their lives, and he will make an important addition to the ministry’s team.”

But Mr Baron said the appointment of Mr Bean had “caused some eye-rolling” within groups and organisations already working on violence reduction.

He added: “I’ll need to explore why they are reflexively concerned, as my time with Mr Bean has been cordial but far from in-depth on his value proposition in this space.”

Mr Baron also questioned what the appointment of Mr Bean would mean for Chae Powell, who took on the role in June.

Mr Baron asked: “Has he been removed? Demoted? Made redundant?

“The Government has been silent on this matter.”

A ministry spokeswoman said that Mr Powell “remains engaged” by the Ministry of National Security.

She added: “His contract was signed under the previous government. He remains a valuable member of the team referred to in the minister’s remarks earlier today.”

Desmond Crockwell, chief editor of anti-violence magazine Visionz, described Mr Bean as “one of the most, if not the most” knowledgeable person when it came to gang activity and formation on the island.

“I do know of a few persons that he has assisted with choosing a better path,” Mr Crockwell said.

However, Mr Crockwell emphasised that he believed the problem of gang violence will take more than one man — and one ministry — to solve.

He said: “We will need education, sports, family services, the bars and community clubs and organisations, youth-focused church and spiritual intervention groups, just to name a few, to get involved.”

Gina Spence, a prominent community activist, said Mr Bean is “more than qualified to do the job”.

She added: “He is highly respected, a great man of faith, and he has a relationship with the young men caught up in the gang culture behaviours.

“I believe he has had success in running his own programme and is respected throughout the community as an honest, humble and genuine pastor who has a heart for both the people and those who find themselves involved in gangs and antisocial behaviour.”

Mr Bean has been linked to controversy in the past.

A report by then Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews in 2012 revealed the Bermuda Land Development Company paid $160,000 in consultancy fees to its chairman, Edward Saunders, and deputy chairman, Mr Bean.

The report said the arrangement was “a fundamental conflict of interest” and added that Paula Cox, the Premier at the time, recommended the pair resign and pay back the money.

But that never happened and Ms Cox dissolved the entire BLDC board in May 2011.

Cartel, the anti-gang group headed by Mr Bean, was in 2010 awarded a 21-year-less-a-day lease of White’s Island for a “peppercorn” rent of $1 by former public works minister Derrick Burgess.

The lease was later declared void in Supreme Court.