Release of gang statistics questioned

A kneejerk reaction to criticism by community activists sparked a government update on work to combat gangs, an anti-violence campaigner claimed yesterday.

Desmond Crockwell, chief editor of anti-violence magazine Visionz, said that the decision by Wayne Caines, the national security minister, to highlight progress only days after a man was shot and killed outside a sports club, was questionable.

Mr Crockwell added: “There was a young man who was just laid to rest.

“Is this something that they should be bragging about now? Will you take these stats to the young man’s family at this time? I think not.”

He added that regular updates should be provided “instead of responding just for the sake of looking good”.

Mr Crockwell said: “I believe this was a kneejerk reaction and response to many of the concerns that many of the community members are having.”

He was speaking after he and fellow activist Gina Spence called for a fresh approach to the problem of gang violence in the wake of the murder of Ronniko Burchall, 30, on December 29.

Mr Caines released the update on January 6.

Mr Crockwell said: “It would be wise of them to have regular press releases to inform the public of progress. This is a community epidemic and concern, as opposed to responding only when The Royal Gazette puts pressure on them by interviewing concerned community workers and members.”

Mr Caines emphasised in last Sunday’s statement that he welcomed the opinions of community activists.

He added: “They do not have access to the overall ministerial plan, which includes the gang violence strategy, key goals, objectives, deliverables, and the matrix of accountability for the Gang Violence Reduction Team.”

Mr Crockwell questioned if the plan had considered the efforts of community workers.

He asked: “What happened to the peacebuilders initiative? Should the community not know about that plan?

“The anti-violence campaign in the schools, should the community not know about that plan?

“The distribution of confiscated assets that were used to assist many of the community-focused organisations, should the community not know about these things?”

Mr Crockwell added: “Do Martha Dismont, Gina Spence, Antonio Belvedere, Lynwood Richardson of any other community workers get mentioned in these successful statistics?

“If no one else has had an impact but the ministry, then 1,000 per cent kudos to them but I would assume otherwise.”

The weekend highlighted figures that showed gun crimes had dropped by nearly 45 per cent in 2018.

The statistics showed there were three firearms-related deaths or injuries last year, down from nine in 2017 and 14 in 2016.

The Government said there were 27 incidents last year which involved a firearm, were believed to involve a firearm, or where a firearm was recovered.

The figure for 2017 was 49, and in 2016 it was 82.

Serious assaults also showed a drop to 32 last year, down from 37 in 2017 and 46 in 2016.

Arrests for violent crime totalled 24 in 2018, up from 22 in each of the two previous years.

The Bermuda Police Service declined to say if they had provided the figures and referred questions to the Department of Communications as the statistics were released by the Ministry of National Security.

Mr Crockwell also called for the Royal Bermuda Regiment to be given a bigger role in the battle against gangs.

He said: “In my opinion we need a national defence force that is designated to combating gang violence.”

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