A leading community activist has urged the man heading Bermuda’s anti-gang efforts to unite all groups tackling the problem.
Gina Spence said yesterday that it was vital that Pastor Leroy Bean brought together the groups and organisations “who have been on the front lines and in the trenches”.
She was speaking a day after Mr Bean was appointed as Bermuda’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator.
Ms Spence, whose son-in-law James Lawes was shot dead on Court Street seven years ago, said Mr Bean was “more than qualified to do the job”.
She added: “He is highly respected, a great man of faith, and he has a great 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 for those who find themselves involved in gangs and antisocial behaviour.”
Ms Spence said Mr Bean had been a prominent figure after incidents of violence — including in hospital and at funerals — and had worked with both the family and friends of victims and young men in the community.
She added that Mr Bean was also involved in earlier efforts to bring gang members together for peace talks.
Mr Bean said after he was given the job by Wayne Caines, the Minister for National Security, that he hoped to see a more “comprehensive and holistic approach” to tackle the problem that “has plagued our country”.
Ms Spence said Mr Bean’s first move should be to meet people already tackling the issue “to have a clear understanding of the work that is already being done and having success”.
She added: “I believe he needs to empower these groups and organisations with support and resources to continue the work that they do.
“Too often we appoint people to leadership positions who are not connected at the grassroots level and those who have been doing the work in the trenches are not acknowledged, appreciated, or invited to be part of the national plan.”
Ms Spence said the time had come to put people first.
She added: “I believe Pastor Bean has the heart and compassion to do just that.
“He is going to need help and support from the entire community. I look forward to working with him and all who are really serious about making a change.”
Ms Spence said she had seen many people come and go since she started “on this long and difficult journey” working as a community activist ten years ago.
She added: “I look forward to a leader who is in it for the long haul and totally committed to doing the work required to break this cycle of gun violence and antisocial behaviour in Bermuda.”