Stop the violence: act or be acted upon

Bermuda has turned into a violent country. Statistically, that is what our homicide numbers are portraying us as. Our murder rate per capita is higher than Canada, Britain, and most countries in Europe.

Our ten-year average trend, dating back to 2011, is between four and five murders per year. There was a glimmer of hope in 2019 with zero homicides committed. However, the trend continued in 2020.

Some will argue Bermuda should not be compared with much bigger countries when it comes to crime statistics. Instead, we should be contrasted with, perhaps, the Caribbean islands to our south. However, no matter how you slice it, the number of murders in our island home over the past decade has been alarming, and this pandemic of violence does not get the attention it deserves.

Like how Americans have become desensitised to their mass murders, we are doing the same.

There has been much focus on the police service solving these crimes and not enough on preventing them from occurring in the first place. Work is going on behind the scenes, our social-work community is putting in lots of effort in achieving its goal of improving lives.

Married to someone who works in this field, I see the number of hours she puts in first-hand. There are also activists and volunteers who are working their butts off in the community, and there are government programmes such as Mirrors. However, the way we are going about things seems rather disjointed and is crying out for a national plan. This is not to say the relevant stakeholders do not have a strategy; the Bermuda community simply do not know what it is.

When coaching football at youth level a few years ago, I was somewhat taken aback when the coach of an opposing team relayed some of his parents could not travel to certain parts of the island to support their children. How could we as a community have let this happen? As the (vast) majority of our murders involve gang members, it would be beneficial to find out what causes people to get involved. In this way, any apparent reasoning could be clarified, the gaps identified and the trends should be communicated to the public.

Some of us have a preconceived belief that Bermuda should have harsher prison sentences for criminals to act as a deterrent. The Netherlands and Norway have some of the most lenient prison sentences in Europe. Yet, they have less than one murder per year being committed (0.59 and 0.40) for every 100,000 people.

What about thinking the Government should spend more money on sport? According to our present budget, we are spending about $190 per citizen. Not as much as the two previous countries mentioned, but higher than many other countries in Europe. Although our high cost of living would put the investment effect farther down the list.

What about inequality, bad or absent parenting, laziness, education? All could have an impact, but from the outsiders who are looking in, we can only assume and guess. Data is needed and the dots need to be connected to get broader community understanding, buy-in and support.

Gangs in Bermuda and the outcomes of it is not a youth, Black or “their” problem; this is a “whole of Bermuda” issue that we must deal with. Our environment on the island is part to blame for this behaviour and it will take a more concerted and holistic effort from all of us in the community to solve it.

I am confident we have the resources on island to reduce our serious crime, but we must treat it as a higher priority. We all can play a part, whether the call is for additional volunteers for Big Brothers, increasing business sponsorship of sports clubs and the arts, or being more conscious in strengthening the village in one’s own family. I am a firm believer that if we knew what our action or inaction may prevent or cause, we may act differently.

At the very least, the Bermuda community should be able to gain an understanding of three key things:

1, Why do our younger people join gangs

2, What are the short, mid and long-term plans to fix this

3, As parents, godparents, uncles, aunts, big brothers and sisters, local business owners, CEOs, sports and arts administrators, and every other Bermudian resident … what can we do to help

We need to act or be acted upon. It is time to invest more to obtain better outcomes.

Malcolm Raynor has worked in the telecommunications industry in Bermuda for more than 30 years. Benefiting from Cable & Wireless’ internal training and education programmes held in Bermuda, Barbados, St Lucia (The University of the West Indies), and the UK, he rose to the level as senior vice-president. An independent thinker possessing a moderate ideology, his opinions are influenced by principle, data and trends

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