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(PRESS RELEASE) – “The fact that we had zero crime related deaths in 2019, and the fact that there has been a decrease of violence in our community in 2019 is in part a result of our singular focus on implementing programmes to reduce gang violence and anti-social behaviour as well as the dedicated efforts of the Gang Violence Reduction Team (GVRT), who continue to make positive influences with our at-risk population,” said the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Wayne M. Caines JP, MP, following the recent announcement that 2019 was the first time in over 20 years that no homicides were recorded in Bermuda.
The start of 2020 greeted us with the welcome news that during 2019, Bermuda recorded no homicides. This is a testament of the hard work of all involved, particularly the Bermuda Police Service. So I take this opportunity to commend Police Commissioner Stephen Corbishley and the dedicated men and women of the Bermuda Police Service.
We have made significant progress in 10 years.
Ten years ago, Bermuda was facing a dire situation with multiple murders a year and rampant gang activity.
In fact, between 2009 and August 2017, Bermuda had recorded 34 murders. With Bermuda’s population of around 66,000 people and with a size of 21 square miles, that is a considerably high statistic.
During the height of our gun and gang violence era, we were facing a crisis.
Our court system was inundated and overwhelmed with criminal cases and it became common place to require personnel from our uniformed services to safeguard and protect our courts during high profile murder and assault cases.
It became common place for our hospital and prisons to be placed on lock-down to protect the staff and people inside of these institutions.
It became common place to see increased Police Officers on our streets. In some cases, some of these officers were armed.
These were unprecedented times for our Country.
Bermuda was facing international reputational risk as a result of ongoing gun and gang crime.
Our neighbourhoods were under siege.
Our people lived in fear.
Mothers were burying their sons.
Children were being left fatherless.
Families were being destroyed.
And Bermuda was losing a generation of young black males because of gun and gang violence.
Rightfully so, there was heightened unease and concern in our community.
Violence and anti-social behaviour had to be addressed. And our people demanded action.
So in late 2017, soon after becoming Government our Ministry of National Security introduced a multi-pronged plan to tackle gun and gang violence and anti-social behaviour.
We recognized that strong enforcement was a large part of the solution but we also knew that we could not police our way out of the crisis.
We had to fundamentally address the root causes of the violence and ongoing gang activity.
Solutions to these problems demanded a cohesive approach in education, in our homes and families, by our churches and in every institution playing a part in Bermudian life.
Addressing the impact of poor educational outcomes and income inequality had to form the foundation of our understanding and drive the work to find solutions.
So, we undertook to provide a singular focus on implementing programmes to reduce gang violence and anti-social behaviour.
We undertook to provide opportunities for young people looking for a pathway out of gangs including assistance with resuming educational pursuits or skills training.
We undertook to equip parents, teachers and community leaders with training in identifying at-risk young people and intervening and preventing them from being caught-up in a cycle of violence.
And most importantly, we undertook to engage and involve key individuals in our community to aid us in addressing and stemming the multi-generational non-addressed trauma and the violence it causes.
Ultimately, we ended up creating a structure around programme development, project management, case management and emergency response to incidents.
And this structure included the Gang Violence Reduction Team which over the last two years, has been instrumental in addressing the violence and tensions in our community.
Violence in our community is founded in systemic inequality and the solution could only be found with an all hands on deck community approach.
Our Ministry implemented a structured outreach to key members of our community.
This included members of the clergy and other faith leaders in the community. We connected with mothers who lost sons to violence. And we engaged private sector businesses who had a stake in Bermuda’s future.
We introduced unique community events such as the National Day of Prayer and the Live. Love. Life events, which were aimed to engage all sectors of our community.
These programmes involved our young people, our churches, our parents, our businesses and every entity that had a stake in Bermuda’s future.
These community focused initiatives sought to embrace, to heal and to bring our community together – regardless of background.
Now as we focus on 2020, our Ministry remains committed to introducing programmes aimed at reducing violence.
The work that the Gang Violence Reduction Team continues to do has resulted in great success.
Recently I shared with our community that there are a number of ongoing tactics and initiatives that the Gang Violence Reduction Team have employed to address our issues with anti-social behaviour.
We will continue this for the year ahead.
The Gang Violence Reduction Team Our team will continue to operate from a coordinated plan through a series of strategically designed prevention, intervention and rehabilitation programmes.
And their important work is bearing fruit.
We have seen our most rewarding results among our young people and in our school system, where our GVRT have been hard at work.
Last summer, we launched the Gang Violence Reduction Team’s Work Placement and Mentoring Initiative.
The pilot programme saw 15 local companies host 14 student employees for a six-week training programme.
The programme’s main objective was to help at-risk youth develop the people skills and personal insights needed to transition from adolescence and anti-social behaviour to a life of meaningful work through a work readiness program and work placement experience.
This programme provided these young people with mentoring and job coaching sessions, as well as social and emotional support.
At the conclusion of that programme, 13 of the 14 students were successful in staying away from anti-social behavior or criminal activity for the length of the programme.
Five of the students were subsequently hired on a part-time or full-time basis and an additional two students were offered summer jobs for 2020 season.
Within our public school system, the Gang Violence Reduction Team relaunched its work with the Administration and Student Services teams at our two senior schools, CedarBridge Academy and Berkeley Institute.
Alongside the Bermuda Police Service, the team provides much needed support services for at-risk students. The GVRT team visits the schools daily to help build positive relationships with our young people.
They also continue to provide various support services including Incident Management Support Services, Restorative Justice Sessions, and Daily Student Check-ins.
This year, the GVRT will be partnering with the Berkeley MILE Program and launching the My Ambition Program at CedarBridge Academy.
Another programme that has seen encouraging and positive results and which has been a priority of the Gang Violence Reduction Team is the Redemption Farm pilot programme.
Redemption Farm has been operational for around six months.
The programme has ten trainees and each of these participants has expressed their desire to redirect their life towards a pro social and productive path.
Redemption Farm trainees work Monday through Friday with each day comprising of either Personal Development Sessions, Life Skills Sessions, Job Readiness Workshops, Career Exposure Sessions or Farming Sessions.
As the programme grows and develops, GED classes will be fused into the sessions which are built into the Redemption Farm Training. Weekly evaluations are completed by the Redemption Farm Trainees and the GVRT.
The goal of the trainee evaluation is to help the trainees to understand the areas where they’re doing well or areas where they need to improve.
I’m pleased to note that Redemption Farm has proven to be a popular initiative with the trainees, with 98% of the participants attending on scheduled work days and training sessions.
Six trainees completed the GED assessment and have begun GED courses built into the Redemption Farm programme. One former trainee was connected to a Higher Education programme and subsequently left the Redemption Farm.
Another trainee left the programme after he was accepted into an apprentice training programme.
The current trainees will stay on the programme for another few weeks with the goal of seeing each of them transition into full-time education and employment opportunities.
So it bears repeating. Our Government is making great and substantive strides in curbing crime and anti-social behaviour.
The proven formula of strong policing, engaging community programmes and involved community partners all working together have resulted in a safer Bermuda.
And it is a proven successful strategy that we believe can work in any jurisdiction that is having challenges with violence and anti-social behaviour.
As a Country we must commend the Gang Violence Reduction Team for the outstanding work they have done.
I also wish to thank the Bermuda Police Service for their invaluable partnership and for their enforcement efforts aimed at combatting crime and violence in Bermuda.
And lastly, none of our success would be possible without the partnership and support of some of our private sector businesses who believe in the work that we are doing and of course to all of our community and social partners.
Thank you for all your hard work and support.
We know we still have much more work to do, so let’s continue working together to make Bermuda’s neighbourhoods and communities a safe place for all.
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