It is certainly not too late for us to recover our Bermuda, to take it back to the place it once was. The issue is that we need to act to change things and get back on course. We can no longer sit idly by as our island deteriorates any further as we are getting too close to losing our grip on the incredibly place that our island could be. We need to put aside our differences and work together to develop ideas and strategies that can hopefully put our island back on the right track.
While some may be wildly surprised by these recent acts of extreme violence, unfortunately this has been an expected turn of events for quite some time. It is a natural progression of the current state of our economy and social system, the product of having a large unskilled and poorly educated proportion of our workforce. With the local recession, the erosion of jobs and the ever increasing divide between rich and poor it was simply a matter of time before things got worse and unfortunately still will.
In the heat of the moment we’re left feeling like we need to react swiftly to these kinds of events by cracking down on offenders. We sometimes forget that this isn’t a new issue and is one which has been brewing for quite some time. Cracking down and increased penalties can do much to make us feel like we’re accomplishing great things but in the end we’re simply putting a band aid over the problem when what we really need is to cure the infection. Quite simply in our present economic and social climate we are facing an abundance of new people willing to step up and get involved in this kind of crime, for each one we imprison another waits to step into his/her shoes. Thus would we gain more in the long run through a focus the bulk of our energies on coming up with proactive strategies that can address the root of our problems rather than reactive quick fixes?
A number of things have been presented lately as ideas worth trying and they are not only worth being rebroadcast here, but certainly anywhere and everywhere they can be heard.
- Parish constables – Bring back the concept of parish constables responsible for relations within a certain area or parish. Their duties would specifically include regularly patrolling the area on foot, going door to door for community presence and feedback as well as assisting in the creation and organization of neighbourhood watch groups and other means to promote increased community involvement in policing. The core task for each parish constable would be to work to develop a relationship with their community and act as a liaison between it and the greater police force.
- Zero tolerance to crime from known gang associated individuals – The Bermuda Sun recently highlighted efforts of Birmingham in the UK to tackle gang activity. Namely it involved a crack down on known offenders and gang activity by stepping up the pursuit of every possible offense by suspected gang individuals in order to get them off the streets and hammer into them that crime will not be tolerated. The article notes that the local police force is investigating this as a possible solution and hopefully they continue to do so and even get expedited support to follow through.
- Ceasefire, getting early offenders back on the right path – Proposed numerous times by the Royal Gazette, the CeaseFire program compiles cases against new offenders but puts them on hold based upon a community intervention and non-public probation as a means to put them on notice and hopefully encourage them to stay away from the path they’re walking down. Government should assist the police force with any legislation and resources necessary to implement this program.
- Attack gang profitability – Very simply, guns aren’t cheap. Many people have risen of late to suggest their belief that the drug trade fuels gang profitability and enables gangs to sustain themselves and afford these rather risky acts. As per various individuals calls we need an open, non-partisan and proper debate on our drug laws to determine if there is a means that we can take to reduce profitability through alternatives to the ‘war on drugs’.
- Promote positive role models – Our single parent society has left many without positive role models and we’ve done little to attempt to boost the visibility of those worth modeling. We need to significantly step up visibility of positive role models and encourage their involvement in promoting that success is possible via traditional routes. We need to document and promote the stories of people that have achieved success from the very same situations that face may of our youth. We need to put them everywhere we can that they’ll reach an audience. On buses, bus shelters, park benches, grocery carts, grocery bags, milk cartons, elevators. Anywhere and everywhere that people may be that we can catch their attention we need to promote that it is possible to achieve success and even the first steps to take or who to call to get help.
- Tackle the visible divide between the haves and the have-not’s – Everywhere you look the divide between the rich and the poor has grown larger and larger. We haven’t helped things by allowing large fancy SUVs, hummers, BMWs, Mercedes and other means to flash wealth and accentuate the divide. Can we move to reduce these kinds of displays of extravagant wealth by repealing the larger cars acts and increasing taxes on luxury goods to reduce opulence?
- Rising tide programs – It is said that a rising tide lifts all boats. We too need a rising tide amongst our people. Too many people don’t even have the very basic things you need to find a job such as a bank account, an id card, a phone, basic reading/writing skills. As much as we can talk about fixing education that is a long term solution. People who are poorly educated with limited options and a limited vision or comprehension of how to see their way out of poverty will chose the most viable option: crime and gangs. Can we institute "Rising tide" social programs that focuses on raising the skills of all people, starting with those at the bottom and the most basic of skills to survive?
- Job stimulus – The downturn in construction, tourism and even international business has eliminated jobs turning more towards crime and gangs. Can we institute programs to boost jobs such that people are less inclined to turn towards crime? Can we repeal tax hikes to boost job growth at a time when it’s most needed and start looking at how we can reduce unnecessary spending (government car sharing for example).
Are there other things we can be doing? Of course. If you have ideas, share them, tell people, hopefully those with the ability to make a difference are listening because it is at this time that we need them to listen most. Let us hope that we have reached a turning point in the downfall of our society and that together all Bermudians, permanent residents and guest workers put aside any differences we may have to focus on turning Bermuda back into the incredible and safe place it is meant to be.