It was another dark day on a sunshine paradise, as Bermuda woke again to the news of a young life lost.
The death of 25-year-old Danshun Swann moved the island’s national security minister to work harder for harmony — and he has now called on the public to “rise up” and help.
Wayne Caines said that policing alone will not rid the country of a gang culture and asked the public to play its part.
He spoke to The Royal Gazette in the days after Mr Swann was fatally stabbed outside Southampton Rangers Sports Club during a fight between more than 20 men.
Joined by Leroy Bean, the Government’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator, Mr Caines said: “This community must rise up together and say that we’re going to solve this problem.”
He continued: “We cannot see another man die, to be anaesthetised to the pain of that mother.
“Pastor Bean and I sat in the house with Danshun’s mother and it was an experience that, when I left that house, I was reminded why I’m here.
“I sat in this house with my heart heavy, listening to a mother talk about the death of her son, his sister crying in another room next to me, the stench of death permeating through that house.
“That’s what motivates Pastor Bean and I to continue to work for this community.
“When I was in that room, I knew that I had to do more, I knew that we had to focus harder because that’s what seeing death like that in this country does.
“We’re not divorced from it; we live in these communities and that’s what motivates us, knowing that we have a responsibility in our community, that we live among the people and that we are better together than we are separated.”
Mr Caines added: “It’s very easy to be on a chat group on Facebook or on a blog and say what we need to do, but I defy anybody to say that talking about a solution will change it.
“We have to all now get in the trenches and try to solve this problem.”
He said Mr Bean’s team was “in the midst of the storm” every day and can have more than 260 meetings a month with those affected.
Mr Caines added these ranged from “a general check-in” to de-escalating tensions, mediation or the offer of coping mechanisms.
The Progressive Labour Party minister explained: “When people want to leave Bermuda, when they want to get counselling, when they’re having a problem in their neighbourhood, when there’s a dispute between gang nominals or gang operatives, very discreetly our team are handling a myriad of methods.”
He said: “Those are the things that the public do not see and do not understand.
“We cannot thump our chests and say, ‘this is what we did last night’, but the public has to rest assured that we are constantly moving to make this thing work better.”
It has been estimated around 500 of Bermuda’s schoolchildren are at risk of being drawn into gang life.
Schemes like the Gang Resistance Education And Training programme as well as police projects that link in to sports clubs aim to help young people avoid the gang lifestyle.
Team StreetSafe workers also play a role in easing tensions and community groups like Mothers on a Mission offer forums to express grief and access to trained counsellors.
Mr Caines highlighted a “direct correlation” between lack of opportunity and antisocial behaviour.
He said the 100 Jobs programme, which ran earlier this year, secured 72 long-term posts for Bermudians.
Mr Caines added a motor mechanics programme at Westgate Correctional Facility will equip offenders with useful trade skills, while some inmates are on yoga programmes.
The Devonshire North West MP admitted budget constraints meant there were not “enough soldiers” and called for “more community buy-in”.
Mr Caines said: “You do not have to be a gang interventionist. You can be somebody that mentors, you can be somebody that cuddles.
“You can be somebody that goes in our community and joins one of our peace-builders programmes. You can be a person that goes to your football club and, a young man at your team, his mom and dad are not coming, you can take them home with you for Saturday dinner.”
He added that the island’s churches “need to become havens where young people can feel safe” and it was important to highlight programmes already under way in houses of worship.
Mr Swann’s death came just a month after Taylor Grier, 30, was shot dead at the junction of Hamilton’s Court Street and Elliot Street on July 27.
Candlelit vigils held in the wake of each of the recent tragedies shed light on the depth of emotion among the public.
Mr Caines said: “All hope is not lost. We’ve lost two lives in Bermuda and our hearts bleed with the mothers and all of those families.
“What we are saying is that we have a plan. It is a long-term plan and we’re going to continue to work the plan.”