A pastor appointed as Bermuda’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator has had his contract renewed until 2020, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
Leroy Bean took up the job in October 2017 for 12 months and has just accepted an extension to his $92,000-a-year role.
Community activists yesterday praised Mr Bean and his efforts, but one claimed his government post was unnecessary and another questioned the budget available to allow him to work in an effective way.
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said: “Pastor Bean is an integral component in our efforts to stem the tide of antisocial behaviour in Bermuda.
“As such, I offered to extend his contract for a further two years, which he accepted.
“Pastor Bean’s compensation was not changed and is available in the public domain.”
Desmond Crockwell, an anti-violence campaigner, said yesterday that the national security ministry had “failed” and work to tackle gangs had been focused in the wrong direction.
Mr Crockwell added: “I think Pastor Bean is a good man, and one of the most knowledgeable people in the fight against gang-type behaviour and lifestyles, but he should never have gotten involved with the government position.”
Mr Crockwell, the director of Youthvision Promotions, said: “In my opinion, the Ministry of National Security got it wrong.
“I believe that they focused on the wrong aspect of gang-type behaviour and activities. I believe that they focused on the social rehabilitation of the individual, which many programmes are currently doing.”
He added: “The Ministry of National Security has not, to date, put a piece of legislation or law forward to directly combat the gang-type activity. This is where they are going wrong.
“The nation does not feel secure, so the Ministry of National Security has failed in that aspect.”
Mr Crockwell claimed Mr Bean was a good “relationship builder” and suited to “social rehabilitation or social development” where he could have a greater impact.
He said: “I believe Pastor Bean would rather stay out of the spotlight, but Minister Caines likes the spotlight and the responsibility of being a public figure and when they first started working together, I believe Pastor Bean was in the spotlight more than he would have liked to have been.”
Mr Crockwell added that the gang co-ordinator’s position was not needed.
He explained: “I believe the position was a sign that the ministry needed help with the gang-type activities, so it looked like a desperate move, so no, I do not think the position is necessary.
“I also believe that it was a position to ease the minister up so he could focus on the bitcoin area of interest, but now he has been relieved of that responsibility, he can focus more on the national security job at hand and ease Pastor Bean up.”
Mr Crockwell said there should be a bigger police presence and better surveillance at identified troublespots.
He added: “I strongly believe that we need the Royal Bermuda Regiment to be a support organisation for the police.
“We need a local anti-gang force, which can be made up of skilled police and Bermuda Regiment soldiers.”
Although there appeared to be a “lull” in gang violence earlier this year, recent months have seen violence return to the streets.
A man was shot dead on Court Street in July and another died of stab wounds after a brawl erupted outside Southampton Rangers Sports Club.
Police recently appealed for witnesses to four firearms incidents in a mile-and-a-half radius in the central parishes between September 20 and October 21, which left a man injured.
Mr Caines earlier told The Royal Gazette that Mr Bean was “in the midst of the storm” every day and could have more than 260 meetings a month with people affected by gang violence.
Gina Spence, a community activist, said she had worked with Mr Bean and that he had “put in some good efforts”.
She added: “I don’t know what sort of budget they’re going to give him to work with this year and what resources — that would be my main concern.
“In order to have the impact that I know he desires you need money, you need resources, you need specialised people and so I would be interested in seeing what resources and funding he’s given.”
Ms Spence said that Mr Bean had the grassroots connections needed to reduce gang violence, but that the role was a “big responsibility”.
She added: “I don’t like the title. To expect one individual to reduce gang violence to me is crazy.”
The Government did not respond to a request for details on the team’s budget by press time but it was understood to be regarded as sufficient for the work.
Mr Bean said last night he was unable to comment at this time. But Mr Caines responded that Mr Bean’s role was needed and a great deal of his work was carried out away from the public eye.
He said: “I believe that whenever there is a shooting in Bermuda the tensions rise in our community.
“What people do not see is the proverbial eye of the storm — the people that are meeting with the gang nominals, stakeholders, getting out of bed at one or two in the morning and going to gang locations.”
Mr Caines added: “When there are clandestine meetings to be had ... oftentimes the person at the fore of that is Pastor Bean.
“Sometimes there are things going on that the average person cannot see and does not understand.
“The person that’s dealing with the underbelly of this country is Pastor Leroy Bean and his team.”
The minister highlighted the importance of the community working together.
He said: “The Government will continue to look at long-term and short-term solutions to assist in balancing our society and ending the scourge that is gang violence in Bermuda.”