Bermuda’s national security minister hit back at allegations of insensitivity after he released gun crime statistics just days after the island’s latest murder.
Wayne Caines said that “nothing could be farther from the truth”.
He added: “Any loss of life is significant and hurts our entire community.”
Mr Caines was speaking in a response to Desmond Crockwell, chief editor of anti-violence magazine Visionz, who criticised the timing of the release of the figures. Mr Crockwell said the release was “a kneejerk reaction and response” to a call from community activists the week before for a fresh approach to the battle against serious crime.
Mr Crockwell also questioned the timing of the release just days after the gun murder of Ronniko Burchall, 30, on December 29.
He said: “There was a young man who was just laid to rest. Is this something that they should be bragging about now? Will you take these stats to the young man’s family at this time? I think not.”
Mr Caines said that had met Mr Burchall’s family last weekend.
He added: “I shared the key statistics with them as well as other key pieces of information prior to the statistics and plan going public.”
Mr Caines said that he released the figures because some community leaders had questioned the Government’s approach to the fight against gang culture “in light of the most recent upswing in violence”.
He added: “We released key elements of the plan which included some statistics.”
Mr Crockwell also asked for more regular updates on the Government’s anti-gang work.
Mr Caines said three ministerial statements and three press releases had been released in the last eight months which contained “significant updates”.
Mr Caines added that ten public meetings had also been held, as well as a recent hour-long radio interview, and that a meeting had been held in July with several community leaders.
He told Mr Crockwell: “We shared our plans, we provided updates and gave the areas for growth and areas that we need support and improvement.
“You were invited, but for reasons unclear to me, you did not attend.”
Mr Crockwell said yesterday that he had met Mr Caines prior to the community leaders meeting and shared ideas for a youth talent show and a Day of Peace.
He said that Mr Caines said that the ministry could not help with the suggestions, and added: “They still used our ideas.”
He said that the community leaders meeting had left those who attended frustrated.
Mr Crockwell added: “That is why there has not been another community leaders meeting since last July.”
Mr Caines said that he appreciated Mr Crockwell’s work in the community. He added: “We value the role you are doing and want to work more closely with you and the other community activists to ensure our island is free from gang-and-gun-related violence.”
Mr Caines said: “My door is always open to you.”
The minister highlighted police statistics last weekend that showed gun crimes had dropped by almost 45 per cent in 2018.
The statistics showed there were three firearms-related deaths or injuries last year, down from nine in 2017 and 14 in 2016.
The Government said there were 27 incidents in 2018 which involved a firearm, were believed to involve a firearm, or where a firearm was recovered.
The figure for 2017 was 49, and in 2016 it was 82. Serious assaults also showed a drop to 32 last year, down from 37 in 2017 and 46 in 2016.
Arrests for violent crime totalled 24, up from 22 in each of the two previous years.