Government gang views ‘oversimplified’

  • Ending gang violence: campaigner Desmond Crockwell feels Government view is simplistic (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Government’s view that a lack of education and economic opportunities is behind the island’s violence is an oversimplification, a leading anti-violence advocate said.

Desmond Crockwell, chief editor of anti-violence magazine Visionz, said a variety of factors led to violence.

He added: “To state which is the main factor is to suggest most convicts have the same story.

“In many cases a lack of love and/or guidance could be the main factor behind the anger.”

Mr Crockwell, however, did agree that education was a “huge factor” in helping to rebuild self-esteem and confidence, and could create opportunities for young people to leave a life of crime behind. But he said: “However, not all ‘at risk’ young persons are uneducated, and many successful people were and are uneducated, by book, but had the right people around them to help shape their lives.

“We have some smart criminals.”

Mr Crockwell was speaking after Government said that “poor educational attainment and the lack of economic opportunities are the main contributing factors to antisocial behaviour and violence” in its Throne Speech on Friday.

Mr Crockwell said the key to addressing the issue was relationship building.

He added: “I think our young people who are at risk need all of the support groups to aggressively engage them.”

In addition, the Throne Speech promised to “provide financial support to Bermudians who wish to break free from their dependence on gangs to return to school to learn a trade or achieve their GED”.

Mr Crockwell said it was a “good idea” — but added he believed that support systems and education opportunities should be created in identified at-risk areas.

He explained: “Set up structures in their neighbourhoods.

“Hire some of them to build, paint and maintain that establishment.

“This will indirectly have those who are not academically driven to help those who are academically driven.

“Everyone can play a part in the success of those who ‘make it out’.”

Like the Government’s election platform, the Throne Speech promised to appoint a gang violence reduction co-ordinator tasked with implementing programmes to reduce violence and antisocial behaviour. The speech said: “The co-ordinator will review the effectiveness of existing programmes while ensuring that social services are focused on dealing with the root causes of crime.”

Mr Crockwell said he was not entirely confident about the position.

He added: “To my knowledge, it will be under ‘one ministry’.

“Will they work with psychologists, schools, spiritual leaders, sports groups?

“If so, then one ministry shouldn’t be the one to appoint such a person.”

Mr Crockwell said the success of the co-ordinator would hinge on the involvement of other youth development professionals.

He added: “In order for it to work, everyone he or she works with must love the job they are doing and not be there for publicity or financial reward.”