Training is to be given to “everyday men and women” who want to help tackle gang violence and antisocial behaviour, it was revealed yesterday.
Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, said more than 100 people had expressed an interest in the new Peace Builders programme, which will cover topics that include mental health, disaster management and what to do in a crisis.
Mr Caines said: “The aim is to deploy a cadre of citizens to support neighbourhoods, to reduce tensions in recognised hotspots and to provide a reassuring presence in the event of a crisis.
“We will take the concerned citizens, the corporate entities looking to give back, parents, friends, anyone willing to serve and train them in some basic skills.”
But anti-violence campaigner Desmond Crockwell warned that the ministry was focusing on the “wrong areas”.
Mr Crockwell said there already were groups to provide emotional support and called for more “hardcore” initiatives.
He added the ministry could make more of an impact through tougher border controls, prison legislation, whether it was rehabilitation or deterrence, and the deployment of the Royal Bermuda Regiment as a specialist force in some areas and at specific times.
Mr Crockwell, chief editor of anti-violence magazine Visionz, said: “This is not the worst decision, but I think they can do better. Definitely having emotional support is part of the solution but in my opinion the entity of National Security could focus in more concrete areas, especially policy.
“They need to rethink their strategy and realise the potential they have to make an impact if the focus is on the hardcore decision-making areas.
“Under their control, I think they can do a lot more if they focused on other areas and left the social and emotional support stuff to the groups that are already out there.”
But he added that the Ministry of National Security was just one part of the solution.
Mr Crockwell said: “We need the sports ministry to focus on sports clubs. The department of education can do more things to make our young people more conscious of the anti-violence initiatives or campaigns.”
He added that the family courts could also do more to assist “good fathers who actually want to be involved in their children’s lives”.
The Peace Builders programme will send teams to support neighbourhoods, reduce tensions and provide reassurance in the event of a crisis.
Mr Caines explained professionals, under the leadership of pastor Leroy Bean, the island’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator, will train participants to help support their community.
He added: “What does it look like? It looks like us having six or seven Peace Builders at the bus terminal at around 4.30pm when children get out of school. Helping not to police but to manage that area.
“It looks like if we have a major social event, they are dispersed all around the area, trained and ready to help.
“Now that we know some of our young people are having to walk from CedarBridge to the bus terminal in the afternoon, we see the Peace Builders being dispersed along Parsons Road ready to help.
“If there is a bike accident and everyone has gone down to the hospital, as we do, the Peace Builders will be trained to intervene and to help at key locations.”
He added that the initiative is an opportunity for “everyday men and women, a lot of people that are retired, a lot of people that don’t have much to do that want to get involved with a community initiative”.
Mr Caines said: “Race doesn’t matter, party affiliation doesn’t matter, age doesn’t matter. This is Bermuda helping Bermuda get through a difficult period.”
He explained that the programme was led by the Ministry of National Security with security companies Security Associates and Bermuda Security Group.
Mr Caines said: “This kind of public-private partnership is vital on how we move together as a country to tackle the issues of gun violence and gang-related and antisocial behaviour in Bermuda.”
He added that the ministry wanted to train 100 Peace Builders and that 119 people had expressed interest in the programme.
The first training session will be held at the Heritage Worship Centre on Dundonald Street on Saturday, January 20.
Mr Bean said the session would be the first of a three-part series that will cover mental health and gangs, mental health first aid and what to do during a crisis, disaster management, people’s roles at crime scenes and understanding grief.
He added: “The Peace Builders is a new, exciting initiative designed to educate, to equip and to empower our community.
“The general concept of this initiative is to have our island prepared and ready to overcome any crises we are faced with.
“A crisis can range from national disaster to antisocial behaviour or gang violence.”
He said: “The first step is to be trained and equipped to be an agent of change, be a Peace Builder.”
Anyone interested can sign up by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org