New National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief. *File photo
New National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief. *File photo
FRIDAY, APR. 8: A new generation of young thugs are fuelling the latest surge in gun violence, with increasingly reckless youths stepping into a “power vacuum” at the top of Bermuda’s gangs.

A string of high-profile gang members have been arrested or killed in the last 12 months. At least 30 others have fled the island to escape the increasingly dangerous lifestyle.

But police successes — including nine convictions for gun crimes — have had little impact on the grim and deadly drama playing out on the streets.

The island’s new National Security Minister, Wayne Perinchief, has warned that Bermuda is now dealing with a “second generation” of gang members — more reckless and ruthless than their predecessors.

He said: “The police have indicated that although several gang members have been incarcerated and some murdered, we are seeing what they believe as the movement into the ‘power vacuum’ of new younger members to take their place.”

He spoke out as anti-gang worker Pastor Leroy Bean warned that locking up the shooters is only a temporary fix.

Pastor Bean said new killers are being groomed every day.

He also warned that removing authority figures from the gang structure has led to a frightening loss of control on the streets.

Mr. Perinchief, a former police commissioner, conceded that Bermuda is now facing a new type of gang menace.

 He said: “The younger members who are taking over are also more reckless and ruthless because they are seeking power and upward movement within the gang hierarchy.

“Their motivation will be to make an impression on those members whom they wish to subordinate and to intimidate other gangs. Their actions are more indiscriminate.

“Certainly this second generation of gang members are worse than their predecessors, who would have had a relatively more ‘rational’ motivation, such as payback for a previous murder, taking over or protecting territory or capital.”

Pastor Bean, whose organization CARTEL works with young men involved in gangs, said police intervention meant the make-up of the island’s respective crews is now very different to 12 months ago.

He warned that despite the arrests and convictions, the gangs are still as strong as ever.

Pastor Bean said: “There are more people involved than everybody thinks. There are more guns out there than everybody thinks. The problem is of greater scope than they even dreamed.

“This is not something that is going to go away by locking everybody up.”

He commended the efforts of the police and Government to crack down on gangs. But he said the persistent shootings are evidence that enforcement alone is not enough.

He added: “Arrests have been made but in that time there are a lot of younger guys who have been recruited and they remain loyal to the cause. They have filled the gap.

“It is not just a few bad guys. We have a generation that is struggling with a certain type of psyche.

“Unless we deal with that psyche, unless we change that mindset, we will continue to see its manifestations on the streets.”

Pastor Bean said the response to the gang problem has been too focused on the punitive aspect.

He added: “Don’t misunderstand me, we need to catch and convict those responsible for these shootings. But all the emphasis has been on enforcement.

“We need to do more in terms of rehabilitation. Now we are addressing the symptoms but we are not dealing with the cause.”

Mr. Perinchief, who took over the National Security Ministry on Monday following Colonel David Burch’s resignation, said the immediate priority is to deal with the “wholesale murder” taking place.

He added: “The disproportionate degree of violence and the magnitude of its occurrence demands a very rapid and overwhelming response for the security forces to get on top of the problem.”

He accepted that authorities had to deal with the underlying issue, too.

He said: “The front-end response from the police and the Judiciary must be to stop the violence and its symptoms.

“The back-end response will be rehabilitation and prevention strategies.

“At the present the objective must be to stop the violence and get on top of the perpetrators.

“I agree with Pastor Bean and CARTEL when they express the hypothesis that we must deal with changing the psyche or mindset of an entire generation of our youth.

“That is the long-term strategy of this Government and the task at hand for our entire society.”

Mr. Perinchief said the Gang Task Force, the High Risk Adolescent Intervention Team, was created as part of a package of measures targeting that goal.