Tough measures aim to stem serious crime

Tough new measures to tackle dangerous offenders and parole violators are designed to send a strong message to the criminal fraternity.

This according to Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley who says the proposed laws will help law enforcement agencies do their job.

He told the Bermuda Sun that they represent the community’s attitude to gun and gang related crime.

The rules, which will be set down in the next session of the House of Assembly, will increase the time those convicted of serious crimes have to spend in custody before they are considered for parole.

And they will give police powers to arrest individuals for breaching their parole conditions.

Mr Dunkley said: “At present offenders have to serve a third of their sentence before they can apply for parole.

“We want to increase that to two thirds for specific offences like gun crime, gang violence and some sexual offences.

“We want to send a message that if your going to get involved in gangs and shootings you can expect to serve longer in prison.

“Furthermore this longer period of incarceration will actually mean offenders have more chance to enroll in rehabilitative courses in the prison which may not have been available if they had been released after serving a third of the sentence.” 

At present offenders who are seen breaching their parole conditions cannot be immediately arrested.

Instead law enforcement authorities have to go through a long drawn out process before any actions taken.

The new legislation will mean that police can arrest an individual the moment he breaks the terms of his parole.

Mr Dunkley added: “The authorities have to jump through hoops in order to get that person in for questioning.

“Whereas under the new rules is there are breaches they can be acted on straight away and dealt with. The community is looking for us to be serious about helping law enforcement agencies and that is what we are doing.”


Crime prevention schemes target teens

Two new schemes to prevent school children falling foul of the island’s gang culture will soon be up and running in Bermuda.

 

While teams of street-level mediators tasked with helping troubled neighbourhoods are beginning to make a difference, according to Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley.

Mr Dunkley told the Bermuda Sun that the Teen Peace initiative, which involves twice weekly afterschool programmes at five middle schools, had been launched just last week.

And the GREAT scheme, that will see four police officers visit middle schools and primary schools across the island to warn youngsters off gang involvement,  will begin ‘very shortly’.

Mr Dunkley said: ‘GREAT is modelled on the successful US model and will involve four specially trained police officers visiting and spending time in eight schools across the island.

“It’s an anti-gang education programme but it is also about building relationships in the community.

“The Teen Peace initiative involves after school classes on a Wednesday and a Thursday at five middles schools.

“The programme can accommodate up to 20 people and they will learn proper behaviours.

“It’s especially helpful as it takes place after school and so keeps the students in the secure setting of school at a time when their parents might not have returned home from work.”

Mr Dunkley hopes the programmes will help educate youngsters about the dangers of gangs as well as prevent them getting into trouble.

He says that other mediation efforts in the community have also started to bear fruit.

Mr Dunkley added: “Team Street Safe has only been running for a matter of weeks but they have been having a positive impact already.

“This small group of people go into the areas affected by gang violence and build bridges with the community.

“They not only try to change people’s lives but in the aftermath of a shooting incident they try to calm down any attempts at retaliation.

“They have already done some good work and I expect it to continue.”