*Creative Commons photo by R0Ng
*Creative Commons photo by R0Ng

A cash for guns scheme is to get underway next month, Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley announced today.

The programme – run jointly with the independent Crime Stoppers group – will see cash rewards for information leading to the recovery of firearms or the arrest and prosecution of offenders.

Mr Dunkley said an advertising blitz for the scheme will kick off this month, emphasizing the independence and confidentiality of Crime Stoppers.

And later in the summer, a guns amnesty programme, where members of the public can turn over illegal firearms, will be launched.

Mr Dunkley said: “We must deploy every resource to rid our country of firearms.

“We expect to achieve some success.”

He added: “I think we should know that the police aren’t exactly sure of the number of guns on our streets. But we do know from trials and evidence that guns are passed around and have been used in several shootings.

“Imagine the impact if we take just one gun off the streets and reduce the pain and violence in our communities.”

And Mr Dunkley stressed: “Let me re-emphasise that Bermuda has a zero tolerance for illegal firearms and that policy remains unchanged.

“Together we can make Bermuda safer again and together we will make Bermuda safer again.”

Mr Dunkley said that the size of cash awards would depend on the quality of information supplied and be linked to the importance of any guns seized as a result of tip-offs.

He was reluctant to discuss exact amounts, but said the rewards would amount to “significant” sums of money.

And Mr Dunkley said the new initiatives would go hand-in-hand with a get-tough policy to plug the gaps that allow guns to slip into the country, mostly from the US.

New Crime Stoppers chairman Raphael Simons, a veteran police officer who left the force with the rank of Inspector and who now heads up the security and fraud unit at HSBC, said the organization was happy to cooperate with police.

He added that Crime Stoppers had received nearly 80 calls last year – half of the number the previous year – but added that reflected a fall in overall crime.

Mr Simons said the group had paid out $87,000 in rewards – and anonymous information forwarded to police had resulted in $70,000 worth of drugs being taken off the streets.

He added that anonymous tip-offs had not only dealt with murders, drugs and guns, but also immigration offences, the theft of electricity and cable services, as well as tax-dodging.

Mr Simons said: “I would always like more calls – I would like to think we are sitting in an idyllic setting and there is no crime, but there is crime.”