Bermuda caught "flat-footed" on crime admits security minister

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Tuesday December 11, 2012 - National Security Wayne Perinchief has admitted government was caught “flat-footed” over a surge in crime since the last general election five years ago.

Asked to assess how the crime situation has changed since 2007, Perinchief was characteristically blunt, saying “it’s the escalation of gang violence and use of guns, which became topical in 2009.

“In 2010 when I took over here it was on the boil. We were getting one murder a month and a couple of shootings in between,” he told a news conference.

The ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) government has come under fire in the lead-up to next week’s general election from the main opposition One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) arguing that more could have been done to stem the tide of violence.

“We have been caught flat-footed. I would not even try to say that we anticipated anything like this. They are all looking in the rear view mirror now but with all due respect to people’s opinion, we have never been faced with anything like this,” Perinchief told reporters.

Since 2009 there have been more than 300 shootings, which left more than 70 people injured and 20 men dead.  Eleven of the cases remain unsolved, including that of Trinidadian Marcus Gibbings.

Gibbings, a popular 32-year-old communications firm worker, was stabbed to death in his apartment in Devonshire parish on October 26, 2006.

Perinchief defended the way he and the government responded to the gang and gun violence crisis.

“My strategy was to get the right legislative framework in place so that the police could take advantage of the resources that they had. They were a bit hamstrung to a certain degree by legislation that wasn’t quite adequate to face the gang problem.”

He said that controversial new stop-and-search powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which allow officers to stop vehicles and people entering a particular area if it is viewed as a hot spot, were “a godsend as far as policing was concerned” and have prevented criminals carrying weapons around the island.

He also hit back at criticisms that steps have not been implemented fast enough to introduce a US-style Operation Ceasefire, implemented in Boston in 1996, which uses a “carrot-and-stick” approach through law enforcement and community work to combat gangs.

He pointed out that government representatives visited Boston and New York to research the culture and causes of gangs.

He also had talks with opposition MPs Michael Dunkley and Kim Swan after they first suggested Operation Ceasefire and told them he was prepared to look at it.

“We can’t allow politics to be a barrier to us dealing with the issue,” he said. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)