HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) — National Security Minister Michael Weeks says Bermuda is facing a "crisis" in gang violence, and "candid discussions" need to be held with stakeholders to resolve the problem.
Weeks added that the issue of violence "is the proverbial 800-pound elephant in the room that poses a threat to us all".
He claimed that approximately 1,000 people are actively involved in gangs across the island.
"I find it utterly unconscionable that around 1,000 people can cause this much disruption and devastation to a population of just over 60,000 people on a 21-square-mile island.
"We are losing too many young black men. This is an existential threat, and I want to know the whys and the whats — why are we losing these young men and what can be done to stop this crisis?" he questioned.
Weeks — addressing a two-day community workshop on gang violence and involving 100 stakeholders representing charities, government agencies and helping organisations — said he believes that it poses a grave threat to young people, the island's peace of mind, schools, societal expectations of normal behaviour, and the very fabric of the Bermudian culture.
"Colleagues, friends, make no mistake — this is a health and safety crisis and a matter of national security," Weeks warned, noting that the problem can only be solved by community action.
"Before we immerse ourselves into this day, let me first state that no one person, entity, or agency is to blame for today's crisis. You may have heard me publicly state over and over that this problem is a community problem — not a police problem. I meant it then, and I mean it now.
"The sooner each of us on the island comes to terms with this concept, the faster we will solve this issue," Weeks reasoned, adding that while he has been national security minister for only five months, it feels like five years.
"During this time the country has seen numerous incidents of physical violence, domestic violence, stabbings, shootings and murders.
"This issue is personally heart-wrenching. I constantly receive frantic phone calls from worried parents fearful for their sons who are involved in or affected by the violence in some way, and I have the unpleasant task of offering sympathies to murder victims' families when tragedy strikes.
"I also find myself consoling and giving counsel to those who have been impacted by physical violence, and guiding them to agencies that can help," the security minister shared.