In light of one of the recent videos making its rounds on social media where an unsuspecting Barritt’s employee was pounced upon by youths on Court Street, Minister of National Security, Senator Jeff Baron, visited the North Hamilton area yesterday morning.
“I spent about 45 minutes in the same area of the attack. I spoke to several young men about the incident and violence in general. This is nothing new. It's a central part of my role in this community. My visit there this morning (Wednesday) is only newsworthy because it's seemingly viewed as some audacious act by me to stand, listen, talk and challenge young men on what they perceive to be their turf. I was there over a week ago. Same spot. Different conversation. Let's not make my presence on Court Street today some novelty.”
And how did they react to Senator Baron?
“Their reactions varied - just like the reaction I get when I walk into the Yacht Club. Some are happy to see me, some are confused by my presence and some avoid me altogether. I'm expecting more conversations in the near future with them on other matters that they thought I might be able to help them with. So, I'm certain they listened and I consider that time well spent.”
When asked what was his reaction to the video, in which a youth who was filming from the second floor of a residence could be heard cheering on the perpetrators and proclaiming, ‘My gang. My gang’, the Security Minister said: “It's not just what we see - it's what we hear as well. The laughter, the encouragement, the coaching of these young men who continued attacking the victim. I'm bothered by it. It's wrong.”
Addressing the claim that there is a sentiment that the Government is not doing enough to quell such anti-social behaviour, Mr. Baron responded: “Many see these videos and rightly question where we are as a country. However, the idea that living in a crime-free society is solely up to any government is short-sighted and doesn't fit with who we are as a community.
“My first priority as the Minister of National Security is ensuring the safety of our people. That is why the dual investment in our social agencies and our law enforcement community has been significantly enhanced this year.”
He continued, the community should not be afraid: “We can move beyond fear - and have come a long way from five years ago - by engaging the community and empowering each other to be parts of the solution. Public safety is not a spectator sport - we're all needed. The safer we continue to be, the safer we will feel.”
However, Today In Bermuda pointed out that many are afraid to speak up when they have information which can be vital to Police investigations.
“Crime Stoppers, social agencies, StreetSafe, Court Services and many other bodies assist people daily with this very issue, confidentially. However, we have seen over recent times that more and more members of our community are speaking out, going to court, demanding the violence stops. This momentum is critical and we will do all we can to help fan this flame of public safety and collective responsibility.”
Mr. Baron added that while the community is growing frustrated with the antics of these young men, he did not believe residents will resort to street justice.
“I’m confident that our public safety partners, which include many helping agencies and charities, will continue to instil confidence in our people so they don't feel the need to resort to such desperate and ineffective measures. There's a better way and most folks know this. To those who are sceptical: give these agencies a chance. Have faith.”
With the 35th America’s Cup just weeks away, Today In Bermuda asked Minister Baron if he believed the youth were a threat to arguably the most successful event to be hosted in Bermuda.
“These young men are a threat to themselves. And they threaten the peace and stability of their own families. Threats to our community and our people must always be viewed in the wider context - especially from my desk as Minister.
“When I'm eye-level with these angry, frustrated young men, as I was today, our community - not one single event or place in our community - was forefront in my heart and in my mind.”
And what does Minister Baron say to those who may think his visit to Court Street is a pre-election ploy?
“It's predictable as much as it is false. It simply doesn't bother me or deter me and I understand where the scepticism stems from: politics.”