Police: Gun crime is now rising at a ‘substantial rate’

Eleven arrests were made for murder and 15 for firearms offences in the first three months of 2010.

Meanwhile the rate of people being murdered or injured from guns is increasing at a “substantial rate” according to Police.

During 2009 four people were murdered and 13 injured as a result of firearms. In just the first 90 days of 2010 two people were murdered and eight people injured. To combat the rising tide in violence Police are using their powers to stop and search more frequently — which has led to an increase in the number of arrests.

Despite this, no one has been charged with murder this year and just two men have been charged with a firearm offence during the first quarter.

Former gang member Jahma Gibbons believes having a forensic team on the Island could help Police charge individuals with gun crimes; Opposition Senator Michael Dunkley said he was happy Police had grown tougher on crime but hoped Government would address the root of the problem.

Yesterday, Police released their quarterly bulletin of statistics. It revealed that while overall crime was down, firearm and anti-social behaviour offences were at a ten-year high.

“There were 19 confirmed firearm incidents resulting in two fatalities and eight injuries,” said Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva. “There were also 35 unconfirmed firearm incidents in the first quarter of 2010.

“Although the most serious figures are those relating to the number of incidents where persons have been shot has increased, there has also been a large increase in gunshots heard. This increase in reporting gunshots may be as a result of heightened concerns by the public who are reporting any sound similar to a gunshot, as much as actual firearm discharges.

“The long-term trend of firearm incidents is increasing, and at a substantial rate.”

Offences involving other weapons have decreased —from 29 between October and December last year to 16 between January and March this year. Mr. DeSilva said that overall arrests now average 100 a week — a 40 percent increase compared to last year.  He said that new legislation allowing officers to conduct random searches has resulted in 1,028 people being searched by Police between January and March.  The community has been slow in responding to Police calls for evidence on recent shootings. Yesterday Police reiterated their appeal for witnesses to come forward to help solve crime.

Former gang member Jahma Gibbons said the lack of response is indicative of the need for a forensic team to be located here.  He has previously said the lifestyle Bermuda’s gun victims participated in resulted in them being targeted.  Mr. Gibbons, who now works for the Bermuda Post Office, once earned $10,000 a day as a heroin dealer.

He consistently beat people up who owed him as little as two dollars.

“The Police are doing good but they could do better,” he said yesterday. “Gun crimes are new to them too and they are not used to dealing with it. They could do a better job by bringing forensics on the Island. At the moment forensic experts have to be flown to Bermuda, or forensics have to be sent abroad.

“It can take days for an expert to get here and by that time the crime scene has been contaminated. Bermuda Police can only keep a suspect for 72 hours, by the time forensic experts come here or forensic tests are done the suspect has been released and could have fled the Island.

“The Police are looking to the community to speak, and I think the community should speak, but the forensics speak too. And I think it would help the Police a lot to have them on the Island. “Bermuda’s crimes have evolved and we cannot wait any longer for forensics to be done abroad.”

Sen. Dunkley said he too believed Police were doing a good job.

“Particularly as they were not being supported for a long time,” he said. “They now have the support and are getting tough on crime. The United Bermuda Party has always said ‘get tough on crime’; it was part of our platform in the last election. But we also think you need to look at the root of the problem, there needs to be a carrot and a stick approach. That is why we think Operation Ceasefire would work well.

“We are seeing more and more anti-social behaviour and you can go on and on arresting people but that is not addressing the root causes such as the poor education system.”

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