Operation Ceasefire cancelled
Bermuda’s contract with an American-based organisation designed to fight gang violence has been axed, it was revealed yesterday.
Allesandro Nardi, of the National Network for Safe Communities at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, confirmed the Government had cut short the Operation Ceasefire programme.
Mr Nardi said: “We regret that we are no longer working with Bermuda on preventing serious violence and would be eager to return to the partnership should circumstances change.”
The statement came after a number of questions were sent to David Kennedy, director of the NNSC.
Mr Kennedy was asked when the contract was scrapped and the reasons for the early end to the collaboration.
Mr Nardi said: “You probably want to refer those to the Ministry of National Security.”
Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
But Jeff Baron, the One Bermuda Alliance national security spokesman, said he was “stunned” to hear that the contract had been scrapped.
He said: “As the minister — particularly in a party that prides itself of transparency, engagement and consultation — I’m flabbergasted that not one of his staff or his cabinet has mentioned a thing about a termination of this.”
Mr Baron said the termination showed “a complete about face” by Government.
He added: “This is something that they campaigned on, this is something that they banged on about, and even as the Government had made pledges to advance.”
The NNSC’s Group Violence Intervention, first developed as Operation Ceasefire, has been used to combat gun and gang-related crime in US cities including Boston and Chicago and has won several awards.
The programme started in Bermuda last year.
The two-year deal between NNSC and the Bermuda Government, which was scheduled to end in the first half of next year, cost about $370,000.
The price tag included the design and set-up of the plan, training and workshops.
The introduction of Operation Ceasefire to Bermuda was first considered almost a decade ago after a sharp spike in gun deaths which started in 2009.
Mr Baron said earlier this week that he had learnt of the termination through “various senior staff within public safety” two months ago.
Mr Baron said that all the indications he had received had suggested that the contract would be continued by Mr Caines. But he added: “It seemed very quickly after Leroy Bean had been appointed that there were a lot of internal changes.
“How much, and to what extent, I don’t know.”
Mr Baron said he had not spoken to Mr Caines about the cancellation of the contract.
Mr Caines discussed Operation Ceasefire in a ministerial statement in the House of Assembly last November. He said MPs would “recall the subsisting relationship with the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College”.
Mr Caines added: “I can advise this honourable House that as part of this arrangement, NNSC staff conducted a site visit to Bermuda over October 3 to 4 to complete a two-part problem analysis with law enforcement partners.
“The goal of this exercise was to capture frontline law enforcement intelligence which is critical to understanding the violence dynamics on the island.”
Mr Caines said the “review and implementation” of Operation Ceasefire was one of a number of strategies that the Violence Reduction Team “is currently readying for roll out to the public”.
Walter Roban, then the Progressive Labour Party national security spokesman, said in March last year that “a PLP government would not just fully support the implementation of Operation Ceasefire, but ensure key indicators are established to measure its success and allow tailoring for our unique circumstances.”
Mr Baron said he was concerned that there was “no legitimate plan in place” to address the gap created by the end of Operation Ceasefire. He added: “It is wrong to take an ongoing successful strategy that was gaining momentum here in Bermuda — both from a social perspective and a law enforcement perspective — and terminate it and still, months after this termination, not inform the public.
“The silence of this is just a little bit concerning.”
Mr Baron said that Operation Ceasefire should have been a five to ten-year strategy. He added: “You don’t roll it out and then just say ‘we tried that’.
“This is a massive change in how we are looking at young men who are involved in gangs, who are at risk of being involved in gangs, who have frankly suffered tremendous trauma in their lives. And that’s been overlooked completely.”
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