West Bay legislator McKeeva Bush wants to act as a peacemaker in the long-running gang dispute fueling rising gun violence in the district.
Mr. Bush said he planned to reach out to young people involved with the Logwoods and Birch Tree Hill gangs, the two rival groups blamed for many of the shootings in West Bay.
“I’m going to talk to each side to say what is the problem? What is wrong, what are they seeking? What is this fight about?,” Mr. Bush said.
“I believe I have enough respect and capital in the community to get to the right people. I know families in Birch Tree Hill, in Logwoods, in Goat Yard. I have to try to get to these young people and talk to them and then try to bring the two sides together.
“We know there is goodness in every man, we want that to come out.”
Mr. Bush was speaking to the Compass, as pastors from the eight churches in West Bay assembled at his home to discuss what churches could do collectively to address the social issues contributing to the gang violence.
He said he does not believe more money for police or prisons is the answer to the problem.
“Government has spent tons of money on police, prisons and social services. We are spending money yet we are finding social deterioration.”
He said the churches are already running youth programs and doing some community outreach work.
But he believes a more coordinated approach is needed involving church and youth workers proactively going out into gang areas.
He said greater community engagement, not more policing, is the right approach to fighting gang crime in West Bay.
“Catching the killer afterwards doesn’t help the situation that much. There is much work to be done before it gets to that point,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush said he had put in place sports and youth programs in the district, some of which he said had been dismantled, adding that more could be done through youth groups, parenting programs and other community work.
Linda McField, a community activist and former head of Caymanians Against Substance Abuse, gave a presentation to pastors of a strategy for fighting gang crime following Thursday’s lunch at Mr. Bush’s residence. Mr. Bush is planning a public meeting on Feb. 23 to share ideas with the community.
He said police and local teachers would be invited to the meeting.
“We need everyone to be involved. It has to be a community effort,” he said.
Mr. Bush believes that even the most hardened West Bay gang members can be convinced to change their ways and is confident that his personal intervention can make a difference. “I don’t lose faith in the goodness of man,” he said. “I believe we can overcome any problem we have. I certainly don’t think it’s beyond fixing.”
The ongoing feud between the Logwoods crew and the Birch Tree Hill gang sparked a string of fatal shootings in 2011 when there were five homicides on Grand Cayman in the space of nine days. A separate spate of retaliatory incidents was tipped off by the 2009 killing of Carlo Webster inside what was then known as the Next Level nightclub.
The two most recent victims of gang violence in Grand Cayman, Victor Oliver Yates, 22, and David Ebanks, 20, did not, according to police, have any direct involvement in gangs.
But they were said to have friends and family associations and their killers are believed to have been gang members on either side of the conflict.
Mr. Yates was shot in the head outside Super C restaurant in the early hours of Jan 3. David Ebanks was shot and killed on Jan 23. near a Birch Tree Hill home opposite Kelly’s Bar.