Pubdate: Wed, 07 Dec 2005
Source: Royal Gazette, The (Bermuda)
Copyright: 2005 The Royal Gazette Ltd.
Author: Matthew Taylor, Chief Reporter


 From Ord Road to Court Street and from Royal Naval Field, Somerset to
North Shore Road, Crawl, drug pushers are now an ever-present of
Bermudian life.

Whole neighbourhoods have ceded control or live in an uneasy truce,
trying to keep their children out of the pusher's clutches. And the
tentacles keep spreading, blighting the island's recreational spaces.
Daylight drug dealing has been seen in Shelly Bay field car park while
addicts have been spotted desperately hunting for a drugs drop off in
secluded Devonshire Bay.

Where are the Police comes the constant cry? Well eight years ago the
Police took on the drug dealers head on when Commissioner Colin Coxall
unleashed Operation Cleansweep. The strategy, months in the planning,
was to round up the street level dealers and then work upwards to the
big men.

But then the politics came into it. Already the whipping boy of the
Progressive Labour Party before he had even set foot on the Island,
Mr. Coxall then earned the wrath of the ruling United Bermuda Party
when cabinet member John Irving Pearman's name came up during
investigations. Despite slashing crime and having the dealers on the
run Mr. Coxall was forced out even before completing his three-year
tenure. Unpopular among the powerful during his time here Mr. Coxall
has since experienced an upsurge in popularity. Two year's after his
departure PLP backbencher Derrick Burgess said Mr. Coxall was "the
best thing since Jesus" while new anti-drug supremo Wayne Perinchief,
ironically forced out of the Police by Mr. Coxall, recently also
hailed Cleansweep as much needed. This week Mr. Coxall spoke to The
Royal Gazette about his aborted mission, halted just before it got to
the rotten heart of the Island's drugs network.

He was in no doubt about the importance of that mission. Keen to
understand Bermuda's criminal population after being "parachuted in"
he set up surveys of Bermuda's criminal population. It showed more
than 90 percent of those arrested had a drug dependency. "It was our
assessment that drug abuse, drug dependency and drug dealing was high
by any standards in Bermuda.

"I came from 35 years of Policing, 15 as a chief officer and had been
head of the drug squad at Scotland Yard.

"I had dealt with drug dealing in major capital cities." With crime
rising at about 20 percent per annum Mr. Coxall, backed by Governor
Lord Waddington, saw breaking the back of the drugs problem as vital
to cracking crime which was hurting tourism through street muggings
and burglaries at guest apartments.

Detective Superintendent Paul Hoare was seconded from Scotland Yard,
the nerve centre of the British constabulary, to head up a purge on
street dealers. Sometimes dismissed as the small fry of the drug
world, Mr. Coxall points out that in Bermuda the front line pushers
were very rich men by anybody's standards.

Intelligence gathered by Police and undercover officers borrowed from
the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) found that individual drug
sites were making $20,000 per day or more than $3 million a year. A
half gram or bag of cannabis that would sell for $2.50 in the US was
costing ten times that on Bermuda streets. Other drugs yielded similar
exorbitant profits.

Mr. Coxall said: "Street dealers were making huge amount of money
because of the mark up - more than anywhere I know of in the western
world. "They were hanging around Ord Road doing what they liked." But
not after the Police sprung their trap. The operation saw 30 dealers
in court. By making the streets a no-go area for the pushers Police
hoped to force the criminals to start dealing from premises which
would leave them vulnerable to having the premises

Next on the hit list were the big men behind the operations. An
offshore boat was loaned from the DEA to catch drug drop-offs beyond
the reef. But key to the plan was to trace the drugs back to the
American sources by analysing how they had been mixed. By studying the
tell-tale chemical breakdowns it would be possible to work out which
crime gangs in America were selling to Bermuda.

Although he believes there were perhaps six or so major importers he
estimates they could have been dealing with just two suppliers in
America. Further intelligence gathering in the States, perhaps via
moles planted into the drug barons operations, would then reveal the
names of the bulk buyers in Bermuda.

He was confident the plan would have worked, given the excellent
working relationship with the American authorities. "The DEA is about
the most effective drug enforcement agency in the world. The head of
DEA on the East coast was a colleague of mine in drugs intelligence in
Scotland Yard, earlier in our careers."

That strategy would have taken perhaps another year, maybe two - time
Mr. Coxall was not given.

"Cleansweep was a breakthrough. "We got convictions in every case -
about 30-40 people went to prison. We had broken the back of drugs in
Bermuda but when you tackle drugs head on you get collateral damage.

"The politicians got cross - guys were going to prison. Mothers and
lawyers complained."

Then the Pearman affair ratcheted up the pressure on the Commissioner,
eventually forcing Mr. Coxall's resignation. No action was taken
against Mr. Pearman through lack of evidence.

Now the dealers are back out in the open and Bermuda's drug problem
seems worse than ever.

It is not likely to change under the present approach argued Mr.
Coxall. "In my view sitting back as chief of police hoping you
occasionally get a major discovery is not an effective way to deal
with drugs in Bermuda. Most effective is to break the supply chain and
work up it. "If you stop street dealing the whole thing gets totally
destabilised. Crime dropped considerably after Cleansweep. As a result
of the operation crime went down 40 percent by the time I left. I
didn't do it by myself." Although frustrated by the failure to get
political backing, Mr. Coxall - a high-flyer before his doomed Bermuda
adventure - has hardly had problems finding work since returning to
the UK. Now employed as a strategic security advisor to Capita Symonds
you get the feeling that Bermuda needed him more than he needed
Bermuda. And while he has not kept abreast of the latest developments
here, he has not been forgotten.

"The citizens of Bermuda still write to us. It is sad reading the
Christmas cards from people.

"One lady said things are now in a terrible state, crime has gone
crazy and it is not safe to walk the streets.

"It is sad for Lord Waddington and other people who put a lot of
resources trying to reverse the problem."

But ultimately the Bermuda public are the losers. "They are hit by the
process, it's sad it wasn't followed through."
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