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Jul 30, 2004

Neighbourhood watch summit opens Saturday

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With crime perhaps the number one concern of the Belizean public, the gathering couldn?t be more timely. This afternoon I received a briefing on Saturday morning?s Neighbourhood Watch Summit.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

You may have seen signs like these ones in your neighbourhood or in other parts of the country identifying the location as one under a crime prevention initiative called the Neighbourhood Watch Programme. According to the programme?s coordinator Joseph Sampson, while it?s difficult to say just how many groups have been established throughout the country, but they have had some success in dealing with crime.

Joseph Sampson, Coordinator, National Neighbourhood Watch Programme

?In San Pedro, Sittie River, Vista Del Mar, Orange Walk, Punta Gorda, Corozal, we have some very active neighbourhood watch groups.?

?The programme has been very effective as I mention in some of the successful areas that I just indicated where citizens have worked with the police to reduce the opportunities for crime. One of the major problems particularly in Belize City is that people seem to be unwilling and in some cases there seem to be instances of fear where, people are afraid to participate in the process.?

Since the programme was reintroduced in 2002, it has not been operating under any national strategic plan, but the summit scheduled for Saturday at the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts, promises to help unify the various efforts.

Joseph Sampson

?This is not about snitching to the police; this is not about spying on your neighbours; this is not about looking for crime where crimes does not exist; this is about people coming together to share common concerns and to find solutions to those common concerns. And we will have facilitators that will be bale to garner the ideas of the participants and at the end of the day those ideas will be pooled together, sorted out, and a plan will be effected.?

?Our plan at the end of this conference is to be able to say that within a period of time we will have x number of neighbourhood watch groups that are active in the country being sustained, being supportive and being a part of the process of dealing with crime.?

The summit gets underway at eight with the registration of participants. It is expected that six hundred people will attend the first of its kind meeting.

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