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Oct 29, 2002

Police work “special areas” in city

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In his address on Friday to new recruits, Minister of Home Affairs Ralph Fonseca emphasized the importance of community policing. Today in Belize City law enforcement authorities were taking that advice. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods has the story.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

The police alone cannot eradicate crime, but criminal activity can be drastically reduced when both the police and community work together. Police press officer, G. Michael Reid, says following several meetings in various neighbourhoods it was agreed that one of the best ways to tackle the problem is by placing special signs at strategic locations and conducting twenty-four hour patrols in these designated areas.

G. Michael Reid, Police Press Officer

“It was prompted by a response, by a request by the people of the area that you know, the crime is getting out of hand and they were asking the police to please do something about the crime there. As a result, discussions were held and it was decided that the best way to do this was to designate these areas as special police areas so people will know that the police will be in those areas more often, and let the criminals also be served notice that the police will not tolerate any wrongdoing.”

So far, twenty-four signs have been posted on the city’s southside and similar signs will be erected on the northside. The work started about two weeks ago after the city was first surveyed.

Isaac Johnson, Resident

“What use to happen around the area, shooting and so one has been reduced a lot. Quite a while we haven’t really experienced issues like those.”

Isaac Johnson lives at the corner of Vernon and Mopan streets. This is just one of the locations where a sign has been posted. Approximately one year ago, Johnson’s house was riddled with bullets following a drive by shooting. Today, Johnson says the continued presence of the police makes him feel more secure.

Isaac Johnson

“Well, I feel good about it because I realize that that sign is giving a message to the people that are doing the wrong things around. To show them that the police are around vigilant, so it’s really working. I could say it’s really working.”

…And it’s not only the residents who are feeling more at ease in their communities. Business owners and employees in these special areas have also become more comfortable in their working environment.

Kimberly Sampson, Employee, Zoe Ministries

“It makes me feel safe because I know that this is an area that is known for its crime, and having the signs there and knowing that the officers are here it makes me feel very safe.”

Carlos Mendoza, Proprietor, Mendoza Automotive Supplies

“We feel more secured since the City Council put in the signs, we feel pretty much secured.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Have you seen an increase in police patrols?”

Carlos Mendoza

“Yes. Since about six months ago we see a lot more police walking on the street, up and down, and sometimes actually stand up on the corner for quite a time.”

Although the programme is only a couple of weeks old, Reid says they are optimistic about what they have seen taking place as a result of the police activity in the special neighbourhoods.

G. Michael Reid

“We think that there has been a decrease in many of these areas. Of course the hope would be that you know we could stamp out crime all together. It’s almost unrealistic, but certainly we’re going to do the very best we can to let the criminals know that we know where they operate from and we will be there.”

The programme is part of the police five year plan to combat crime with the assistance of the community. Oh, by the way, a special word of advice to anyone who may be thinking about destroying those special police signs… Anyone caught vandalising them will be prosecuted. Jacqueline Woods reporting for News 5.

Similar police activities are taking place countrywide. Authorities have also been pursuing another area of interest: neighbourhood watch programmes. Already billboards have been erected in the city, as well as Ladyville.

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