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Apr 11, 2018

Inmates Return to Old Capital to Clear Abandoned Lots

Community policing is at the heart of the fight against crime in the south side of the city where a number of initiatives have sprung up through collaboration between the department and the business community. And because every bit helps, the Eastern Division Commander Howell Gillett took inmates from the Belize Central prison to clear abandoned lots in neighbourhoods that are prone to crime.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Overgrown lots scattered across the city pose numerous risks for residents living within their proximity.  Not only are these abandoned properties being used to hoard weapons and drugs, they are also ideal hiding places for criminals laying in wait to pounce on unsuspecting targets.  The cleaning of these open spaces falls within the responsibility of the Belize City Council, but since taking over several weeks ago, Eastern Division South Commander Howell Gillett has taken up the initiative.

 

Howell Gillett

Sr. Supt. Howell Gillett, O.C., Eastern Division South

“What we’ve seen in the Tibruce Street area with the double murder and other shootings that occurred in that area, two things readily became evident: it was the overgrown lots in the area, as well as the poor lighting situation at night.  So we have to address it if we’re serious about fighting crime then we have to do all within our means as police.  There are many things that we are doing that are not the conventional part of policing, but we have to go outside the box to keep crime at a very low level to keep our residents safer, to create safer neighborhoods and that’s what we did in the Tibruce Street area.”

 

This morning, a handful of inmates from the Belize Central Prison were brought into the Old Capital to lend their muscle in clearing out a number of these properties, including a bushy area of Plues Street.

 

Sr. Supt. Howell Gillett

“When we made the announcement earlier in the week that we were going to clear this area, then residents of the Rocky Road area said that they had some issues as it relates to overgrown lots and we did that.  While we were there, residents started on social media to say kindly look at a lot on Tigris Street and that’s the reason why we did that third area and we are happy to have done so.  We believe that the work that we have put in in those areas will lend to a lower crime rate in the area because you know, as well as I do, that criminals don’t like open spaces, they don’t like well lit areas, so we will do all within our power to help the residents.  But on the flip side, or conversely, we ask residents to please work with the police.”

 

According to Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, while it is the responsibility of the municipal government to address the issue of overgrown yards and abandoned properties, there are laws currently on the books that also address those issues.

 

Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“The law is in place, under the Belize City Council Act, that if a land owner doesn’t clean his or her property, the city council can send them a notice for them to clean it.  If they choose not to clean it, the city council has every right to go into that abandoned property and clean it and send the land owner the bill for cleaning it.  If the land owner does not pay that bill, the city council has every right to apply to a magistrate for that land to be auctioned so that they can pay that cleaning bill.  And the reserved price for that auction is the cost of the cleaning bill.  So we’re telling the people, and I am encouraging the Senior Superintendent, and we can have an audience with the mayor as well, start to clean up those abandoned properties because that is where the criminals hide their guns and ammunition.  So if we start to clean these spaces and start to make citizens be responsible for cleaning up their abandoned properties it goes a long way in stemming crime.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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