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Nov 29, 2000

Tourism police grow in numbers, respect

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They are often regarded as second class citizens in the law enforcement community; officers who are empowered to stop crimes but more often wind up giving directions to befuddled visitors. But as their numbers grow, so too does the stature of the tourism police. Ann-Marie Williams reports on the latest class of recruits.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

They came from diverse areas of the country and after a three-month training course, which included criminal law, weapons management and public relations; they all spoke with one voice. Thirteen new tourism police officers, four women and nine men, made a pledge to protect life and property of tourists and locals alike at their graduation ceremony at the Police Training School in Belmopan.

Police Commissioner Hughington Williams welcomed the officers to the police fold.

Hughington Williams, Police Commissioner

“Members of the Belize Police Department Police Tourism Unit the challenge is yours. You have been prepared. Go out and make a difference in your unit and in our department and ultimately in Belize.”

Tourism Minister Mark Espat says the officers will be stationed in areas of high tourist presence, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, San Ignacio and on the Placencia Peninsula.

Mark Espat, Minister of Tourism

“Out of this recruitment of thirteen officers, we hope to post two T.P.O. officers down in Placencia. We are aware that the peninsula has been experiencing some difficulties with crime and the Police Department is aware of it and we?ve been focusing resources there. Hopefully with the deployment of these two additional officers it will contribute to the remedy of the situation.”

Mark Espat, Addressing gathering

?Tourism allows Belizeans to earn a respectable salary by providing dignified jobs all across the country. It is the livelihood of thousands of Belizeans that is at stake when the safety of visitors is at risk.?

And a number of the new T.P.O. as they are being called have already pledged to keep the country safe.

Naomi Santos, Benque Viejo

“Well I have been living in San Pedro for a year and six months and I have been working with tourists. I think it?s a great job working with the tourists who come to our country to visit our beautiful jewel. I am proud of my country, so I would like to continue dealing with the tourists.”

Ann-Marie Williams

?How did you find the three month training??

Naomi Santos

?I found it exciting, fun. Maybe sometimes we had some trouble, but we all got through it.?

Hilda Simms, Hattieville

“I am ready because we were properly trained by the staff here and I will just take out what I learned here and put it to good use out there.?

Ann-Marie Williams

?What were some of the things you learned??

Hilda Simms

?We learnt about how to arrest people, how to caution them so that if you have a case, you can win the case because you can win the case because you have read the person his rights.?

Ann-Marie Williams

“Are you up to the challenge??

Wayne Cadle, Orange Walk

?Sure. As we all know, tourism is becoming the number one source of economy here in Belize. But being here, getting the proper training, I prepared to go out there and do my thing.?

Ann-Marie Williams

?What is your thing??

Wayne Cadle

“My thing is to protect the tourist as well as the locals. There are a lot of guys that do lot so of illegal stuff and I just got to go and protect them.?

Ann-Marie Williams

?Are you a tidbit afraid??

Wayne Cadle

?To be honest, no. I am a little bit nervous yes. It?s a challenge and it?s going to be an experience.?

Tourism police officer Mario Avila placed first in his exam and was presented with a special prize for being the most outstanding graduate.

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