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Mar 27, 2008

Cops participate in anti-crime conference in Bmp.

Story PictureEveryone has an idea how we can solve the crime problem. Some feel tougher laws and harsher penalties would do the trick. Others say more education and reform initiatives would break the cycle of violence. But it’s clear that no one proposal will be the answer. Within that context, today government and law enforcement officials met in Belmopan to discuss the role we can all play in making Belize a safer place. Ann-Marie Williams reports.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting
This morning, over seventy-five men and women; including the top brass of the Police Department, Immigration, the Coast Guard and the Belize Defence Force attended an All Officers Conference at the George Price Centre in Belmopan. The one-day event was an attempt to brainstorm for new and innovative ways to take a bite out of crime.

Gerald Westby, Police Commissioner
“We look at do crime analysis and see where best to put the resources. But we’re hoping that the gun court will assist us in having some of these cases dealt with expeditiously and also the intervention programmes. Those that are salvageable, we’ll work with them but those that are not, then I think ought to go behind bars or jail because I think that’s the best preventative mechanism. We also want to look at the integrated gun information system—ballistic system—because too many times firearms are used in series of murders and we haven’t been able to match them scientifically.”

According to Police Commissioner Gerald Westby, to change the status quo the plan is to attack criminals from all angles.

Gerald Westby
“We will need to continue to develop our own scientific evidence like the D.N.A. and the forensic capabilities as much. We need to enhance that to complement so that we do not totally depend on witnesses but we have that scientific evidence to give people more confidence in the systems that once people go to court they will get convicted.”

In his address to the gathering, National Security Minister Carlos Perdomo promised to strengthen the police force with intelligence gathering resources and equipment.

Ann-Marie Williams
“What about a simple thing like cleaning up the streets? We have too many people on the streets.”

Carlos Perdomo, National Security Minister
“Well the biggest thing with crime prevention is that we have citizen’s rights, human right.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“But loitering is against the law.”

Carlos Perdomo
“Yes it’s against the law. We can look at that issues but it’s a very difficult issue to be arresting loiterers or people sitting out in front of their fence side enjoying the breeze.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“You think that’s difficult to decide you look at people who are just there hanging out, doing nothing, not employed, that’s not taking the breeze, and these people get in trouble.”

Carlos Perdomo
“I said we can look at it but it’s always a controversy.”

But the country’s most controversial talking point on crime is the death penalty. Perdomo admits that the unacceptable rise in violent deaths is bolstering the arguments in support of the hangman’s noose.

Carlos Perdomo
“We will be discussing this issue at higher levels but I do know that in talking to people, talking to security people, talking to ordinary citizens, I think that there’s a very high level of support for the death penalty within our Belizean communities.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“The Placencia Peninsula has been in the news of late and it’s not because of its tourism but rather because of a series of murders, robberies, sodomy and even harboring a convicted criminal. But according to Officer Commanding the Southern Formation, Ralph Moody, those incidents pose a great deal of challenges for a police force that is still undermanned.”

Ralph Moody, Asst. Supt. In Charge of Southern Formation
“We have little or no resources. For instance, we have one vehicle to mann that area and whenever the vehicle is out then the station does not have access to other vehicles to perform their duties. And the distance from Independence to Placencia will take you about an hour and twenty minutes by road.”

“The radio system is effective in times when we don’t have a thunder storm. When we have thunderstorm we have difficulty due to the fact that the storm knock out the radio system. It is difficult for us to communicate when that is down and out.”

“We have people that come out from prison and live in different parts of the country and now settle in that area.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“Go look for jobs.”

Gerald Westby
“Exactly, go look for jobs or to commit crime.”

While limited resources continue to hamper anti-crime efforts, there have been several successful deterrent programmes organized by various non-governmental organisations were highlighted today. Inspector Walter Lazo spoke of his Salvadorian experience with the gang situation in Central America while the Belize City Council highlighted its attempts to use education and sports to prevent crime.

Zenaida Moya, Belize City Mayor
“The purpose and objectives of the National Anti-Crime Association is several. The first is to attack the cause of the crime at the root by curing the ailment as opposed to simply bandaiding the symptoms. Again, whilst the City Council is not directly responsible for the police department, we try to do our best.”

Ralph Moody
“I would like to see the personnel at Placencia increase with a higher rank officer to supervise so we could have a twenty-four-seven patrol system and also have another vehicle out there and have a C.I.B. and scenes of crimes personnel that can assist in our investigation and hold fort until we arrive.”

Today’s presentations will be compiled into a report and used by the Belize Police Department as it formulates its anti-crime policy decisions. Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

Today Minister of National Security Carlos Perdomo announced that cabinet has approved the purchase of twenty additional vehicles for the Police Department.

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