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Oct 30, 2007

Crimestoppers and B.E.L. begin fundraising initiative

Story PictureOnly four years since its formation, the organisation known as Crimestoppers has become a regular part of the law enforcement and media scenes. But as crime and violence continue to dominate the headlines it is worth asking just how effective its efforts have been. News Five’s Marion Ali reports on the group’s latest initiative to raise funds and expand its operations.

Marion Ali, Reporting
The handing over of a cheque for ten thousand dollars by Belize Electricity Limited to Crimestoppers marked the establishment of an initiative by that company to combat crime. The effort dubbed “Stop Crime – Start Now” aims to raise funds to support Crimestoppers. It was driven by a perceived increase in serious crime, particularly the number of unsolved murders.

The programme involves B.E.L. customers signing pledge forms for a minimum of fifty cents to be added each month to their light bill. B.E.L.’s Chief Executive Officer and President, Lynn Young, says with around seventy-one thousand customers countrywide, the initiative should be successful.

Lynn Young, C.E.O., President, B.E.L.
“If your bill say is fifty dollars your bill will say fifty dollars and there will be a line there Crimestoppers, fifty cents, so when you pay the bill you will pay fifty dollars and fifty cents. Our computer system will automatically code that fifty cents to Crimestoppers and every month we cut a cheque to Crimestoppers for the amounts that was collected.”

Marion Ali
“You think this will be an effective way to collect the funds? I mean people already railing up about electricity rates.”

Lynn Young
“Yeah, I know that’s an issue of course because everything has been going up. I know a lot of people are feeling the pressure of high prices, but that’s one of the beauty about this programme is that it’s such a small amount that you can donate, I mean you can start at fifty cents, so for most of us that’s what? An ideal, one less ideal for the month.”

Chairman of Crimestoppers Belize, Alberto Young, says it’s that small contribution that will make the difference between helping to solve a murder or not, as the first four years of the Crimestoppers programme has proven.

Alberto Young, Chairman of Crimestoppers, Belize
“We’ve been able to solve twenty-three cases since those four years. We’ve solved two murder so far and a lot of the cases that have been solved, our information that has come into Crimestoppers has helped to put criminals behind bars in the area of carnal knowledge specifically because initially we started a campaign with child abuse as our theme in conjunction with NOPCAN.”

Marion Ali
“Is this considered successful in your opinion, twenty-three crimes in four years?”

Alberto Young
“It is because we can look at what used to happen before. Basically you had no structured system in place to provide information to the police anonymously because an eyewitness can call in and the call is free. … When we compare it to the other programmes in the Caribbean and in the U.S. we’ve been told for four years and twenty-three cases we’re doing very well.”

The initiative is appreciated by Crimestoppers, which has had to raise its own funds to keep the programme alive. Lynn Young, as a Board member of Crimestoppers, has seen the organisation struggle to survive.

Lynn Young
“Over the last four years we’ve spent a lot of time trying to raise money, you know. We’ve had barbeques, we’ve had sales, jumble sales to try to raise money to provide rewards for the programme. So the idea came up during one of our meetings, you know maybe we at B.E.L. can help Crimestoppers raise funds. It’s just a small part of the community effort that’s needed but I think it’s an important part.”

Alberto Young
“There has to also be the initiative to also put in programmes to prevent individuals from becoming criminals and if we do that then we’re solving the situation instead of just putting in corrective measures.”

Marion Ali
“So the social programme will focus on?”

Alberto Young
“As a Board we’re deciding what social programme. We’re looking at a couple organisations, because we cannot do this alone. We won’t reinvent the wheel but work with organisations who already have some systems in place and then look at how we can partner with them.”

The new effort comes as a comfort for June Gabourel whose oldest daughter, thirteen year old Sherilee Nicholas, was one of five little girls brutally murdered between October of 1998 and February of 2000.

June Gabourel, Mother of Sherilee Nicholas, murdered child
“The hardest part is sharing food, you know you put an extra plate of food on the table and you look around and everybody is already eating, yuh seh someone is missing. That’s the hardest part and I never stop forgetting her and today I’m wearing this colour, this black pants and this red blouse and white shirt: the black is for I never stop mourning, and I have sistren that have been slain by stones and blades and brethren that have been shot down in the streets and the red represent blood that is all over each corner streets of Belize, and this white represent stop the crime. I’m begging for peace.”

June Gabourel was featured in a video piece produced by Crimestoppers and shown during the ceremony. If you have information on any unsolved crime, please call Crimestoppers at 0-800-922-8477. You will be connected to a call centre in Miami Florida and given a unique I.D. number. If your call results in an arrest, you can receive a reward of up to one thousand dollars or even more in certain high profile cases.

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