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Feb 3, 2012

Initiative addresses Root of Criminal Activity

Nestor Mendez

But it’s not all about the Police Department, according to Blackwell and Belize’s Ambassador to the US, Nestor Mendez. They explained that the initiative takes a holistic approach and also addresses the social ills at the root of criminal activity.

Nestor Mendez

“One of the areas that we have looked at is that you cannot address security simply from the enforcement side, you have to take a holistic approach. The community development aspect, the provision of opportunities for youth, economic opportunities for the ability to get a job, to earn a decent living. Those are the areas in which the OAS has a tremendous amount of experience in and which they are helping us to do. We see some very, very admirable models here in Belize like the Samuel Haynes institute that has done a lot of very, very creative approaches to working with at risk youth. We think that that is certainly something that should be expanded and the OAS is here to try to support. We have a lot of needs but we are trying to address them in a systematic order; working with the police, going into the community also to strengthen the security institutions. You cannot work only on one side so the holistic approach is very important.”

Ambassador Adam Blackwell

Adam Blackwell

“I think that the real initiative in many countries is education, education, education; working with teachers, working with schools, working with families, working with communities, keeping kids in school, working then with the private sector to try and make sure that there’s gainful employment once these folks have been through school. If we need to adjust and add technical training and capacity building in that area then I think that’s very important. That’s on the softer side. I think on the police side, I think there’s a realization that we’re in a new world here. This is not just Belize, this is everybody and we’re facing very sophisticated criminal networks that have lots of money and have lots of fancy tools and very sophisticated techniques. They don’t respect borders, they don’t respect human rights, and they don’t respect human dignity so it’s hard for the authorities to adjust to dealing with an enemy like this, let’s be honest. So we see a lot more work with the police, a lot more work with the judicial system, the financial intelligence unit, prison management and reintegration as being a real key.  I think that we have many programs that the government wants to take advantage of—some in isolation like stockpiling and ammunitions management, but also programs on prevention and certification for people working with youth at risk or people with addictions as we try and work through this. So we’re trying to work with Belize in a very broad spectrum of activities and we know we’re going to be successful.”

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