Regional initiative along with United Nations Office on drugs and crime
As a part of a regional initiative to strengthen intelligence and assist the capacity of member states, a high level meeting, only the second if its kind to be held in the Caribbean, took place this morning in Belmopan. Earlier this week, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, partnered with the Ministry of National Security, to offer training for local law enforcement officers in intelligence gathering and analysis. This training is just a part of a wider goal to combat organized crime in the region. News Five was on hand for the meeting.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
The four day training of law enforcement officers in serious and organized crime threat assessment, culminated in a high level meeting of government officials, law makers and bilateral partners. But to fight organized crime, partnerships and development of human resources remain fundamental to the success of the SOCTA model.
Colonel George Lovell, C.E.O. Ministry of National Security
“Obviously we need to have better prevention but for us to have better prevention, our partnership and the way we do business also need to be better. We need to be proactive and this was quite clear in the discussions that we had this morning; the need to enhance our cooperative efforts in our partnership and need to be proactive. We’ve identified that there are weaknesses we that exist in our structure and we’ve agreed that we need to work towards is to ensure that we have the right mix of people in our organizations; people who are competent and pragmatic people within our organization.”
While SOCTA has been adapted by other countries, for Belize to adapt and implement it, will require the input not only of the trainees but also of law makers.
Stephen Thurlow, Trainer, U.N.D.O.C.
“What is important is that not only the students have an awareness of SOCTA; what it means and how to produce one but the country’s leaders and decision makers also have knowledge of what it aims to do so that you can then decide if it’s a path worth following for Belize. Ideally, we want to have an accurate picture of the organized crime business. We need to fully understand the nature and extent of the problems and what the latest trends are. We also need to know where the main threats lie and of course, we want this to lead to effective, coordinated option to deliver a robust and appropriate response.”
One of the key points highlighted was intelligence gathering; which Lovell says continues to be a focus of the Ministry.
“We have since then look at some of the areas that need to be strengthened; intelligence was certainly one of those areas and we have taken a number of steps to address the deficiencies we have which includes capacity building for our people who are involved in the whole intelligence gathering business. That has been slowly strengthening over time and since 2010 we have done a number of trainings that have been done through the British Government and British High Commission. We have engaged even our partners in the U.S Embassy and U.S Government.”
Thurlow says that while Belize already has a structure in place for threat assessment, the SOCTA model can be fundamental to Belize’s fight against organized crime.
“Firstly, they help you to know your enemy and to understand the big picture; the scale and impact of organized crime, now and in the future. It let you design a more effective strategy to tackle it. Secondly, because organized crime is fast changing, complex, covert, new modus operandi being constantly developed, it helps you to keep on top of the game. Because all countries have limited resources, it is a way to identify priorities and better value for money. It helps to avoid duplication of efforts, which is essential to intelligence like policing. Furthermore it is a valuable policy making tool, providing accurate, timely and valuable information to policy makers and managers about the challenges ahead. It helps to better protect the state and its people. It can lead to better prevention; better partnerships and greater pro-activity. It also provides a better understanding of what you know wand what you don’t know.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.