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Jul 29, 2005

San Pedranos cry out for an end to crime

Story PictureThe murder of unarmed watchman Antonio Almendarez at a club in San Pedro this week prompted islanders to hold a peace rally on Thursday night. Organized by Reef Radio, those who turned out discussed rising crime in San Pedro and made suggestions on how residents can assist in policing their community. Among the speakers was Mayor Elsa Paz who had strong words for criminals who target San Pedro, the police, and the Ministry of Home Affairs. She says after repeated pleas for assistance from the authorities, it is becoming apparent that San Pedro cannot count on help from outside.

Elsa Paz, Mayor of San Pedro
?We have also engaged the Police Department as many as six times over the past three months to try and find the correct measures to find to try and address this problem. We have discussed this matter with the Assistant Commissioner on two occasions, Superintendent Jeffries who is the commanding officer for the San Pedro division or for Belize District, Assistant Superintendent Guzman, the Commissioner of Police, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Association of Justices of the Peace, which resulted in the implementation of the curfew for minors. After all this, have come to the conclusion that we have to look to our own resources for the cure of these major problems.?

?I would like you, the people of San Pedro, to know that our attention is absolutely focused on the elimination of this problem. I ask you to help in any way you can and to pray for a speedy solution and a return to the peace and tranquillity that we all have enjoyed in the past.?

?Remember, when the tourists stop coming, we will all suffer the same. The fear is already noticeable in conversations with elderly, seasonal residents of the island. We must remember that yes, we have a beautiful island, but it is not the only one and if the fear is not driven out, they may just decide to go somewhere else.?

President of the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce, Tom Vidrine, says the crime situation is growing out of control. He condemned the presence of drug dealers, the rise of gangs, and urged increased monitoring of outside arrivals.

Tom Vidrine, Pres., Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce
?We have the beginnings of gangs. Parents, you must stop this before it destroys your children. All of us… all of us need to report when we see a gang, particularly of children together wearing gang colours. We cannot allow this cancer to enter our island.?

?We have known drug dealers, many of us know who they are. Why is it tolerated? We must report them; we must harass them, tell the police over and over and make the police stop it. If the police don?t do it, we need to harass the police until they do do their jobs.?

?We are blessed compared to other towns, we can control our borders. We don?t have streets that people can just drive into from another town; we have certain locations people are coming into. We need to demand that police keep track of who is coming to our island, to greet those boats and ask those people why they are here; making sure they are legally in Belize, making sure that they have a purpose on this island, money to feed themselves, and a place to stay.?

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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