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Sep 25, 2003

3rd burglary in month has preschool depressed

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Crime in Belize comes in many shapes and sizes. Over the weekend a total of five murders rocked the nation…and later in this newscast we’ll focus on a violent assault in Placencia that had its roots in the international drug trade. But we’ll lead tonight’s news with an act that barely registers on the Richter scale of seismic criminality: a simple burglary at a southside preschool. But as News 5′s Patrick Jones discovered, while a bullet can destroy the flesh, an endless series of thefts can just as easily destroy the spirit.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Instead of group time with her students, Principal of Port Loyola Preschool Gwendolyn Jones spent most of the morning cleaning up the mess that thieves left behind when they broke into the school’s main building overnight. Jones says this is the third time since September first that her school has been the target of robbers.

Gwendolyn Jones, Principal, Port Loyola Pre School

“And all the thieves were able to take this time was the marley from off the floor that we had just recently purchased to put on the floor so that the children will go home a little less dusty from the lone cement. They have taken our toys from our science areas, markers, paints, typing sheets, crayons, scissors. Things that the children had just brought to school with them for us to use with them this year.”

Fighting back her tears, Jones told News 5 that this latest robbery is especially hard on the teachers, who along with some parents, sacrificed and worked hard to obtain the covering for the floor.

Gwendolyn Jones

“We had supervision last year and that was one of the requirements we had and we tried to meet it this year and they had blocked us again.”

Patrick Jones

“How much more difficult does this make your job?”

Gwendolyn Jones

“It makes it very difficult and discouraging. Because whenever we put something there it is being removed and they don’t know how hard it is, because this is a very poor area. And the children could barely meet the school fees for me to have to say, well we have to raise it so that we could be able to pay a watchman.”

The thieves gained entrance to the building by ripping off the burglar bars from one of the back windows, once inside, the lifted the brand new marley from the floor. A bag packed with toys and kitchen utensils was left behind. From the front building, the thieves gained entrance by pulling the barred door far enough apart to slip inside and get at the stationary and paints. Now, the teachers say they will have to install more locks on the doors. Jones says that with all the bars and locks going up, it is as if she is running a prison in Port Loyola.

Gwendolyn Jones

“Yes and we are the prison guards. (Laughs) Yes, because we have to have everything under lock and key because the moment we leave one small place open, they find it to come in.”

As to who is targeting the preschool, Jones says as incredible as it may sound, the blame must be laid squarely at the feet of some of the very parents who send their children to the facility.

Gwendolyn Jones

“I am going to say it’s right from the neighbourhood. I strongly believe that it’s right in the neighbourhood. Why nobody could not see no time it happens.”

Patrick Jones

“Don’t they understand what the school means to the community?”

Gwendolyn Jones

“I don’t think so. The people that are dong it, I don’t think so. And you would not believe it that they do have children coming to the school.”

One irate parent who was helping the teachers this morning, appealed to her peers to help, rather than hurt the school.

Geraldine Escarpeta, Parent

“Well right now I and very frustrated. Every time I come to this school and I hear that they break in the school, it lets my feelings drop very low, because we all are residents of Port Loyola and if we are thieving from our school, from our children, from our self, it doesn’t pay.”

Patrick Jones, for News 5.

One observer suggested that in addition to the three R’s of readin, writin and ‘rithmatic, a fourth R–robbery–should be added to the curriculum.

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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