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#376765 - 05/13/10 09:28 AM Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists
Marty Offline
by Mike Campbell

The crime situation in Belize and San Pedro has escalated to the point where it has become the major topic in many conversations and personal safety has become a prime concern for many. Crime prevention, detection and successful prosecution require close cooperation between police and the community they serve. The community must trust the police to be honest and fair and the police must trust the community to be supportive and helpful. This cooperation between police and the community is the single most important factor to good policing of the community.

In San Pedro and throughout the Nation there is a distinct disconnect between the community and the police. This is true in spite of the obvious fact that the police are paid by the taxes of the community to provide protection and order necessary in a Civil Society. Police activities or lack of often form the butt of jokes by children and teens who let their disrespect be know at an early age. Indeed respect must be earned and it is difficult for a parent to instill respect for the law when it is sometimes difficult to respect those who are paid to enforce it. This is truly a serious problem and is no longer a laughing matter.

To move forward we must admit that the Belize National Police Force in its present form is not able to deal with the rampant violent crime that is shaking the very foundations of our Nation. Conviction rates are abysmal and escapes from custody are common. The community has lost faith in the police to protect them from the worst elements of our society as they are paid to do. Crime is a community problem and can only be dealt with by the community. The problem is not the police themselves. Nor is it the politicians who truly do want to stop crime and have done their best. The root of this problem lies within the very preconceptions that have formed Police policy and organization for all these years. We have never grown from a colonial police force to a community based police force. The Belize National Police Force is an extension of the colonial system where all power was retained by the Governor and communities were not allowed to police themselves furthering their dependence on the colonial government and making them much easier to control. Our very small population was also a major factor.

This structure and long established policies in the Police Force are primarily responsible for the disconnect between the Police and those they are paid to serve and protect. Without effective cooperation between community and police crime control will never be possible. The long established policy of rotating officers around the country has been our downfall. The preconception was that officers would become corrupted if allowed to stay in one place for too long. Of course this assumes that both the officers and the community they serve are basically dishonest. Our Police are never from the community they are assigned to and are usually forced to live in substandard conditions. Having no real ties to the community they are regarded as outsiders and do not receive the full cooperation of the community they serve. Knowing they will be transferred in a few years there is no motivation to help the community and further they have no apparent responsibility for their actions to the community only to the chain of command. The result is that the community does not trust the police and the police do not show respect for the community. They are trained to resist attempts at friendship with residents as it makes them more susceptible to corruption. The result is an unmotivated police force that receives little support from the public in general. This antagonistic relationship between police and community is exploited by the criminal element. They know that by the time the police figure out what is really going on in an area they will be transferred.

The police must be part of the community as well as answerable to the community they serve in order to be effective. San Pedro Police from top to bottom should be hired and fired by the Town based on their performance. We should have complete say as to who is policing our community and if they do not perform they must be replaced. Becoming a police is a commitment to the community. A San Pedro Police should love San Pedro and regard the job as a permanent position. Ideally they will share the love of community that we all have and be motivated to do the best job. We have no opportunity to vet our police and know little about who is policing us. Until recently we were unaware that deceased PC Sanchez had been in various incidents his previous posting. We as a Town would have never hired him to protect and serve us but our money was used to pay his salary. Sgt. Reyes who was apparently blameless will not be allowed to return to San Pedro although he has done a good job for the community and helped protect us from a cop gone bad. He should certainly be reinstated to the San Pedro Branch. He has earned our respect.

Rest assured that if the police were answerable directly to the people of San Pedro we would all work together to stamp out crime. All residents know of various crack houses that are never touched but everyone knows they are there and we all make assumptions as to why that is. Our Mayor does not have the power to demand performance from our police even though it is our money that pays them. This is an unacceptable situation. The trips from Belmopan by various top police , meetings with the various business groups and marches against crime do nothing except waste time in an ever widening spiral of violence. We know how to police San Pedro and should have the right to hire our own police.

I notice one of our neighborhood watches has hired guards and they are proving effective. If we cannot control our own police in the future all the neighborhood watches will hire armed guards for the neighborhoods. The next step will be untrained militias and private police forces. It is much better that we take control of our police and take back our towns and country from the criminal elements who are attacking our society with impunity.

Any thought that we are not capable of or responsible enough to handle our own police without help from Belmopan is ridiculous. It is Belmopan who cannot control our police and crime epidemic. The buck in San Pedro should stop at the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police and all San Pedro officers should be hired and paid by San Pedro Town Council. If the Chief cannot perform or control his men we must replace him and anyone else that is not giving 100% to our fight against crime. Under this system of community policing police brutality would be rare and crooked cops would be dealt with quickly. We should not be taking direction from Belmopan as to how to proceed in San Pedro.

Currently a sentence of 10 years actually means 5 years at most as inmates are credited with both day and night. That must stop now. 10 years is 10 years not 3 ˝. As we have problems getting murder convictions we should pass a 3 strikes and you’re out law. Three convictions for certain classes of crime (felonies) would result in an automatic live sentence. The operators of Hattieville should be held responsible for the frequent number of escapes. It is time we fought back.

Mike Campbell

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#376773 - 05/13/10 09:41 AM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: Marty]
Gaz Cooper Offline
Makes sense and since they already live on the island full time it would eliminate the housing problem.


Gaz
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#376785 - 05/13/10 10:10 AM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: Gaz Cooper]
chris45 Offline
Forgive me for not knowing who Mr Campbell is or where his article was published (if it was).
He has hit the nail right on the head in his analysis of what is wrong. my own community, Monkey River has seen exactly the same issues, and the rotation of policemen IS the reason.
You are right, Mr Campbell, the fault DOES lie in Belmopan. The whole organisation is wrong and we are all paying the price. The prime minister is right in saying crime has reached crisis point. so what is he going to do about it?
I would be very interested in hearing Mr Campbell's views on this.
It seems to me we cannot solve this from within. Whatever the reasons, whoever is at fault, we have ended up with a poor quality police force some of whom can barely even read and write. There are too many stories of corrupt police, criminal police, complaints from the public unresolved, not to draw this conclusion of quality.
What to do? how about bringing in a heavyweight senior police officer with a couple of assistants from say Bermuda or one of the Caribbean countries with a mandate to conduct a root and branch reform of the service. Starting in the commissioner's office. no one is safe. Perform now or you're out.
Mr Campbell is right. Without public confidence no police force can work, and we will indeed see private guards etc increasingly.
We gave up our right as individuals to perusue those who act against us, and gave that responsibility to the state to defend us (to be paid for by our tax money) if the state fails to protect us which is the situation we have now, then the state cannot be surprised if people decide to take back that responsibility for themselves. We will return to the wild west and start hiring Wild Bill Hickocks again.

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#376787 - 05/13/10 10:16 AM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: chris45]
Gaz Cooper Offline
Chris

Mike Cambell is the owner of Xaman Ek retreat and Spa located 5 miles north in the Playa Blanca Area a long time resident of the island.

Gaz


Edited by Gaz Cooper (05/13/10 10:18 AM)
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#376796 - 05/13/10 10:38 AM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: Gaz Cooper]
Amanda Syme Offline
Excellent article Mike - thanks for being so eloquent and direct. Indeed the system is flawed and could certainly do with a complete shake-up - obviously the system in place is not working.

When I grew up the respect for ones elders, the police, the army, teachers and leaders of the church (any religion) was deeply instilled in myself and my peers. I have attempted to teach my children the same values. Indeed it can be difficult for the youth today in Belize to see why we, the parents and the grand parents, could possible ever have felt and given the respect to such community leaders.

I will continue to do what I can to assist and support the security details that we have on the island, I will continue to foster community spirit in the form of neighbourhood watch groups and I hope that with a little extra effort from each and every resident on the island, that we will see a positive improvement in the quality of life, safety and health for all of us and our visitors.

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#376806 - 05/13/10 11:08 AM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: Amanda Syme]
Phil Offline
I kind of gave up on the situation when a 3 year old called me a mfer the other day after I scolded him for trying to lash my dog.

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#376809 - 05/13/10 11:33 AM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: Phil]
reaper Offline
It would be easy fund both the police and fire department and put it under local control.
Have a police and fire commission to oversee activities/hirings and budget/spending.
A proper police force would have the island cleaned up in about a month. Everyone knows who the bad guys are.
The FD could impliment/oversee the island EMS system.
I know what many of you are thinking, no way will that ever happen. Well, if someone doesn't start changing things, nothing will get changed.
It's time.
JMHO

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#376813 - 05/13/10 12:02 PM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: reaper]
SnoopysMom Offline
Phil: That must be the same 3 yr old who held up a "machine gun stick" at me and fired multiple times the other day. Lovely... frown

I agree that the police force should be under local control/ authority. I would imagine that there would be a big incentive for apartments/ condo's to affordably house them and their families as well, thus eliminating the current unsanitary living quarters they are provided.

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#376820 - 05/13/10 12:33 PM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: SnoopysMom]
Diane Campbell Offline
Just in case somebody is wondering (or assuming) - I'm not related to Mike.
I do think he put forth a good case in his posting.

For whatever reason Belmopan seems blind deaf and dumb when it comes to police in San Pedro.

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#376826 - 05/13/10 01:46 PM Re: Concerning Crime - A Solution Exists [Re: Diane Campbell]
belizeonthebeach Offline
On a related note.
I am all for the neighborhood watches and so on but--putting a wooden shack(hot box) with no running water or bathroom facilities in the middle of a road in Tres Cocos, and then getting some officers with guns, from P G or somewhere, to man this sweat box, 50 feet away from my daughters bedroom---Is pure insanity. Only a paranoid gringo could dream this one up.

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