US Donates High Tech Vehicles To Police
The Central American Regional Security Initiative - known as CARSI - is an initiative of the US Government to spend 105 million US dollars this year to beef up security in the region.
It is of course, about the fact that U.S. drug demand makes the countries of Central America very unsafe - and indeed four of the highest murder rates in the world for 2011 - Belize included - were recorded in Central America.
So, CARSI is an attempt to try and fix the problem - the old fashioned way - by throwing money at it. To be fair, though, it's more than that - and over the past year, Belize has received 16 million dollars in performance based support through CARSI.
And today one of the largest donations was handed over: 1.1 million US dollars in 17 vehicles to be used for crime scene investigations, prisoner transport, mobile patrol, and community policing support.
Monica Bodden found out more at the handing over today:
Monica Bodden Reporting
Over the past year the Central American Regional Security Initiative has committed approximately 16 million Belize dollars to law enforcement personnel in the areas of community policing, border security, preventative initiatives and capacity enhancement.
Today a donation of 17 new vehicles and other equipment's which values over 1.1 million US dollars where handed over to the Belize police department as a part of the program.
H. E. Vinai K. Thummalapally - U.S. Ambassador to Belize
"Over the past year, I'm excited to announce that the US Embassy and the Government of Belize have for almost 6 million US dollars in CARSI funds. These funds are designated for citizen security initiatives in Belize, including - among other - law enforcement capacity building, boarder initiatives, and crime prevention efforts. Towards this end, we're donating approximately 1 million US dollars' worth of equipment today, including 17 vehicles. We're also providing training and assistance to law enforcement personnel, grants for at-risk youth programs, and infrastructure and technology upgrades. Let me highlight just a few of the key things we're doing under the CARSI program. With the new scenes of crime, forensic vehicle, the police will have a far better ability to gather and use forensic evidence to process crime scenes, and use the evidence collected to help catch and convict criminals. With 10 new vehicles for increased mobile patrols for Southside Belize City, police will be able to respond more quickly, and coupled with increased training in computerized equipment, they will strengthen their investigative procedures from beginning to end."
The CARSI program is fully funded by the government of the United States of America. The program started in 2010 as a follow on to the program of the Merida Initiative in 2008.
According to Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, Belize have been benefiting from the program since 2009.
Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security
"This initiative is designed to assist countries in the region to combat local and trans-national organized crime. Belize benefitted from contributions in areas of boarder management, prison management, and policing. And the ambassador has dealt with that in detail in his presentation earlier. Today, we have 17 vehicles and computers being delivered to the police department, the forensic department, and others to the value of over 1.1 million US dollars. This new acquisition will help in our fight against crime in our efforts especially here in Belize City, and especially - as the ambassador indicated - on the Southside, but our program with these vehicles includes the entire City of Belize. As you may have heard from our Officer in Charge of Eastern Division, the City of Belize has now been sectionalized into 11 areas, and these vehicles will be deployed in each of these areas for more effective policing."
Officer in Charge of Eastern Division, ACP Aragon spoke about the new city structuring and how these vehicles will be deployed in these 11 areas.
ACP Elodio Aragon - Officer in Charge of Eastern Division
"In front of us, we have the 11 new zones for Belize City. We used to have 6 police zones, and we have since transformed those into 11 zones. This ensures that we have better control and command of each area. With the present donation from the US Embassy, each one of these vehicles will be placed in their respective zones. In essence, we'll have 11 police zones in the city with each zone having its own police patrol. This will ensure that 1.) We will have quicker response to 911 calls; 2.) We'll have more visibility of the police officers in those areas; 3.) Our police officers will be able to acquaint themselves more with the people who live within those specific zones; and I believe that it will enable us to ensure that we coordinate better when it comes to the response to crimes that have been reported to us. Some of these zones will be complemented with additional mobile patrols, especially the zones that are within what we designate as hotspot areas for us, in regards to the incidents of crime that occurs in those areas. And with the bicycle patrols that we are presently mounting, along with future equipment that we get, we will definitely begin to supplement these respective zones. This is not the case because we don't have the resources to put out a vehicle in each of the zones. But, being that we have received these vehicles from the US Embassy, this will come into effect maybe by tomorrow. We will have all these vehicles out there."
And the functioning gadgets on these new vehicles are highly impressive if you are into technology.
ACP Elodio Aragon
"With the new vehicles,what we did not have before, and will be implementing very soon - basically we've already equipped 4 vehicles, and before the end of the week, we should have all these vehicles a GPS system, which will give us the capability to, through the use of BTL to monitor these vehicles live. That means that we will see them live at our control room, seeing exactly where they are at any given time of the day. The demonstration that they are going to show you is basically showing you a demo with regards to the city, and with regards to vehicles that they have already have on their system. This will give us great command and control over these vehicles. We will know how long they have been parked, where they are at any given time, and that will improve our effectiveness. Also, this equipment come with geo-fencing, where if the vehicle leaves a location zone, an alarm will be sent, where we will check the system, and ensures that they return back to that area. So, these vehicles will remain in those zones, and are strictly for high visibility, and response to calls."
With the US Government assistance, Belize is also developing a K-9 detection capability. K-9s have been provided to find drugs and explosives. A demonstration was given today.
Today's donation also included computers, bullet proof vests and other equipment...