Today, the US Embassy to Belize, the CARSI fund, collaborated with the Police Department, Community Policing and Crime Stoppers Belize to hand over a donation of just under $200,000 in equipment. The donation is to bolster the capacity of 19 Neighborhood Watch groups across the country, and Police's Special Constable Program. They held a handing over ceremony at the Yabra Community Police Unit's headquarters this afternoon and 7News was there.
Here's what the National Neighborhood Watch Coordinator told us about how this equipment will be used:
Gilbert Pitts - National Neighborhood Watch Coordinator
"We have applied for a CARSI grant, and we've received over $200,000, It will be coming in 3 phases. This is the first phase; right now we've selected 20 neighborhood groups from around the country, and we are issuing out today lights, whistles, 2-way radios, and handcuffs. These are the items which will be issued to the different groups today. In the second phase, we'll be issuing signs, more handcuffs, radios and other items to the different group. This all national, country-wide, from Punta Gorda to Corozal, to San Pedro. We've selected 20 groups, and we've selected the more active groups right now. With this, the other groups might see it, and become a little more active, and in the next selection, they will be a part of the donation also."
"Sir, who do you prioritize? What areas get what attention first?"
"We go around the country, and we find all the groups who are active. We have a lot of groups who have gone dormant, and we try to rejuvinate them. But the ones who have been active, and remain active, we start off with them first, and then we try to bring the other ones back. These items, we've got to be accountable for, so as long as the have the items, they have utilize it, report back to us, let us know how they are using it. And when we get some more, the other groups which come on stream will be getting their share."
H. E. Vinai Thumalapally - US Ambassador to Belize
"I am particularly fond of this project because it not only represents cooperation between government agencies, this project is also an example of government, non-govermental organizations, and communities working together to maximize resources and benefits."
More Crime Fighting Tools for communities
The United States Embassy through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) handed over hand-held radios, flashlights, handcuffs and whistles to some 20 community watch groups across the country. The donation is part of a three year program where the U.S. embassy will provide support and equipment to these organizations to a total of 400 thousand dollars.
According to the U.S. Ambassador, Vinai Thummalapally, the contribution is part of the U.S. State Departmentís support to Belizeans in the fight against crime. He stated that since the introduction of the program in Belize in 2009 the U.S. has trained some 33 police officers in community policing specifically to address the growing problem of crime. The CARSI program he noted is specifically geared to help Central American countries by assisting the citizens in security matters, helping youth and empowering communities to reduce crime through community participation.