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Their boots have been stomping the Belize City streets for over the past two decades in an effort to curb the raging urban warfare which had been taking a toll, especially in the crime-ridden and gang-affiliated neighborhoods of the “Old Capital;” but now, the Belize Defence Force (BDF) plans to gradually reduce the number of soldiers who are presently deployed in the environs of the city.

The soldiers – who have been working in tandem with the Belize Police Department – are scheduled to be taken “off the beat” at the end of this month, which would be two weeks away.

As we understand it, the move has been partially prompted by the recent increase in the ranks of the Police Department, who added 120 new officers to their regiment just two weeks ago, which brought the tally of police officers in the country to somewhere around 1,500.

Secondly, the reduction in the incidences of violent crime over the past year – in which there was a record decrease in the murder rate – as opposed to the previous year which saw the highest records of murders and violent crimes in Belize’s history, is believed to have contributed significantly to the withdrawal of the soldiers.

Also, the military’s top brass is concentrating on putting the soldiers back in the jungles of Belize so they can carry out their main mission, which is to protect and secure the country’s borders.

Although the decision has already been made, we understand that it will be flexible, depending on the fluctuating nature of crime in Belize City.

Today, Amandala spoke to the CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Col. (Ret’d) George Lovell, who confirmed what he said was a “gradual scale-down” in the deployment of the soldiers, but added that it doesn’t mean that there won’t still be soldiers patrolling the streets as is needed.

Lovell told us, “It’s gradual, simply because we are trying to get the police to replace the BDF officers who are on the street working along with them, so there will be a gradual reduction in the number of BDF personnel from the street; however, this does not mean that there will be no more BDF officers out there.”

He then explained that the presence of the BDF will be stepped up whenever there are large gatherings and major public events, such as the September Celebrations and the Christmas holidays.

CEO Lovell said that the reduction has started already, citing that “if there’s a need for us to boost the numbers of soldiers in the street, then we will do so, but the intent is for the BDF to be able to move from the streets and focus more on those border areas.”

The BDF soldiers who patrol the streets from time to time reportedly make up approximately 25% of the army’s squadron.

According to CEO Lovell, the BDF was first deployed to the Belize City streets in the late 90’s when murders and gang activity first spiked, and they have been regularly patrolling the thoroughfares ever since.


#486530 - 02/22/14 04:47 AM Re: BDF SOLDIERS TO BE WITHDRAWN FROM CITY STREETS [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
By Wellington C. Ramos

It is never a good situation for a country when the government decides to deploy soldiers on the streets to perform police duties for which they were not trained. Why? Because soldiers are not trained to perform police duties, only the police. However, due to the increase in crime over the years, the PUP and UDP governments in Belize had no choice but to take that action.

Back in the 1960s, when the UBAD was creating havoc in Belize City, the PUP government under the leadership of Minister Carl L. Rogers, better known as "Lindy Rogers", formed the Police Special Force, which was known as PSF. At that time, our country of Belize had no army but had a volunteer force called the British Honduras Volunteer Guards (BHVG). They attended drills during the week in their respective districts and attended camp in Mountain Pine Ridge once a year to do military training. The original PSF enlistees had to do one year of training, which included six months of police duties and six months of military training. That was later broken down to about three months of each.

Around 1977, the government of Belize was encouraged by the British government to form an army, which is now known as the Belize Defence Force (BDF). The colonel who was responsible to see this army come to full fruition was Colonel Brian Ayers from the British Paratroop Regiment. This army was to be made of members of the PSF and the BHVG. The people who were in these two organizations were given the option to join. Many of the PSF personnel refused and ended up enlisting in the Belize Police Force.

However many of the BHVG soldiers, who were unemployed and saw an opportunity for themselves to become full time soldiers, embraced this option immediately. The person who the PUP government was grooming to become the first commander of the Belize Defence Force was Thomas Greenwood, who later became the colonel. Many of the PSF personnel who had extensive military training overseas became angry with this decision because Greenwood was always a part time soldier while they were full time soldiers. Some opted to leave to join a new squad that was called Tactical Force, which is similar to what we call Dragon Squad today.

The government should invest more money on expanding the Dragon Squad and have a division in each district to carry out tactical military operations. The crime situation in the entire world is getting more dangerous. The crimes are also sophisticated and the regular police will not be able to deal with some of these new crimes that they will have to encounter.

I do not know what type of training the members of the Dragon Squad go through but I heard that it is similar to the training that the PSF personnel went through back in the old days. If that is the case then the GSU should be given a different name because they will not only deal with gangs but all type of criminals.

I hope that members of our government contemplate wisely on this decision to avoid going back to the days when our citizens were afraid to walk our streets.

Caribbean News Now


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