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#512472 - 03/18/16 11:17 AM 9 O’clock Curfew to be Imposed on Belize City Minors
Marty Offline

Three minors have been detained as the gunmen in two of the recent homicides in the city; it’s a reality that is frightening because it is believed that minors are being recruited by gangs to commit these heinous crimes.  But Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, whose jurisdiction these murders were committed, is not taking the matter lightly. Williams told the media this morning that effective today, unsupervised minors found outdoors after nine p.m. will be detained by officers. It is a drastic measure that some may not agree with, but Williams says it has become necessary to address the broader issue of parenting.

ACP Chester Williams, Regional Commander, Eastern Division South

“The problem that we have are young people. Two of the past murders that we have had, there are children involve, minors. And I am going to say something that some factions of the community will not like again, but I will say it because I think we have to be frank with people. As of today, I have given instructions to my police officers that anywhere a minor is found on the street at night after nine p.m.; that minor will be detained and taken to the police station. He will be kept in custody and the next day morning, the parent will have to come for the child.”

Duane Moody

“So basically a curfew?”

ACP Chester Williams

“Well if you want to call it that, you can call it that. The parent will have to come to the child. If the parent does not come for the child, we are going to take the matter to social and we are going to see how we can deal with some of these parents for neglecting their children, having them on the streets late at night without any supervision.”

Reporter

“In terms of it being a policy, shouldn’t there be or can you just decide that the police is going to do that? Shouldn’t there be much more needed to be done?”

ACP Chester Williams

“The longer we take, the more the streets will be bleeding. We need to bring an end to the violence on the street and that is one way that I believe that we can assist our law-abiding citizens to feel free and safe in our community.”

Reporter

“I’m talking in terms of the policy; it doesn’t need an SI or any such thing, but in terms of such saying…because it is a curfew.”

ACP Chester Williams

“Umm…I do not think that we need to give parents warning as to how to take care of their children. That dah something that they should know from day one. There is no need to give a parent warning as to how to take care of their child.”

Channel 5


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#512491 - 03/19/16 11:23 AM Re: 9 O’clock Curfew to be Imposed on Belize City Minors [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

…Protocol to be Established for Curfew

ACP Williams says that several follow up meetings will be held to devise a protocol. The intent is to target parents, who, after a formal warning is issued to them, can very well be taken to court for neglect.

ACP Chester Williams, Regional Commander, Eastern Division South

“Moving forward we will be meeting again after the Easter in a more smaller group where we will devise the protocol, and then converge in a larger group and see where we go from there. As a part of the program what we want to do is to be able to have counseling for these children, especially those who are already involved in gang activities because some of them might have been traumatized based on what they might have witnessed being around these different gang groups. So counseling is also important so we will be recruiting counselors to come on board with us. We know that even though community rehab has counselors, they do not have in large numbers. So we’ll need persons to volunteer their services to assist us in counseling some of these children at times.”

Duane Moody

“Sir what were some of the concerns that came out from these agencies on this move?”

ACP Chester Williams

“Well the biggest concern for all basically was who are we targeting? Are we targeting the children or the parents? And it is made clear that the persons being targeted are the parents and what we will do, whenever we meet a child on the street, we will bring the child to the police station; we’ll get the parent to the station, CRD will be brought in. we’ll have a sit down with the child and the parent and the parent will be given a warning in writing. If there is a second occasion, then we will charge the parent for child neglect and then the parent will be going to court…we are looking along that route.”

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#512617 - 03/25/16 11:16 AM Re: 9 O’clock Curfew to be Imposed on Belize City Minors [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Report: Child Curfew Getting Blowback From Social Services Sector

Last week you heard Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams talk about his hurry-come-up South-side Child Curfew. In a society often gripped by panic, Williams had popular support, but child rights advocates weren’t so sure.

Reliable information reaching our news room is that several key stake holders in the social services sector are not on-board with the program – because it victimizes children for the failings of their parents, and flies in the face of the convention on the rights of the child. But according to Williams, he has not heard any of this negative feedback.

ACP Chester Williams - OC, Eastern Division South

"I have not heard any negative blow back from UNICEF or the Human Services Department and as it related to that, I will say no more, other than to say that after the Easter break, we will be seeing how best we can get together with all the social partners to see how we go with this new initiative and that is all I will say at this time."

Emanuel Pech

"What has been the feedback that you have been getting?"

ACP Chester Williams - OC, Eastern Division South

"I am sure that you a Facebook page and you can go on Facebook and see what is the feedback from the members of the public."

So we did check his Facebook, and while most are supportive of the proposed initiative, there are those, like one person who thinks quite the contrary. The person posts, quote, “No detention is without its ramifications to the mental health of a human being.” And indeed even the UN agrees. The Convention on the Rights of Children, which Belize is a signatory to, reads as follows, “ No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;” But then here is where we enter a legal battle. Commander Williams puts it like this: they are not detaining but rather placing children in emergency protection. Section 116 subsection 1 under the Families and Children act, gives provision to place children under emergency protection for a period of no more than 48 hours, if the child is believed to be suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. Stakeholders will meet sometime next week to iron out these differences.

The Curfew And The Law

Yesterday we told you about the pushback on the Southside kids curfew imposed by police commander Chester Williams. There are concerns in the social services and child support sector that the result will be kids detained by police, a formula which is known to trigger its own adverse consequences. It also contravenes the Convention on the Rights of the Child - to which Belize is a signatory.

But, Williams says he's simply enforcing the law. Now we've already told you about the Section 116 subsection 1 under the Families and Children act, which makes provision to place children under emergency protection for a period of no more than 48 hours. But ACP Williams also pointed out a law from 1999, which imposes a standing curfew for children in Belize City. It says "any person who, being the parent or guardian of a child, allows or suffers such child to loiter, wander or be in in a street park or other public place in Belize City between the hours of 8:00 pm and 6:00 am, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian commits an offence."

Williams hopes to use this law next week when he takes on UNICEF, which we are told opposes the curfew.

Channel 7


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#512784 - 04/01/16 10:18 AM Re: 9 O’clock Curfew to be Imposed on Belize City Minors [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Williams Getting Social Sector “Buy-In” for Kid Curfew

We caught Williams just as he left another meeting with social sector stakeholders - trying to build consensus for the unofficial curfew which he first proposed weeks ago.

As we told you, the law going back to 1999 says "any person who, being the parent or guardian of a child, allows or suffers such child to loiter, wander or be in in a street park or other public place in Belize City between the hours of 8:00 pm and 6:00 am, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian commits an offence."

But, while that's a law for the parents, the social sector partners have been reluctant to get on board, because the Williams curfew would detain the children at the police station - which raises all kinds of issues.

Those trappings are what put the child care advocates on guard, and so, we asked Williams if he was able to bring them around today:

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"The meeting I must say was a productive and we have a pre-meeting this meeting this morning as well with the Minister of Human Development Mr. Anthony "Boots" Martinez, who was very instrumental in the meeting this morning in terms of assisting us with some new ideas that we can inject into the program that we are trying to do in terms of ensuring the safety of our children in Belize City."

Jules Vasquez
"So where are we right now with this curfew? Is everyone on board?"

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Yes, all the stakeholders are on board and we will continue what we have been doing in terms of when we meet a child on street after 9pm at night, the child will be taken into the care of the police and, listen carefully, not detained, but will be taken into the care of the police and we have a room that we have designated to this program where the child would be kept until the morning time when we can get the social and the parent in. But when it comes to female child, we will be taking those female children to their homes and we will have the parent bring them in the next day morning, so that we can deal with the matter along with social."

Jules Vasquez
"Practical question: the children or child are taken in at night, not detained, taken in. You are introducing them sir to a police station. How will you insulate them from the fact that you child are being held at a police station. A place where there are bad men. They only hold bad men here. You are being held here for your own good, because of your bad parents. How would you insulate that space to make it not contaminated with all the vices which surround a police station?"

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Practical answer to a practical question: at the police station all kind of people comes. The young, the old, the able, and the disabled - everybody comes to a police station. A police station is not a place where only criminal goes. You are at a police station right now Jules and I trust and hope that you are a law abiding citizen. Right. And, like I have always said that these children when they are brought in, they will be kept totally away from the cell block population. They will have no contact with the cell block population. They will be taken care of. We have a child friendly police department here in Eastern Division South."

Jules Vasquez
"You are joking."

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"No. Let me finish. we have a child friendly police department here and say so and I will prove to you since I assume command of Eastern Division South, when many people out on the streets have been clamoring for us to give up on the young people, because of the gang violence and so forth, I stood my ground and I said no. I am not going to give up on them. I am going to give them a chance. I sit in mediation with them. I have family day with them. I bring them out along with their families. I interact with them. I am currently, through the efforts of some our corporate citizen, renovating a park on West Street. I will invite you next week to the launch of that park to let you see how much we have done and will continue to do for the children of Southside Belize City."

Jules Vasquez
"But those things are happening so to speak outta road. In a police station sir, all types of actions occur, which are not fit for children and you and I know that the police officers, thought good and honest they may be, are pluck from the same communities where these feared gang people are plucked from. These are not people who are equip to take care of children."

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Jules, you are making an assessment without any supporting facts."

Jules Vasquez
"Is there caring for children in the police academy? There is none sir. They don't trained them to do that."

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Jules, are you a parent?"

Jules Vasquez
"I am indeed."

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Do you take classes to be a parent?"

Jules Vasquez
"No sir."

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Do you go to the police training academy to learn to take care of your children?"

Jules Vasquez
"Sir."

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Do you, yes or no Jules?"

Jules Vasquez
"Sir."

ACP Chester Williams, Pushing on with curfew
"Parenting can occur naturally. Police officers are parents too and they care for their children at home and it is in that same vain that we are going to care for those children that we bring here. I will tell you that the place where they will be kept will be well suited for them to be kept. It has TV, fan, mattress that they can rest on. In some cases it might even be better than what they have at home. We will be feeding them until the social worker and the parent come in and we will try to get them in as early as possible in the morning, that we can deal with these people, these children so that they can go home."

At today's meeting we saw representatives from the Department of Social Services, and CYDP. We didn't see any UNICEF Rep., but we are told through back channels that they are not fans of the Williams plan. Tune in tomorrow to hear what Williams has to say about UNICEF.

Channel 7


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#512887 - 04/06/16 11:38 AM Re: 9 O’clock Curfew to be Imposed on Belize City Minors [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Curfew Working After 2 Weeks, Says ACP Chester Williams

The curfew in Belize City has been in effect for more than two weeks now. The concept is that any youth under eighteen years of age, not accompanied by an adult, who is found on the streets of the city after nine at night, will be detained. So far the initiative first broached by Eastern Division South Commander Chester Williams has met with mixed reviews from stakeholders, pertinent organizations like the Human Development Ministry and observers – some very much for, some very much against, and some in the middle. But reactions to concept aside, how’s the initiative been working on the ground? Today, Assistant Commissioner of Police Williams explained that, quite simply, it’s been working.

ACP Chester Williams, Regional Commander, Eastern Division South

“Since we commenced we have picked up about eight or nine children off the streets and we dealt with them with their parents and social workers. When it comes to females we take them straight home and then the parents are asked to bring them back in the morning time and we deal with them with the Social Department. In most cases the parents say they can’t control them. Those are the main concerns that the parents are having with these children.”

Reporter

“So what has been the outcome when the Police have found children to be out beyond the curfew hours?”

ACP Chester Williams

“What we do in the first instance, so as not to apply the law in the strict sense, which as you know allows the Police to arrest and charge the parent and take the parent to count, but so as not to do that…what we are doing in the first instance is give the parents a written warning explaining the law to them and exactly where their child was found. In that warning letter it states to them clearly that if the child is found again on the streets unsupervised, what the consequences will be.”

Reporter

“What has been the reaction of the youths themselves?”

ACP Chester Williams

“We are seeing now that we are not having that large number of children on the streets again. I can tell you that for many nights we are out there and do not encounter any. I would hope that the parents continue this to ensure that they keep their children at home. I will say that if parents abide by the rules of the curfew there will be no need for us to pick up any child during the course of the night.”

A Look at All Sides of the Curfew Debate

The curfew for minors is a topic that is being hotly debated across the land. ACP Chester Williams believes that it is the answer to keeping minors away from urban crime and gang activity.  But in many sectors, it is out rightly rejected because it is in contravention to the rights of the child and in previous instances; it has not been the solution to curb crime. So where is the middle ground to keeping teenagers away from the claws of the gangs? Williams is meeting with stakeholders to find that out. News Five’s Duane Moody talks to all sides, including a minor who was subjected to the lockdown.

ACP Chester Williams, Regional Commander, Eastern Division South [File: March 17th, 2016]

“I have given instructions to my police officers that anywhere a minor is found on the street at night after nine p.m.; that minor will be detained and taken to the police station. He will be kept in custody and the next day morning, the parent will have to come for the child.”

Chester Williams

Duane Moody, Reporting

The unofficial implementation of a clampdown on unaccompanied minors after nine p.m. in the south side of Belize City has stirred a firestorm.  The imposed curfew is wide ranging, it essentially affects all children seventeen years and younger, including primary-school-aged minors. But the targeted group is in fact teenagers—those, who for some time now, are being recruited by gangs to commit violent crimes.

ACP Chester Williams [File: March 17th, 2016]

“The longer we take, the more the streets will be bleeding. We need to bring an end to the violence on the street and that is one way that I believe that we can assist our law-abiding citizens to feel free and safe in our community.”

A curfew is only imposed when governments cannot maintain public order. It’s normally put into effect in times of martial law or hurricanes and disasters and when the regular apparatus of the state cannot take control.

Now, Belize was the fifth country to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child back in May of 1990.  According to the convention, curfews typically restrict children to their homes during nighttime hours and are contrary to children’s right to associate with one another.

Ivan Yerovi

Ivan Yerovi, Country Representative, UNICEF

“I think it is a measure which UNICEF totally disagrees with it. Probably the good intention of reaching parents—it is a good intention—however reaching parents by penalizing children and by taking children into custody is not the right way.”

Luwani Cayetano, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Belize

“Curfews tend to target the most vulnerable so there is a lot of discrimination going on there. Curfews don’t really engage what the root causes of the problems are.”

The first time a statutory instrument for a curfew was signed in Belize was back in 1999. Minors, sixteen and younger in Belize City and Dangriga, were not allowed to leave their homes after eight p.m.  In October 2004, the Police and Human Development Departments effected a curfew on children thirteen years and under found on Belize City streets between eight p.m. and six a.m.  They were picked up, taken to their homes or held until a parent or guardian was located. Then in summer of 2007, another curfew was reintroduced in the Old Capital to protect children from criminal activities.  Now fast track to 2016, the Ministry of Human Development agrees with the objective of child protection, but has concerns about the methodology.

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation & Poverty Alleviation

“We are trying to see how we can leverage all that we have in a concerted way and in a way that doesn’t penalize children for the shortcoming of their parents. If a child is on the road and you pick up that child, then what is the responsibility of the parent in all that and you are detaining the child. So we have concerns as to how we can meet the objective of keeping children safe and engaged in a way that does not penalize them for the shortcomings, in a way that respects their rights, in a way that supports their families.”

Several minors have since been picked up by police: some heading to the shop to buy food, on errands, playing with friends, others were traveling home after a school activity and of course those who were up to no good.  For seventeen-year-old Ever Colindres, he works to help his family and is now fearful because he was detained over the weekend and treated like a criminal.

Ever Colindres

Ever Colindres, Minor Detained by Police

“Police stopped me and took me to the station for no reason. I was just going to buy at Lee Chee a fry chicken with my friend and they say that I was running away from them and I wasn’t. They act like dehn ketch criminal too…like dehn ketch El Chapo or something cause it was siren and everything like dah big thing di go on, but nothing. I came out from work nine o’clock, I went home; there was nothing to eat so I went to bathe and get ready and went to buy a fry chicken and that was about it.”

Joana Colindres, Guardian

“We came in and we saw many kids there; there were only three seventeen year olds there, everybody else was of age thirteen fourteen twelve, etc. I heard the parents mention that the kids were just going across to the grandparents.”

ACP Williams says that it is a drastic measure that some may not agree with, but it has become necessary to address the broader issue of engaging parenting. That differs depending on various social factors.

Joana Colindres

Johanna Colindres

“I understand what they are trying to do, but at the end of the day, who gets penalized for other people’s action. I signed for him right. So they saying if they catch him another night on the streets, I will be the one that will be responsible for him. They’ll either charge me two thousand dollars—now I don’t know where I’ll get that money from—I don’t have that money to pay for someone. Or take me to jail for a year.”

Darwin Westby

Darwin Westby, Resident

“I would not say I fully support it, but it is something that we look at for security reasons to ensure that children are safe and to prevent them from engaging in crime.”

Kezia Arnold, Resident

“When I was a minor, by six o’clock I deh ina mi house. When street light come on, dah time fi yo deh ina yo house. I believe no parent should have any thirteen, fourteen year old out on the street around that time.”

But on March eighteenth, 2016, the Old Capital was officially named a child friendly municipality. It’s a community where children are free—ensuring that all minors, irrespective of their social, economic or ethnic background have equal rights and access to health, education, shelter, social protection and social care. A community where children have access to public space to recreate and one that is free of violence and abuse. So the idea of a curfew, according to Mayor Darrell Bradley, goes against this reality.

Darrell Bradley

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor [File: April 1st, 2016]

“The idea of a curfew and we have to be very careful in relation to the language that we use, we don’t support that. So that when you engage with young people and you are talking with trying to do strategies in relation to preventing crime, I think the police is on the right track in a lot of their community policing initiative; their engagement with various stakeholders. And I think that when you go curfew, that creates a negative image, because first and foremost every effort that you are doing in the city is undermined because you are saying that the city is unsafe.”

Different youth service agencies, including the Truancy Unit of the Ministry of Education and RESTORE Belize UNICEF and the Ministry of Human Development, have since met with the Police to ensure that the curfew is in compliance with the requirements of the Families and Children Act. But back to the objective of reducing crime committed by minors; will a curfew have an impact?

Luwani Cayetano

Luwani Cayetano

“It was tried three times during that period and I think a good lesson is that the department of human services, community rehabilitation department and the police need to work together. That is the strongest lesson; this is a very complicated issue and we need to work together. What does not work is penalizing children is penalizing children for a problem that is really coming out of the adults.”

Ivan Yerovi

“Let’s suppose I am a nine year old and my mom tells me to go to the store and get something I am going to be detained and taken because my mother sent me to get something from a grocery store. I’m sorry, detained. For how many hours? Six, four, three…it depends; for doing nothing. You see the psychological impact on the child? Why am I being detained? They don’t even understand what’s going on, and they are detained. And then the parents…I’m sure if the parent comes and pick them up, they are going to corporal punish them. I told you…etc and then they are going to start calling names. It’s a whole issue of violence. Again, they are victims and they are re-victimized again.”

Duane Moody for News Five.

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