Alberto Villanueva called me last week. Alberto is the person I had referred to as “the amazingly smart young man who explained that ridiculous Police Monitoring machine” so I couldn’t be surprised that it was a ptetty grumpy phone call. I had spoken my mind and he spoke his. I respected him for being forthright. He grouched at me for awhile for speaking my mind on a public forum like this Bulletin Board so I reminded him that I had tried to raise the same issues at the October 22 Village Council meeting but they made it clear that they wanted me to sit down and SHUT UP. I have apparently ticked off some people in or on the fringes of Caye Caulker's government. They want to politely muzzle me by asking me to confine my complaints to the Village Council. I am 70 years old—I do not react kindly to people telling me I have to ask their permission to speak. I began this by telling the truth and I’m going to finish it by telling the truth.
The Most Important Thing
Of all the things Alberto said the one that bothered me most was that I had hurt the feelings of some of the people on the Village Council or the Neighborhood Crime Watch by asking if they had ulterior motives and for suggesting they should “fire themselves.”
I won’t make excuses. I won’t pretend they misunderstood me. I was wrong for saying those things. I SINCERELY APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE WHOSE FEELINGS I HURT.
I obviously disagree with some of your tactics, but I have great respect for every one of you. We are working toward the same end, to make this beautiful place safe for all of us. Let’s be realistic here: I pose no threat to you: I have no authority, no influence, no power on CC and I don’t want any. You have all the power in this situation. I am a newcomer who is trying to persuade the law makers on CC to do a few things differently. Nothing more. I don’t speak for anyone but myself. I also realize that it is easier to criticize a program than it is to create the program yourself. You have done the hard work.
Two Things I can’t ‘Go Slow’ about
If I speak too strongly in this Go Slow paradise, it is for two reasons I cannot Go Slow about: 1) It isn’t very macho to admit it but since Mrs. Young’s utterly insane murder I have been a little bit scared s—less. I carried a cane to your meeting not because I had a sore leg (I didn’t) but because I wanted a stick long enough to defend myself or anyone else in danger. 2) I am sure you didn’t do it intentionally but your Crime-Stopping Program does not increase protection for Residents of Caye Caulker, it puts Residents of CC more at risk than we are now. Every aspect of the CCNWPL program as it was described at the October 22 Village Council meeting treats Tourists one way and Residents another way. Different Police, different Routing of Phone Calls, differing Rules of Police Response—different EVERYTHING. I think every Resident of Caye Caulker understands that means that Residents will get the short end of the stick when it comes to Police Protection. Having one set of rules, laws, responses and protection for one group and different rules for the other is guaranteed to create resentment, to pit one group against another. It may look like it’s working for a while but it’s a ticking time bomb—sooner or later it will blow up in your face. As I said, I don’t have the authority to demand anything. I respectfully request that you restructure your Law Enforcement program so that everyone is treated equally under the law. We need a program that applies the same laws and the same degree of protection to all of us, otherwise we will never achieve the unity we need to control crime on CC.
Don’t Try to Micro-Manage the Police
From what I have seen on the streets you may be too far along on your program to seriously consider another approach. But at the very least this will give you an alternative to think about.
Don’t try to “micro-manage” the Police by keeping track of everything they do. Instead of spending a lot of time and money putting every cop under a microscope, hire the best Top Cop you can find make it his job to control crime on CC. Let him worry about policing the individual policemen. Nobody knows a policeman’s bag of work-evading tricks as well as another cop.
The more important and difficult a job is the more you need a Quality Professional to do it. It is pure vanity to think that amateurs (which is what we are when it comes to police-work) can do a better job than a good, dedicated professional.
Don’t dump all the blame on the Cops
Everyone I have spoken to thinks the police have not done a very good job of stopping crime on CC but I don’t know anyone who thinks the police are the cause of crime. It’s a little too easy for the politicians on CC to dump all the blame on the cops.
The Best Way for Civilians to Fight Crime
I have spent most of my life in high-crime cities like New York and Detroit. Crime seems to run in cycles so I have lived through and been part of several attempts to rescue neighborhoods from crime. The most important thing civilians (non-cops) could do to protect or take back their streets is to WALK on them. Empty streets or dark streets are (or feel like) dangerous streets. The more ‘regular people’ who are out on the streets, the safer they are. If you need a friend or two to make you feel safe enough to walk at night, get ‘em! And make sure ALL of your streets are brightly Lit. Brightly lit streets with people on them discourage crime.
I agree with much of Alberto Villanueva’s write-in (under the pseudonym ‘TravelinMan1’) but the places where I disagree are of critical importance:
1. I agree w/Alberto that about 90% of crimes are “crimes of opportunity; eliminate the opportunity and eliminate the crime.”
2. Frankly, paragraph three scares the hell out of me. It says “Tourists will feel more comfortable if they see a presence and crooks will move on to greener pastures.”
You asked for “constructive criticism”—this is as constructive and specific as one can be. a) Replace the word “Tourists” (in your mind as well as on paper) with an all-inclusive term like “Everyone will feel more comfortable” or “Tourists and Residents will feel more comfortable”. You can coddle Tourists as much as you like but please do not do it at the expense of the Residents.
b) the phrase “crooks will move on to greener pastures” is downright scary. The only pastures “greener” than the Tourists are the Residents—us! Frankly, any Resident willing to lay down and be a “greener pasture” so that a handful of people can make more money off Tourists is an idiot.
Please Note: This is not against the Best Interest of the Tourism Board or the businesses that make a living off of Tourism. God Bless you, make as much money as you can. But don’t be so shortsighted that you reach a level of Tourism that becomes “unsustainable.” Belize has shown great wisdom in putting sustainable limits on plant and animal life. Surely somebody in power has the humanity and common sense to protect the human beings of Caye Caulker with as much foresight as you protect your environment.
3) Please resist the temptation to treat places like “Black Neighborhood” as if they were expendable. Give them as much respect, protection and streetlights as you give well-off neighborhoods of CC. As Verbatim09 wrote, “Caye Caulker is multi-ethnic.” Unfortunately the governing body of CC is not (or doesn’t appear to be) multi-ethnic.
Dear Village Council of CC: You appear to be the uncontested Power Group on CC. We all know that people in power seldom give any of it away, but that is what I am asking you to try. I think it might help unify CC if the Village Council took steps to make CC’s governing body more multi-ethnic. I have no idea what the laws are but unless it’s flagrantly illegal you could leave your present Council intact (so nobody loses their position) and just add new Council members to make the Village Council representative of the ethnic mix of CC’s residents. You don’t have anything to lose if you begin by making the multi-ethnic Council “conditional.” If you believe it helps unify CC you keep it, if you don’t you dump it. You keep your own power intact and “loan” some of it to the other guys to see if it ‘works’.
Don’t let any of your ethnic groups become endangered. Without its multi-ethnic charm, CC is just another patch of sand.
I will shut up now.
Brief Bio: I’m the author of 4 books and I’ve been married to Susan David for 39 years.
If you want to complain in private, my email is [email protected]