24 May 2010 - by G. Michael Reid

Belizeans remain dismayed and shocked at the seemingly endless and escalating state of crime in our country. Many remember the simpler times when we could walk the streets, feel safe in our homes and hang out with friends without care or concern. Those days are long gone for somewhere along the line, something went terribly wrong.

While for the most part, many Belize residents seem to have become almost apathetic to the senseless killings and serious incidents of crime affecting our nation, every so often, a sensational incident arouses the dander of the public. The recent slaying of well known basketball star and teacher Aubrey Lopez was one such incident. Normally, when we get news about shootings involving certain individuals, those known to be associated with certain lifestyles or companions, we would for the most part, shake our heads and move on. When these incidents involve however, those known to us as outwardly decent and law-abiding folks, it stops us in our tracks and forces us to pay attention. What it does is conjure a feeling of anxiety and vulnerability. It drives home the reality that one does not necessarily have to go looking for "It" anymore but that "it" now comes looking for us and can find almost anyone at almost any given time.

Usually, when things get to this point, we see politicians jumping over each other in efforts to seem to be doing something. What we get for the most part, are precipitate actions and knee jerk reactions that usually only last as long as the media coverage of the particular incidents themselves.

Recently, we saw Zenaida Moya, of all people, calling a crime summit and doing what my colleague Nuri Muhammed referred to as another "Columbus discovery of America". In other words, saying a whole lot of things that have been said over and over before. Now Prime Minister Barrow has launched his "operation jaguar" and really, haven't we seen this before! Over thirty years ago, Rhaburn composed a song to describe a similar exercise when the infamous 'Mr. Tom" commanded his "operation thunder." Look for detention cells to get packed with weed smokers and profiled suspects. It is a brawn instead of brain operation that will solve very little and cost very much in terms of finance and human resources. Really, can't these people be a wee bit more original at times?

Moya's plan, which she supposedly brought back from Bogota, (and don't we all feel a little better now about her spending so much of our tax money on her first class globe-trotting escapades?), calls for an "all hands on deck" approach. Did you really have to go halfway around the world to come up with that one? The plan calls for very unoriginal concepts like citizen participation, church involvement and business funded initiatives. Committees and sub-committees have been formed to have meetings, eat lunch and do fact-findings on a bunch of already found facts. Honestly folks, who expects anything to really come of this?

The enigma of crime is nothing new and has proven a "perfect nonplus and baffle to all human understanding" since the early days of civilization. Sages through the ages have contemplated the causes and effects and have searched diligently for answers. Greek philosopher Socrates, I believe, comes closest to identifying the true root cause of not only crime but wrongdoing on a whole. Socrates felt that all wrong was done out of ignorance. He goes on with a long definition of what he considers to be ignorance but in the end, felt that those, who do what we consider to be wrong, do so from a premise of justification.

For the seven years that I worked with the Police Department, I preached daily on the call-in talk shows about the very things that Zenaida Moya is now proposing. I believe that for us to make a difference and effect real change then we must begin in the home and eventually bring the entire community into the effort. Most importantly though, we must begin to condemn crime for the scourge that it is and tear away the veneer of glamour that our media houses have associated with crime and criminals.

For years I had daily arguments with Mose Hyde in trying to show him where they were going wrong. In purporting to be the voice of the poor, they felt that they needed also to be a voice for criminals and wrongdoers. They equated crime with poverty and obviously have difficulty in separating the two. Consider this! The district of Toledo has the highest poverty rate but yet the lowest rate of crime; does that not tell you something? There are also many poor folks who live humbly within their means and would not steal a dime.

A couple of years ago, Mose Hyde began spouting a phrase, "ghetto bowy have tuh eat." In more than a couple of shootings since then, the assailants were quoted as having uttered the very same phrase; wonder where they got that from? The truth of the matter is that while everyone indeed deserves a right to live, few of these criminals will use the proceeds from their assaults to buy food, pay rent or take care of their children. Drugs yes! Bling, for sure! Boops, indeed! But providing food for table? Not hardly! Unfortunately, because of the portrayal and protection from the media, these miscreants feel justified in doing what they do.

The crux of the matter is that regardless of what the authorities do, until society on a whole begins to condemn crime instead of justifying and excusing it away and until the media stops protecting and glorifying criminals, we will continue to lose this fight. Until the criminals understand that what they are doing is wrong by any yardstick, they will continue to rationalize and feel justified in their actions. Let us debunk this aura of glamour surrounding crime and destroy any romantic notions associated therewith. We owe it to ourselves, our nation and our children.