By Harry Lawrence - Publisher
For more than a year now the people of Belize City have been cringing under a relentless tide of street violence that has killed many, disrupted family live, created orphans, and burdened families with burial expenses beyond their endurance.
Belizeans have prayed, they have grieved, they have marched in street protests and jammed the call-in networks with talk of how to stop street crime.
They have proposed more police patrols, limited curfews, stiffer penalties, including the death penalty -- anything that will take away the scourge of gun violence and restore peace and tranquility to the land we all love.
But now that the government is responding to these cries for help and is doing something to discourage street violence by prescribing stiffer penalties for gun and gang activity, some of us are wavering. They are having second thoughts.
They are concerned that ten working days or twelve calendar days of lock-up are too stiff a penalty for a man (or woman) caught carrying an illegal gun, or for a boy caught trying to shoot somebody with a gun that an adult person has placed in his hands.
They express the view that law enforcement should not be concerned about the widespread use of the telephone to plan and commit serious crime, or if it is concerned, it should not do anything to monitor certain calls out of respect for people’s privacy.
It is good to be concerned about the rights and privacy of our citizens, and it is this very concern which has pushed many to advocate sterner, more invasive measures for the good of the community.
In this age of urban terrorism, all countries have had to take extraordinary measures to protect society. Belize is among the last to do so.
When Belizeans travel abroad by plane, we have to take off our shoes, just like everybody else. Our telephone conversations are subject to surveillance, just like everybody else. We suffer a little inconvenience for the greater safety and tranquility of all. This has become a part of twenty-first century living wherever we go. We may have to give up even more, for the common good.
Located as we are, so near to the United States, Belize cannot avoid the vice associated with the drug trade. Our young men who go to the U.S. are often trapped and recruited into gangland activity. They come back home ready to show what they have learned and to flex their muscle against law enforcement.
Belize does enjoy many economic benefits from our geographical nearness to the United States, but we pay a heavy price in human and moral resources. The contagion will continue and get much worse if we do not find some strong medicine to cure it.