Since Christmas is now just 22 days away, crimes like robbery and theft are expected to be on the rise in crowded areas such as downtown Belize City, which is normally abuzz with the usual hustle and bustle of unsuspecting shoppers.

The joyous season of cheer and goodwill can very quickly turn unsettling and fearsome if buyers become victims of opportunistic robbers and lurkers, who are known to be on the prowl this time of year.

In an effort to thwart such incidents, the Belize City police are trying to do their part to keep people safe and protect patrons who traverse the downtown area.

Today, Amandala spoke with Precinct 1 Commander, Supt. Alden Dawson, who told us that police have stepped up their downtown patrols since the middle of last month. Dawson said, "As routine, from since November 15th, we have commenced extra patrols on the downtown shopping area and the bus terminal area, including the area by the water taxis - all those areas we have been patrolling since the abovementioned date using extra patrols. This is done by our staff personnel who normally work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but now they come back at 6:00 p.m. and work again until 10:00 p.m. What we are going to do later this month is to get some additional foot patrols using recruits who are presently in training. They will come out and render some assistance to our other officers."

He also informed us of the types of crimes that are typically perpetrated at this time of year. Dawson said, "We have seen [an] increase in crime over the years, especially against persons; robberies, chain snatching, and over the years it has been these crimes that are normally on the rise at this time. However, this year we plan to keep it at a minimum; as low as possible with the assistance of the public."

Apart from regular police patrols, Supt. Dawson also notified us that downtown Belize City has been equipped with a Business Watch Team that will provide additional support to the businesses and by extension, shoppers. Dawson said, "We do have a Business Watch Team in place for some time now; these are officers who wear the black uniforms and ride the motorcycles. Most of these motorcycles were donated by the business people so that there could be patrols in the business area. Some time ago when the crime rate was much higher, they got together and they purchased these bikes and asked us to cover the area for them to keep the businesses and customers safe."

Dawson said that they hope to have at least 4 new motorbikes donated by business owners by the 12th of this month. He explained that the motorbikes presently are a crucial part of their mobility in and around the metropolitan area, especially since some of the streets in the city are under repair.

Supt. Dawson also shared some safety tips for the members of the public: "What I would want to say to the public is to avoid dark streets; try as much as possible not to be alone, especially when shopping. Try and prevent a lot of exposure of jewelry and cell phones, because most of the reports about stolen cell phones are regarding people who just ride by and grab it. So we are asking the people to be more cautious; if you need to make a call, stop in at one of the stores and make your call and put away the phone. Also, don't leave laptops or other belongings exposed in your cars, because we have a lot of reports about laptops that are stolen from vehicles."

He also provided precautionary recommendations for those who will be coming from the districts to do Christmas shopping in the city. Dawson cited, "Sometimes we know people would want to come and shop in Belize City, and I would like to advise these people to stay in the main areas such as Orange Street and King Street, because most of their shopping will be done downtown before they return to go to their bus, so we will definitely increase our coverage around the bus terminal, and the safest areas are where I would advise people to walk."

If anyone needs to report any incidents of crime in the downtown area, they are advised to contact Precinct 1 directly at 207-0401or they can simply call 911 for assistance.