"CRIME IS CRIME" and "CRIME IS EVERYONE'S BUSINESS" - These two captions, could not have been more appropriate as it was resounded by prominent members of our community who attended last night's Corozal Police Public Meeting.
The meeting was well attended by leaders of our community, business people, Citizen's Coalition for a Better Corozal and a cross section of our Corozal Community, including various heads of our neighbourhood watch groups.
The main objective of the meeting was to introduce our new Deputy Commanding Officer of the Corozal Police Formation, Inspector Peter Serano, the Citizen on Patrol (COP) Program in the Corozal District and give an update on crime statistics for Corozal and compare 2013 statistics to our current time period.
Chairing the meeting was Assistant Commissioner of Police and Northern Regional Commander - Joseph Myvett, Officer Commanding Corozal Police - Andrew Ramirez and our new Deputy Commanding Officer, Inspector - Peter Serano. Peter Serano replaces Assistant Superintendent of Police Daniel Arzu who was promoted to Officer Commanding Benque Viejo Police Formation.
We take this opportunity to congratulate our regional commander Joseph Myvett in his promotion as Assistant Commissioner of Police.
As regional commander, the Orange Walk and Corozal Formations not only operate as a region but there is a sharing of information between different regional commanders across the country. The sharing of information is timely since crime affects everyone. Sharing the methods across the country is important to adopt what works in the different areas. He explained that they are also strategized in respect to the crime and those are some of the major responsibilities including the management of the northern region's resources.
Although it was notably reported that crime went down for the same period last year, in Corozal, we all agree that crime does affect our bottom-line and if we care, individually and together, we can make a difference in the crime rate.
Corozal is a nest to over 250 expat retirees and crime does not discriminate anyone. Of late, we have seen a trend of quite a few expats relocation back home or mainly across to Mexico. This is cause for concern as Corozal has been proclaimed in the past by various articles as a Top Retirement Destination. One of the greatest concerns that we have heard expressed, by some of these expats who are now relocating, or have relocated is the level and type of crimes being committed in Belize and the fear that these crimes may infiltrate from the peripheries to our communities. No doubt this is a major concern for those other expats and their families who are looking to move to Belize.
With our police department lacking the proper forensic tools and expertise in this field, our conviction rate at less than 7% and 1% of the budget to the judicial system, is offensive for those who have lost loved ones or been victims and targets of violent crimes.
The Corozal Police Formation has to protect and serve the immediate Corozal Town and 26 villages that encompass the entire District. In addition, the Corozal Formation is responsible for the Corozal Free Zone that receives over one million domestic visitors per year or an average of 2800 visitors to the zone per day.
This is a tremendous challenge for the capacity of the Corozal Police Department and the demographics of our District. While we are aware that crimes can happen at any moment, authorities are then tasked to work as diligently as they are required by standards that govern them. It is with this in mind, that we all must play our vital roles to be the eyes and ears of the department and work together for the safety of our community.
Even with the personal grievances or the grudges we may hold individually against some police officers, it is at times like these - when in crisis, that we must forge with every effort towards bridging the gap of confidence between our community and our police department. Curbing crime is not an easy job and for members of the police department who endure copious amounts of scrutiny and criticism, it can be a daunting daily process.
Our Police and Community are partners in our efforts of crime fighting and safety. Police officers are to serve and protect. Any wedge to open the gap between the community and our peace officers gives the criminal element the upper hand.
Reactivate your neighbourhood watch groups, volunteer on the COP program and let's continue to keep Corozal Safe and Clean.
Thanks to everyone who made the effort of attending and thank you to the community for being open and speaking frankly and sincere on the crime issues affecting all of us. We believe good things will carry forward from this meeting.
On Monday, we will be posting the COP Campaign program spearheaded by National coordinator Rudolph Orio.