|Belize Police Assistant Commissioner Maureen Leslie speaks passionately
about the dangers of crime to the San Pedro R. C. Students at the Lions Den.
The San Pedro Police Department is making changes on Ambergris Caye to
address the growing crime situation. Its first big change seems to be the
reinforcement of the curfew on "La Isla Bonita." In order to shed light on
regulations pertaining to the curfew situation, Assistant Commissioner of
Police/Commissioner of Eastern Belize Division, Maureen Leslie along with
Inspector in charge of Commanding Community Policing Eastern Division, Diane
Garcia, Inspector in charge of Service/Protection Department, Bartholomew
Jones, and newly appointed Sergeant Irma Anderson, spent Tuesday and
Wednesday last week visiting with youth, parents, business leaders and
members of the community.
|Students from the San Pedro R. C. School listen intently as the new curfew
is explained to them by police officials from Belize City.
Assistant Commissioner Leslie said that crimes committed by youth,
clearing "hot spots," and making sure her officers act "professionally" are
among her top priorities. A major emphasis of her visit was to clarify the
newly implemented curfew.
Mrs. Leslie and her staff spent much of Wednesday at the Lions Den
where local school children attentively listened to Mrs. Leslie's
explanation on the curfew being enforced on Ambergris Caye. The curfew
implemented is between the hours of 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. People under the
age of 17 must be home during this time, or if they will be out in public,
they should be accompanied by an adult. She stressed constantly on the fact
that the curfew is intended to reduce crimes by young people and to protect
children from "bad people." Assistant Commissioner Leslie told the youth,
"If you commit crimes or are considered 'uncontrollable,' you may be sent to
the Hattieville Penitentiary for Youth in Belize City until you turn 18."
She continued, "You can be as young as nine years old and go to
Hattieville." Mrs. Leslie told the children that if they are caught
violating the curfew, "Not only will you be in trouble, but so will your
Maureen Leslie then opened the floor for a question and answer session
about the newly implemented curfew. However, many of the questions from the
kids were regarding the disturbing behavior of police officers on the
island. Several questions were posed to the panel, including: Why can
officers drink and drive? How come they whistle at me? Why do they drive so
While the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the curfew, the children
appeared more interested in why policeman have been able to misbehave. Mrs.
Leslie was not pleased. "If you see any police officer acting
inappropriately, I want you to call me," she told the students. She
explained to those attending that when asked, policemen must provide their
names and that they are not allowed to drink while on duty, or while wearing
their uniforms. "It is essential that these officers are good role models
for the youth," she mentioned.
After a long day speaking with elementary school children, Mrs. Leslie
took time to address parents. Her first concern was attendance. A
disappointing group of less than 15 parents were present at the meeting. "In
order for the curfew to work, parents need to get involved! It takes
everyone's help for this to be successful," she stated.
The first issue Assistant Commissioner Leslie tackled was agreement;
making sure all parents were aware of the curfew hours and that all agreed.
All parents in attendance said they did.
The second point tackled was whether implementing a curfew was legal on
the island. Mrs. Leslie explained that Belize City has a curfew amendment
and that a child who is found out on the street during curfew hours is taken
home. The parent is liable to a fine of up to $2,000. She went on to explain
that there is no a curfew amendment on Ambergris Caye but that the parent
can be charged for child neglect and/or abandonment. If the curfew
implemented does not prove to be successful and children are still roaming
the streets, Mrs. Leslie suggested traveling to Belmopan and requesting a
curfew amendment for the island. "I do not want to do this," stated Mrs.
Leslie. "This will mean that I, as a Commissioner, and you, as a parent,
have failed in trying to keep our children off the streets. This does not
need to happen."
Inspector Diane Garcia gave a few ideas, which will help children have
activities that may keep them busy and out of trouble and that will possibly
be implemented on San Pedro Town. The first was the Youth Cadet Corps, which
is designed to have a positive influence on children from the age of eight
to 14. It enables them to be entertained with positive tasks and through the
year, fun and exciting camping trips are taken. Inspector Garcia mentioned
that after a child disobeys the curfew twice, then they may be sent to boot
camp in the city where they are taught to be exemplary citizens.
Assistant Commissioner Leslie told those present that her telephone
lines are always open and that anyone having and concerns, questions or
complaints, may call her anytime. She also mentioned that if the individual
wished to remain anonymous, that they may call 922, the crime stoppers
hotline, which is answered in Miami, Florida, USA.
Mrs. Maureen Leslie concluded by saying that she would try to visit
Ambergris Caye as many times as possible and that if it is needed, she would
try to transfer more police officers to the island until the crime situation
has been minimized.