Local Police Initiative addressed

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 44            November 15, 2007

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Mayor Paz addresses the crowd gathered for the meeting, stating that she “does not believe that residents should ‘risk their lives’ to do the job an officer is paid to.”

On November 8th, 2007, members of the general public were invited to attend a public meeting where the San Pedro Police Department would address the issues affecting people in our community. Present for the meeting were Assistant Superintendent of Police Humberto Patt, Deputy Police Commissioner Maureen Leslie and other key police officials.

    The policing plan 2006 – 2010 was formulated to follow in the continuation of a clear sense of direction, with a sole purpose of continuing to strive for improved development of the department as the primary law enforcement agency and in an effort to bring efficient, effective and professional service to the general public. The policing plan 2006 – 2010 has incorporated unfulfilled action plans of the policing plan 2000 – 2005 and formulated new objectives and action plans which have set out departmental goals and objectives for the next five years upon which police departments will strive to accomplish and deliver for the good of Belize and its people.

    In compliance with the National Action Plan, ASP Patt presented his local action plan with six main objectives. These targeted goals will have a one year action period and will require revisiting and evaluation for the coming year.

    The six points are as follows: Preventative Patrolling – To improve the effectiveness of preventative patrolling to reduce crime in the streets and other public places. According to ASP Patt this will be carried out in the form of the Citizens on Patrol program (COP), as well as the Special Constable Program. “When I first came to the island there were 21 special constables and today there are only five active members.” COPs and Special Constables work alongside uniformed officers minimizing any threat to them. Both entities work a minimum of four hours a week. “This is preventative patrolling. These people are the eyes and ears of the department. They see or hear something and they contact us. This has worked very effectively in Corozal and Orange Walk,” commented DPC Leslie. Between COP, special constables, uniformed officers and the tourism police, increased visibility of foot and mobile patrols will be conducted.

    The second issue was Traffic and Road Safety – To increase enforcement of road safety and traffic laws in particular targeting those persons involved in drunk driving, whilst improving traffic education for the general public. Working alongside the Transport Department, frequent check points will be carried out, especially during weekends, were traffic offenders will be prosecuted. Strong police vigilance will also be conducted in “party” areas around the island during weekends, such as Big Daddy’s, Jaguar’s, Wet Willy’s and others to minimize the incidences of drunk driving. The San Pedro Police Department has also initiated Traffic and Road Safety programs at the various elementary schools.

    Thirdly, ASP Path plans on working closely to combat Organized and Transnational crime – To continue to target active drug traffickers, transnational and organized crime in Belize. Working alongside relevant agencies, such as, customs, immigration and fisheries, the San Pedro Police Department plans to minimize drug and human trafficking. Drug awareness programs have also been incorporated in the various classrooms. Illegal firearms making their way in to the island have also been of concern to the department and as such, ASP Patt plans on working to remove them from the streets.

    Improving Investigations – To improve the investigative procedures in all areas of investigation so as to increase the rate of detection and conviction of offenders is the fourth point. Further training for officers will be carried out where they will be taught on proper procedures in collecting and gathering evidence. “Many a times we make arrests but do not get conviction in court. By training our officers, these incidences will be minimized,” commented ASP Patt. New to the island is Human Trafficking which officers are being trained to handle as well as the importance, quality and timing of investigations. A local “crime team” has been established with the responsibility of collecting evidence to the best of their ability. It is the department’s hopes that this will garner more convictions when offenders stand before San Pedro Magistrate’s Court.

    Welfare and Professionalism – To improve the morale and welfare of all members of the Department in order to deliver a more efficient and professional level of service to the community. This has been carried out through the Officer of the Month program where officers who perform well and have good work ethics are awarded a certificate of recognition as well as a gift from the business community. Officers have also been enlisted in fitness programs which will definitely improve their health and welfare.

    Community Policing – To improve the overall quality of police service to the community with a view to securing more positive support and cooperation from the public in the fight against crime. This can be carried out in neighborhood watches. ASP Patt commended the North End Neighborhood Watch for their hard work and dedication in minimizing crime in their area through their own efforts of looking out for one another. He stated that he would like to see five active neighborhood watches on the island instead of one. Do the right thing program is also an initiative of the San Pedro Police Department and it aims in honoring high school students who, as the name of the program calls, do the right thing. The Police Cadet Corps is another initiative that has been very actively pursued on the island. ASP Patt reminded parents that to keep their child busy, the cadets are a perfect way to make the time pass away.

    After the official ceremonies were concluded, a question and answer session ensued which gave audience members the opportunity to vent out their frustrations and concerns. Mayor Elsa Paz was the first on the mike and she stated that she does not believe that residents should “risk their lives” to do the job an officer is paid to. DPC Leslie commented that both the COP and Special Constable programs are preventative patrolling and is not meant to put civilians at risk or danger. Mayor Paz stated that officers need better public relation skills when dealing with residents, since she said, “If I as Mayor and Mr. Heredia as Area Representative do not get the respect we deserve when we go there, what can we expect from them when a citizen goes to the station.” DPC Leslie listened to all concerns and stated, “ASP Patt is not getting one [a police officer] for eight months. We [the Belize Police Force] do not have none. […] If San Pedro is to survive, you the members of the community need to become involved. […] You MUST get up and get involved!” exclaimed Leslie. Officers ended by saying that ASP Patt’s office is open to any concerns. “Please if you need something or if you believe my officers are not doing the job you need him to do, call me,” ended Patt. Leslie stated, “He [Patt] is here to work for you, that is why he got promoted to do good. Make him work,” ended Leslie.

    The six point plan has begun to be implemented and many of the programs are already in effect. However, ASP Patt urges all to get involved. For further information, contact the San Pedro Police Department at 226-2022.

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