Crime is everyone’s business and even the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) is concerned about the situation in Belize. Most importantly, BTIA is concerned about the effect crime can have on the tourism industry within the country. That is why BTIA has partnered with stakeholders in the industry on a fact finding mission throughout the country, gathering information on crime-related concerns.
Last Friday, the first consultation kicked off in San Pedro at the SunBreeze Hotel. Representatives from both San Pedro Town BTIA and Caye Caulker BTIA along with their delegates outlined the many issues relating to crime. “Our tourism industry depends on visitors,” stated one Caye Caulker residents adding that, “if we send a bad signal then visitors will tend to consider elsewhere to vacation.” According to BTIA Executive Director Daedra Haylock, “it appears that the issue in Caye Caulker is a, ‘complete Police system breakdown’.” She added that, “there were serious allegations of police corruption and collusion; there was also the concern of non-responsiveness to crimes and the lack of collaboration with the private sector.” A resident stated that, “in one instance, I went to complain to the police about a criminal element, the next thing I knew the criminal came knocking at my door stating; oh so it was you who went to complain to the Police.”
As part of the panel, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security and former Senior Deputy Commission of Police Allan Whiley was present, along with senior members of the Police Department. CEO Whiley stated that, “I am very disappointed to hear the issues affecting Caye Caulker in terms of lack of police collaboration and allegations of corruption and collusion.” He added that, “I can recall that when I was directly involved in the police department up until recently, we thought that the new changes we made in Caye Caulker were working fine.” Whiley stated that the matter will be brought up with his technical experts in the Ministry and the Police Department to address the issues in Caye Caulker swiftly. “It seems that their need to have a new change of leadership at the Cake Caulker Police substation and have fresh blood to take the lead,” stated Whiley.
As for the concerns affecting San Pedro, Haylock stated that, “the concerns have to do more with petty crimes and the recent armed holdups may signal that crime could escalate to our tourists. We need to see a tighter collaboration between the police and the private sector and the re-vamping of police response to crime.” Haylock also stated that there were lessons to be learned from the active Neighborhood Group in south San Pedro Town. “I do think we need to take a look at what that group is doing and see how the police incorporate them into the policing system on the island,” stated Haylock. The panel agreed to form a stake holder’s commission that will look at the issues and see how to address them in the two communities.
In speaking to The San Pedro Sun, President of BTIA Dionne Chamberlain Miranda stated that following the country wide consultation with the stake holders they will compile the information. “After we finish putting the facts together, we will have to meet with the different people involved to try to come up with a plan of action,” stated Miranda. The efforts spearheaded by BTIA are aimed at addressing the crime situation in prime tourism destinations in the country. Present at the meeting were stakeholders in the tourism industry, representative of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), BTIA, Senior members of the police department and representatives of the Ministry of National Security.