On Friday, April 30th, Honorable Manuel Heredia, members of the San Pedro Town Council, members of neighborhood watches, hundreds of students and a few residents took to the streets in a stance against crime. Dressed in white and carrying posters depicting messages such as “Silence the Crime”, “Stop the Violence”, among others, they marched together, in an effort to bring a sense of community and solidarity against crime. The past few months had been especially rife with crime on the island, and residents and politicians alike have been feeling the heat.
The march commenced at 8:30am from the old football field, progressed through the major streets of San Pedro and finally returned to the field at mid-morning. There, Mayor Paz, Honorable Heredia, Jan Brown and Scott Harnish took to the floor to speak to those in attendance on crime, unity, and the role of the neighborhood watches.
Despite the poor turnout of the adult residents of La Isla Bonita, Minister Heredia was quite pleased with the turnout of the students for the walk. According to Hon. Heredia, criminal elements must be made aware that the future of the island, the students, the youth, are taking a stand and sending a message to them, and that message is that crime must CEASE and DESIST. When asked about what is being done to alleviate the crime problem, especially in this tourism destination, he stated that Tourism Police Officers are on the island to provide patrols on the beaches and heavily trafficked tourist spots. He is working diligently to ensure that these officers remain on the island and fulfill their duties.
According to Jan Brown of the Escalante Neighborhood Watch (ENW), becoming involved in your neighborhood watch is very important. The various watches throughout the island have been very successful, and it is a show of solidarity and unity amongst neighbors. Coming together to battle crime is more effective than working alone. Since its inception, the ENW has succeeded in getting two guards on duty to patrol the residential neighborhood. At the rally, she spoke of a recent encounter wherein one of the guards caught someone trying to steal a golf cart. It is a prime example of what can be accomplished when people come together to work for a worthy cause.
She challenged children to be diligent about neighborhood safety. Young children nowadays can text, call, capture images via phone, etc, and they can help in stopping crime when they put such technology to use. Anyone can help divert a crime. Calling 911 now goes directly to the local Police Station’s line. Simply remembering to use this tool can be very effective in preventing crime. If there is no neighborhood watch in your neighborhood, Ms. Brown urges you to start one. All existing and successful watches are willing to give guidance so you can start one. It’s just another step in combating crime on the island.
Scott Harnish was another speaker at the after-march rally, and being part of the North Ambergris Caye Neighborhood Watch (NACNW) he has seen the success a working neighborhood watch can bring to an area. Hence he encourages people to become actively involved in their neighborhood watches. Meeting neighbors, supporting the police, reporting any suspicious activities, all these actions help in the fight against crime. As meetings are only once a month, residents should try to make the time to attend these very important get-togethers. Through these meetings, the NACNW has managed to create a phone tree, which brings neighbors together. They also have an air-horn system in place that will alert the entire community when there is a crime in progress (simply blow the air horn three times), and succeed in foiling criminals’ attempts at break-ins and more. According to Harnish, it is all about getting acquainted with neighbors and participating. BE ACTIVE.
He also invites members of the public to come out to the grand “barn-raising” style building of a substation up north in Tres Cocos on Monday, May 10th. This substation, much like the South Ambergris Caye Neighborhood Watch (SACNW) sub-station, will house an officer who will be the go-to person in the area. He reminds the business sector of the ongoing efforts of the San Pedro Business Association to keep the Anti-drug and Belize Defense Force personnel on the island to assist the SPPD. In a population of easily over 20,000 people, 19 police officers are just not enough, and having the extra units on hand provides more safety for residents. Without community and business support, that project may just get pulled. To help this worthy cause, contact Amanda Syme or Chris Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crime is everyone’s problem, and everyone is asked to become active and participate. Report crimes, lend a hand when possible, and if you can, attend neighborhood watch meetings. It is up to us to regain the sense of community, that sense that no criminals should be allowed to take away.