Letters — 03 March 2018
A cry from Lower West Street

February 27, 2018

Good morning:

Kindly allow me a few lines to inform your Editor about the residential concerns on Lower West Street that may be a potential news story, in Southside Belize City.  There are a couple of issues affecting residents of Lower West Street, which I would like to bring to the attention of the media.

The first concern is a condemned (green-wooden) structure located at the corner of West Street and Allenby Street. I understand that the property belongs to the Council of Churches, a committee consisting of the Catholic, Methodist, Anglican and the Salvation Army churches. This dilapidated structure at one point was home to the Sadie Vernon Girls School and later the Black Cross Nurses pre-school.  Today the structure is a condemned shell, where the zinc from the roof has been looted, the second floor has caved in and the interior is a dump site.

Several neighbours have expressed concern that the site is a fire hazard.  On several occasions the community police have been called to evict vagrants that use the site as a drug den and night shelter.  Because the windows from the West Street wall have been looted, the police have not been able to keep vagrants from trafficking through the area and using the abandoned structure as a drug den and shelter. If this condemned building were to catch fire, the overgrown bush at the back of the building (West Street) and tall trees (Tigris Street) adjacent to BWSL Station, would pose a direct threat to several residential (wooden) homes, located behind this condemned building.

This is the main concern that residents in the area of Lower West Street would like to bring to the attention of the Council of Churches and ask permission, from the City Council to bring down the building and clear the lot of debris.

Other peripheral issues that are of concern to residents in this area include the frequency and persistency of surveillance being done in Lower West Street. Residents, like myself, are not sure if the surveillance is conducted by police, gang elements in the area or independent arbitrators trying to mediate the peace between these two opposing/warring factions in the neighborhood.  But as residents, we would like to appeal to the police, social workers, community members (in this area), City Council or political agencies for help to curb this illicit activity in the area.

If surveillance in the area is absolutely necessary:

– There should be a clear distinction between who is police versus the gang elements in the area.

– Because these streets are public access roads, then a schedule should be implemented (with specific times and days) that surveillance in the area is to be conducted.

– Notice should be given when surveillance is conducted and not just at the spur of the moment, without consideration for the residents.

– If surveillance is absolutely necessary, it should be equally distributed among all residents of Lower West Street and not the target of a specific family, residence or etc.

– Finally, this surveillance (if absolutely necessary) should not invade any privacy enjoyed by residents in the comfort of their respective homes. Especially for tenants paying rent.  Landlords have rights to place cameras outside of buildings, but not inside the homes of tenants, with rent.

This is an outline that the concern residents in Lower West Street have expressed about the uncomfortable truce, between the police and feuding gang elements throughout the neighborhood.

If this abandoned, dilapidated building on West Street is the source of the conflict between feuding Southside gangs in the area, for God’s sake, tear it down! There have been instances where tenants have been in conflict with landlords about unwarranted surveillance, invasion of privacy and the unauthorized use of distribution of personal identity information, on the black market through disreputable media institutions, in Belize City.  However, these issues are clouded by incidences of mental illness, addiction and family abuses. These tenants have had trouble accessing the justice system for legal redress, due to pervasive gerrymandering throughout the Public Service system, especially in light of the prominent election season.

Still, residents of Lower West Street (myself included) have to appeal to power structures/institutions, that be, for assistance with reconciling these pervasive conflicts that have gotten out of control on Lower West Street, since 2014.  It is only through the combined efforts of the police, the media and community that sanity can return to our division-s.  Individuals all over the country have the power of the vote, to voice our collective disaffection or consent. Abstinence, while convenient, is not a viable option. But no matter who win or lose, everyone has to get back to work, no matter the outcome of election. Before we vote, it would be prudent to settle these little matters about: abandoned properties, proper surveillance in residential neighborhoods, gang mediation and crime control.

If such atrocities can happen in Lower West Street, I imagine it can happen in any other part of the country.  As the residents of Lower West Street, we would like to extend our appreciation to ASP Moody, ACP Chuc, Cpl Petillo and Insp Neal, for their community policing efforts at Precinct One, on Euphrates Avenue; as well as the Social Work officers, Health Services’ personnel, City Council employees and Traffic Department officers, that have assisted with the filing of the motion for this petition to be offered with the relevant political agencies for consideration.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

(Signed) Leon Cesare Harrison
Apmt. A #147 West Street
cc: Channel Five, the Editor
cc: Amandala Newspaper, Editor
cc: Reporter Newspaper, Editor

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