LADYVILLE, BELIZE DISTRICT, Mon. Jan. 4, 2016–It has long been said that the police need the participation of the community to tackle the crime problem, and this community-based approach, which has apparently helped to drastically reduce the murder rate in Belize City, is also being employed in other parts of the district, namely the suburban environs of Ladyville, which had in the past seen a spill-over of crimes into that jurisdiction.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Edward Broaster, who was appointed to serve as the commanding officer of the Police Department’s Rural Eastern Division on July 1, 2015, told Amandala that 12 murders were committed in the area in 2015; however, he and his officers aim to decrease that figure in 2016.
The Rural Eastern Division encompasses the area outside of Belize City and beyond Haulover Bridge and Burton Canal, covering 22,000 square miles and 32 villages. It borders Orange Walk at Mile 38 and the Cayo District at approximately Mile 31. It is one of three units within the Eastern Division. The other two are North Eastern Division and South Eastern Division.
Broaster said that he is in charge of 114 police officers—not enough for the task at hand, he says. However, the community’s help in policing their own area does compliment their efforts and has helped to keep crime in check, he said.
“See Something, Say Something, Stop Something” is a program that promotes community reporting of suspicious activities via WhatsApp or a direct call to the police.
Broaster said that he wants the community to develop trust and confidence in the Police Department. Community meetings have helped to build rapport between the police and the public, he said.
The police have also found new ways to bolster their public image. For example, Broaster said that, in December, they set up a checkpoint where they took several persons off the bus and pleasantly surprised them by giving them $100 each.
Their next move is to implement a program called TAG GARDENS: Transforming All Generations, Generating Agriculture Resources, Developing Edible Nutritional Standards, said Broaster.
He explained that the objective of the program is to encourage a crime-free life and community involvement in planting crops. At the end of the agricultural cycle, he said, there will be a harvest and the crops will be judged by the Minister of Agriculture, Gaspar Vega.
Broaster said that for years, he has wondered why so many young people have been killing each other, and then finally in a conversation with Dr. Cardio Martinez his question was answered.
Dr. Martinez told Broaster that without the right nutrition, a child’s brain does not develop properly, so malnourished children often suffer arrested development, and one aspect of this is that their cognitive thinking is not fully developed. He went on to explain that when children who are suffering from such arrested development watch television and see violent movies, they view it as a game.
“I think that crime does have a significant link with healthy minds and healthy bodies,” Broaster said.
He added that if we can encourage our community to take up farming and to eat right, it will lead to better developed young people who can make sound decisions in our community.
Other initiatives to be implemented in 2016 are the personal protection program, the ‘meet and greet’ at the church level, and a physical fitness program.
The personal protection program is a program in which persons who have a smart phone will be able to alert the police of a crime by using the panic feature that will automatically call the police, and if the police call back and there is no response then they will know something is wrong. Broaster added that they will use a geo-location application to locate the person.
Broaster said, “The [home invasion at Abou Nehra’s residence] in Burrell Boom taught us a valuable lesson, because when we responded to the area and we called the victim, who at the time was under duress… she had to say that she was at church.”
This response sent the signal to police that something was wrong, but it could have also alerted the criminals that help was on the way.
At the end of the month, the police in Ladyville will adopt the Meet and Greet initiative, which will be held at the Ladyville Baptist Church, where they will have a pot-luck. They intend to do the same for other churches, Broaster said.
Where the fitness program is concerned, the Police Department has plans to organize a fitness walk from Ladyville to Belize City, at a date to be announced, Broaster informed.
He said that the key to reducing crime is to coordinate with the community, and he feels confident that together they will reduce the crime rate in the area.