Thursday, February 18, 2010

Belize can become a better place if we focus on crime and economic development together

By Wellington C Ramos:

Belize and the other English-speaking Caribbean countries are all experiencing a significant increase in their crime and unemployment rates. The time is now right for these countries to conduct a comprehensive study in order to examine the impact chronic unemployment has on crime.

I have looked at some studies that have been conducted over the years in most of the large urban centres in the United States of America and they have all revealed that there is a relationship between the two. Our country has too many idle, unemployed and displaced youths.

Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island UniversityCurrently in Belize many of these youths are members of violent gangs and are engaged in criminal and anti-social activities that are making our country unsafe and discouraging people from other countries to come to Belize as tourists to spend money and boost the economy.

The last time I was in Belize I saw a gentleman dressed in police uniform on a motorcycle and had no police number or name on his uniform while all regular police officers must wear a number on their shirts. I was told by a person that he was a “tourist police,” a new thing that they started in Belize.

This police officer was chasing a suspect around the main bridge in Dangriga town and he pulled out a loaded 38 revolver to shoot at the suspect. Luckily, he did not fire the gun at the time because he probably would have shot an innocent civilian pedestrian passing by and we would have had no way of identifying this police officer. This might be the right time for all police officers to have their name attached to their uniforms in addition to their badge numbers.

Our ministers of government along with the businesses and industries can all sit around the table and convene an economic development plan for the next ten years. This will be to the benefit of the government and the private businesses. When citizens of a country become employed they will possess the means of purchasing their commodities from the businesses and industries and pay their taxes to the government to increase their revenues.

I am not living in Belize permanently and it is hard for me as a Belizean to comprehend how our ministers can go to bed at night only to wake up and hear that a member of their political constituency has lost a loved one. Also, for the business owners to hear that another business was robbed at gunpoint and the owner of the business was shot and killed. How long must we all wait until we ourselves become victims of this ongoing madness?

The Belize government should consider bringing back the traffic police into the department because it will help to generate more income for the economy and reduce the crime rates. Along with the department they should set up police toll stations on our highways to conduct searches for drugs, weapons, ammunition, wanted criminals, illegal aliens, stolen goods and other contraband items. The revenues from the tolls would pay for the maintenance of the highways and to pay the traffic police officers. When I attended the Police Academy years ago, the two areas of law I had most difficulty with were traffic and immigration.

I still cannot understand how the decision was made to take these two departments from the police force and hand it over to civilians. It is easier to control police officers than civilians because it is a disciplined branch. There is nothing wrong with admitting that we made a mistake and acknowledge that something is not working because that is a part of development. Many of our youths who are unemployed would become employed as traffic officers and businesses and industries will have their commodities and cargoes transported safely throughout the entire country.

Belize and these countries have many challenges to deal with but crime and unemployment are the two major thorns they must address quickly. Belizeans are becoming very impatient and intolerant. When our people have had enough of something they will do something about it. Pretty soon they will begin to ask themselves is this UDP Government doing their best to address these two important issues. If they come to the conclusion that the answer is no, they will not hesitate to put back the government in the hands of the People’s United Party or another political party.

Remember that these killings and crimes have Belizeans letting out their emotions and some people are not rational thinkers while they are expressing their emotions. Many nights before I go to bed, I sit in the United States and wonder if our leaders in Belize ever listen to the advice that we the people from the United State are giving them or they just do not give a darn about what we think. Remember also that we have close relatives in Belize and every Belizean has a family member living in the United States.

Let us now conduct this economic development summit to provide employment to our unemployed citizens and reduce these killings and robberies.

February 18, 2010