For the two years since his transfer to Belize  City as the Officer in Charge of Eastern Division,  Assistant Commissioner  of Police Chester Williams has worked tirelessly with the gangs  and their leaders, to reduce street violence.

It has been frustrating work. The last three months have been the bloodiest in Belize’s history of gun violence, turf wars and contract shootings. Last year ASP Williams complained publicly that the gangs were friendly and compliant by day, but by night they were the same untamed killers.

The two year experiment of walking softly but carrying a big stick has not impressed Police Commissioner Allen Whylie, who last week announced that he was transferring ASP Williams to Belmopan  and bringing back ASP Marco Vidal, former head of the GSU, known in the streets for his penchant for the use of blunt force.

The reaction was electrifying. Gang leaders organized themselves for a peace march. They pledged that they would put a lid on street violence. They predicted that the arrival of Marco Vidal would result in more, not less violence.

Gang leaders seem to be  living up to their pledge of putting a lid on street violence. There has been a dramatic cease-fire! The streets have gone quiet. Will they remain quiet?

That is anybody’s guess. Gang leaders  believe in their own brand of justice and have shown little regard for the court and its  process of delayed justice.

But if  our streets  can stay quiet for a week, they can stay quiet for a month! And if they can stay quiet for a month, they can remain quiet for a year! But this will require discipline and perseverance.

That would be a great and worthwhile  achievement. It would mean that Chester William’s strategy of walking softly and carrying a big stick is working. Maybe the gangs need a little more time to come to their senses and understand that gun violence cannot build a just society. Gun violence will destroy, but it cannot build!

It is clear that the gangs and their leaders  do not want ASP Marco Vidal to take over from  ASP Chester Williams. In the view of the gangs, it is all right for them to deal out the violence, but it is not all right for them to be on the receiving end of police violence.

What are we to do? Should the Commissioner of Police go ahead with his plan to transfer Williams and introduce the enforcer Vidal? Or should he give the Williams strategy  some more time to work?

If the situation remains peaceful, there may be  no need for the Enforcer! So should the Commissioner of Police pay any attention to what the gangs want?  Are the  gangs going to be able to influence  public policy in Belize?

We have seen politicians make overtures to gang leaders before, and we know it is not a permanent fix. We know that the gangs can turn on good hehaviour  for a day or a week  and then go right back to their  evil ways.

We need to see more than a temporary lull in street crime. What we need to see is a conversion! We need to see a repudiation  of hand guns and an end to the endless  turf wars.

When the gangs can show a genuine desire for peace, we will begin to listen to them!



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