Police Commissioner Allen Whylie this week outlined a broad initiative, which aims at breaking the power and influence of the gangs in Belize by targeting the leaders and by bringing under surveillance, people who support gangs and provide help and comfort to their leaders.

At the same time the Commissioner acknowledged that there are officers inside the Police Department who have developed links with organized crime, who need to be weeded out if the new police initiative is to have any chance of succeeding.

He spoke about the need for professional intelligence to keep police abreast of criminal developments in Belize so that they are better prepared to recognize where the violence is coming from, and take measures to unmask hidden collaborators or those who are simply looking to the gangs as enforcers for protection or revenge.

The rise in the influence of gangs in Belize has produced a deep and festering wound on the communal body, undermining moral values as well as the justice system. For a while it appeared that no one was noticing or willing to take responsibility for the slide towards social chaos. The announcement of plans by Commissioner Whylie to carry out a house-cleaning of the Police Department and to work on a program to protect witnesses and others threatened by gang violence are important first steps.

We believe the government of Belize will need to join the action with new legislation for longer sentences for gang-related crimes. Gang related offenses should not be treated with the same equanimity as crimes committed by unattached individuals. Gang-related crimes are organized crimes – more virulent in its effect on the society.

In California, the land of the Crips and the Bloods, law enforcement fought the gangs by imposing stiff jail sentences on gang leaders. No one wants to spend 20 years in jail and gang leaders are no exception!
It is too early for congratulations. But certainly the Police High Command should know that the people of Belize appreciate the extra effort it is making in confronting organized crime.

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