The Crime Control Council (CCC), which has not met for sometime, voted Wednesday in favor of the Minister of National Security’s proposal to declare five areas of Belize City “Crime Ridden.”
The declaration comes on the strength of the 1994 Amendment to the Criminal Justice Act, which gives the police wide-ranging powers to combat crime.
The Opposition, People’s United Party (PUP) representative on the council, Senator Lisa Shoman, told The Reporter that the PUP agreed to the proposal, after they reviewed both the proposed areas, and had seen a presentation from the Ministry of National Security.
Shoman said, “After having had an intense, serious discussion about the very strong need for fighting crime and balancing citizen’s rights, we expect that citizen’s rights will be upheld and they will stick to the law.”
CCC Chairman Michael Young told reporters that the Council only met because of the Minister’s proposed declaration. However, he said that in 2010 the government was given a special memorandum, which explained that once RESTORE Belize was established, it was a better organization to do the very same thing that the Council had been established to do.
“And that is the reason why the CCC has not been meeting.”
“But the law was not changed, and the CCC still exists as an entity and the concurrence of the CCC is required for the declaration … to be valid,” Young said.
Young characterized the meeting as “very constructive.” He said that everyone expressed views and concerns about the matter and no one voted against the declaration.
Colonel George Lovell (retired), the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, said that the declaration now has to be published in the Government Gazette. Lovell said that as soon as the order is drafted, it will be signed by the Minister.
Under the law, Lovell explained, the police have the power to cordon off a declared area for three hours in any twenty-four hour period. Once an area is cordoned off, the police can stop and search anyone going in or coming out of the area.
Young said that the constitutional rights of citizens will be protected, because the Council’s unanimous agreement was based on the police department’s explanation of how the operation would be conducted.
Fundamentally, the objective of the operation is to take back the streets from the hands of the criminals.
“The communities have law-abiding citizens and the police will help the law-abiding citizens take back the streets from the criminals.”
Lovell said that this type of operation will put the communities in a closer working relationship with the police. The communities can now have an avenue through which they can dialogue with the police.
National Security Minister John Saldivar announced the initiative last Thursday, during the Prime Minister’s business forum entitled “Partnering for Growth.”
In his announcement, Saldivar said that even small offences such as double riding on a bicycle will not be overlooked during the operation.
The operation will cost the government something in the range of $100, 000 a week.