Yesterday we told you of the regional report that was released earlier this week from the InterAmerican Development Bank that endorses interventions as part of an anti-crime strategy. Assistant Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams says he was happy to read the findings in the report which were from a survey conducted in four Caribbean nations. In our conversation with ACP Williams yesterday we asked him to go in-depth with these interventions he has been having with the gang elements of Belize City. We asked him if the issue of gang territory is being addressed which currently limits these affiliates from being in certain areas of the city.
“The good news is that that is already happening. If you look at the different groups today you will see them moving around more freely than before. Sometimes we have events with them and after the events you will find that people from Banack Street go on George Street to hang out; people from PIV go to Back a land to go hang out our vice versa so we are now seeing where they are going over into other areas of the city where they couldn’t go before and we must understand that it requires developing trust between themselves and we are now at the stage where that level of trust is increasing. It is not where we want it to be, it will not where we want it to be right now because it is a work in progress, it will take some time but if we are consistent in what we do in working with these young men we will get there because the important thing is for them to be able to see themselves as one, for them to be able to see themselves as human beings and accept that. If we can achieve that we will be living in the country that we so love, a free Belize where everybody can move around. These young men for the most part have been confined to one small geographic area of the city because of beef and turf war. We want to tear down those walls and ensure that they can move around how they want.”
Another aspect of the interventions has to do with self-sustainability. For the most part, these gang elements rely on the revenue garnered from the drug trade and in order to reincorporate them back into society, they will need to find an alternative source of income. ACP Williams says this too is a part of the plan.
“I know that we have been working with Cisco to get employment for some of these young men and I am happy to say that just this week Cisco hired some. Next week others will be hired and in I think in about two weeks’ time some more will be hired and I must say thanks to the Prime Minister who has been very instrumental in working with Cisco to see how Cisco could have secured a contract and through that contract he is now employing these young men to work with him. Yes we know that it is not the ideal job, but it is a start, it is a way for them to make an honest living. Because the truth of the matter is that these young men cannot go to Brodies or Romacs and apply for a job or they can’t go to the bank and apply for a job; some of them are high school graduates, some of them have associates degree but who will hire them? So while we stereotype we don’t think about how we as society have been treating these young men. We have treated them like rejects so for right now they are taking what they can get as employment until they can do better and we are hoping that maybe later on down the road the society on a whole will see them differently, they will be more receptive to them and perhaps offer them better employment but at the same time too Ms. Finnegan and I have been discussing to see how we can work on entrepreneurship opportunities with them where they can establish their own business that way they don’t have to be reliant on an employer so that is another angle we are looking at; these things take time and they take money.”
In about six weeks, ACP Williams will be transferred to Belmopan to the Professional Standards Branch. Despite the move, he says he will continue to work with the gang elements.
“I’m truly committed to what I do and these young men I feel for them. I know that we can make a difference in their lives we have been doing that. Not just because I am going to Belmopan am I going to give up on them I’m not going to do that. These young men look up to me, they respect me and they have certain expectations from me. I am not going to fail them I want to continue to see how I can continue to influence their lives to become more positive in what they do as productive Belizean citizens and myself and Ms. Finnegan will continue to collaborate to ensure that we do that.”
Succeeding ACP Williams on July 1 is Inspector Marco Vidal, the former Commander of the Gang Suppression Unit.