The command of the Southside Police formation has been engaged in a number of community oriented programs as it works to curb the gun violence that has plagued that side of Belize City. Today, stepping out of its mandate, the Southside Commander managed to get help and have three overgrown lots in the area cleared out. That was made possible with support from the Kolbe Foundation which allowed inmates to step outside the correctional facility to do the manual labor. The work started on an overgrown lot on Tibruce Street and concluded on Tigris Street. The Tibruce Street area has been the scene of several shootings and the police have been making their rounds in that community. Senior Superintendent Howell Gillett says that they noticed the overgrown lots and poor lighting in the area, something that is of concern to both the residents and police. This ultimately led to the work that was achieved today.
Howell Gillett, Officer Commanding Eastern Division South: “We have to address it if we are serious about fighting crime then we have to do all within our means and there are many things that we are doing that are not the conventional part of policing but we have to go outside the box to keep crime at a very low level, to keep our residents safer and to create safer neighborhoods and that is what we did in the Tibru Street area. When we made the announcement earlier in the week that we were going to clear this area then residents of the Rocky Road area said that they have some issues as it relates to overgrown lots and we did that. While we were there residents started on social media to say that kindly look at a lot of Tigres Street and that is why we did that third area and we are happy to have done so. We believe the work that we’ve put in in those areas will lend to lower crime rate in the area because you know as I do that criminals don’t like open spaces, they don’t like well lit areas so we will do all within our power to help the residents but conversely we ask residents to please work with the police. If you don’t trust every police there has to be one that you trust; tell us what is affecting you, tell us how to get the guns and ammunition off the street.”
And while the effort was a success, this kind of work actually falls under the mandate of the City Council. Commander Gillett says he intends to start a collaboration with the City Council and in the interim, through his meetings with the Attorney General, the AG has committed to take a thorough look into the laws governing overgrown lots.
Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General:“The law is in place under the Belize City Council Act that if a landowner doesn’t clean his or her property that City Council can send them a notice for them to clean it, if they choose not to clean it the City Council has every right to go into that abandoned property and clean it and send the landowner the bill for cleaning it. If the land owner does not pay that bill the City Council has every right to apply to a magistrate for that land to be auctioned so that they can pay that cleaning bill and the reserve price for that auction is the cost of the cleaning bill. So what we are telling people, and I’m encouraging the Senior Superintendent and we can have an audience with the mayor as well, start to clean up those abandoned properties because that is where the criminals hide their guns and ammunition. So if we start to clean these spaces and start to make citizens be responsible for cleaning up their abandoned properties it goes a long way in steming crime.”
: Howell Gillett, Officer Commanding Eastern Division: “While we debate who must clean what area then crime could continue to occur so we wanted to set the example, we want to create the awareness so that others may follow.”
Commander Gillett says they are also considering turning some of these lots into a safe recreational space for residents on the Southside of Belize City.