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Albert area representative joins Police and community to address spike in gun violence

We have been reporting on the spike in gun violence in the Conch Shell Bay area of Belize City. Since the start of 2017, four shooting incidents have been reported, with two proving fatal. Today the Police Department held their weekly meet and greet session in the trouble area. They were accompanied by area representative, Tracy Taegar Panton.

Tracy Taegar – Albert area representative

“Well as you can imagine, the residents in this area in particular Lindo’s Alley and also in the Conch Shell Bay are very concerned with the escalation of gun violence and so we felt it was important to do an outreach to the community, to give them our reassurance that we are doing everything that we possibly can in dealing with the crime itself and also looking for alternative ways in which we can continue to support our community to try and stem some of what has happened. Recently there has been a spike in the activity and it is concerning  for all of us too. Far too many of our young men are dying and as a community we have to come together to do what we can. The police has been very responsive to the community, have been very vigilant in the community and we will continue to work with them and all other interested parties to ensure that we can find a way forward. Certainly from my own personal observations, the police is doing everything that they possibly can and what I have heard from the homes that we have visited is that they feel a greater sense of safety and security. They see the police patrols are far more frequent and that gives them some level of assurance. I can assure you that we are doing everything and the police is doing everything that they can to try and bring some sense of calm and to do interventions so we can try and get to the bottom of the problem and  hopefully be able to get things back to normal.

Panton was asked about the difficulty of controlling the area given the size.

Tracy Taegar – Albert area representative

“I wish we could get into the minds of those who decide to commit the crime so that we could be on top of their every timing and every move. That’s not possible. We also have to have people who are willing to come forward in terms of sharing information with the police so that we can get to the bottom of it. You hear a lot in the community in terms of your own informal intelligence gathering but you can’t act on that unfortunately. And so the best we can do is increase our surveillance, increase the presence, also to do whatever intervention work is necessary with the young men who are involved in this turf war, I call it a turf war, to understand why we have had an escalation. I believe that intervention and mediation are a very important part of the process and Mr. Williams and his team have assured me that, that will be very much part of the overall solution. It is a small area and that is why it is so concerning and we’re taking the time to visit each home because everybody knows everybody in this area. I would go as far as to say that everybody is family and so this kind of spike in gun activity is very disconcerting.

Panton said it is their belief that at the core of the recent spike is drog related activities. She said the Police will continue to hold mediation sessions and her constituency office will engage in the process of working with the community.

Tracy Taegar – Albert area representative

“We are very engaged in the division in terms of keeping our outreach to particularly sensitive areas, in the area and so we keep that dialogue open. We try to be on the ground as much as possible. Where we can’t reach the older guys who are very much deep in this process, we try and reach out to their children because we feel if we don’t try and work with the young ones coming up, we won’t be able to stop the cycle. And so that is a daily intervention from the constituency office. We have an officer assigned to the particular areas so that we can keep that communication open and we can try and stay on top of it. When tensions start to get high well then we ask for certainly the support and intervention of the police.”