Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, Officer Commanding Eastern Division (South) spoke of several crime and law enforcement-related issues in his press conference in Belize City on Monday. We begin with an update on the 9 o’clock curfew that was instituted for children of South side Belize City in April. The old proverb goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” And while several youths have run afoul of the curfew since its implementation, ACP Williams says that so far police have avoided having to implement the stronger measures occasioned by a second offence:
ACP Chester Williams. Officer Commanding Eastern Division (South): The curfew is still ongoing. We picked up I think last week we picked up about 4 minors off the streets. The parents were again issued with the warning letters. We have not arrived at a stage where we can arrest and charge a parent, because those children that we have we picked up and the parent warned, they have not been dealt with before. So, we have not had a situation where we picked up a child twice, because you know that we normally give the warning in the first instance and if the child is being picked up again, then we take legal action against the parent. So we have not had a situation where we picked up a child twice, where we would have to charge the parent because of a second infraction. But it is working. We continue to see the number of children on the streets minimizing and we want to keep it that way. We also continue to do our patrols at the various gang bases on a daily basis to make sure that no young persons are hanging out there with them and that’s the reason why you are seeing that the perpetrators now of these crimes are no longer children as there were before.
Williams’ precinct will be organizing summer activities through its Community Policing Program for school children. Meanwhile, Williams also commented on the vulgar sex videos distributed this weekend, and in particular the showing a man and a woman purported to have mental challenges who were bribed with soft drinks and then instructed to perform sexual acts while they are filmed. Williams, who last year completed his qualification as an attorney at law, spoke to the challenges of identifying the perpetrators of this act, as well as other difficulties that would arise in punishing such actions:
ACP Chester Williams. Officer Commanding Eastern Division (South): I have not seen the video fully. I only saw a snippet of it and I do not know if the persons in the video are homeless. I know for a fact that there is a law against the proliferation of pornographic materials and the video is posted I was told on Facebook – I don’t know. If one should post any pornographic material on any social media site or anywhere in public, they can be charged. But the difficulty that we will have in instituting charges against those persons will be to prove that they are the ones who actually post it on the net. We know if we should approach those persons, they will say ‘it is not me, someone have my Facebook page’ or they will find some excuse to get out of it and we cannot prove that they are the ones who actually did it. So there is where the technicality will come in as to how we will move forward with that investigation. Now as it relates to the fact that the persons are homeless, there is still nothing there that we will be able to deal with them because they’re adults, now if they were children and we had people who are cohering children to engage in sexual intercourse, then that’s a different thing but in this case they’re adults. Unless if we can prove that these adults are not of a sane mind then a different thing will come into play and then we’ll be able to deal with them, but in the absence of us proving that they’re of a sane mind then there is nothing that we can do.
We note that from the voices heard in the video, it appears the perpetrators are youth. Williams also called for legislation to specifically address cyber-crime, from online stalking and bullying to posting pornographic and suggestive videos and photographs.And finally, over the past 10 to 15 years a number of factors; including senseless and unprovoked murders among others, have led to increased need for the protection of witnesses in criminal proceedings in Belize. Perhaps the two most important factors in the Americas have been the emergence of interest in the status of victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings and the significant rise in terrorist and organized crime. Although witness protection has many aspects and several controversial issues to be looked at, one cannot deny that it can be an effective component employed to successfully put criminals behind bars. But ACP Chester Williams says Belize has unique challenges in that regard:
ACP Chester Williams. Officer Commanding Eastern Division (South): That is a policy matter, and while this is a matter of policy, this is a difficult one, and we know that Belize is a very small country and for us to take somebody and send them to Punta Gorda or send them to San Ignacio or send them to the North, it does not mean that we are putting them out of reach from those persons who might want to get to them, they might still get to them. The issue of the size of the country is difficult. We’re not like the united states who have so many states far apart from each other where you can take someone from California and hide them in New York or somewhere far away, we do not have that luxury because of our size.