The Gang Truce is officially dead – but gang-related activity has for the most part sharply decreased in recent months. The Police Department’s Community Policing Unit has taken an active role in releasing the stranglehold of gangs on communities who may depend on them for economic and social sustenance. On Thursday, the Department hosted the press and others at a screening of a specially commissioned documentary on the GREAT program – short for Gang Resistance Education and Training. Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie explains why Thursday is a “GREAT” day.
Allen Whylie – Commissioner of police:
Today is a great day in the history of the Belize Police department, and that is simply because of the fact of the partnership we have had with the US Ambassador who, when he wanted to implement this program, brought it to the attention of the Belize Police Department and the Ministry of Education. We know that within our population, the age group, we have been having a number of delinquents, and a number of young persons have been involved in criminal activity and gang activity. It was obvious that we needed to come up with some kind of program that we’d be able to capture people at the earlier age, and at that time our Community Policing Program was not focusing at the real youngsters.
According to officer commanding Community Policing, Senior Superintendent Louise Willis, the program, installed in 2011 after two initial years of preparation, has received rave reviews from an evaluation conducted by the U.S. Embassy which sponsored it.
The evaluation was graded excellent and, I believe, leading the US Ambassador, Mr Vinai Thummalapally, to approve the funding of this GREAT Documentary. The evaluators found that the GREAT Program is working in Belize. The documentary will enforce this evaluation.
Thursday’s documentary, the senior police woman said, is a visual documentation of the efforts of the Department and its partners on the program, and serves both public awareness and internal training and capacity building efforts. One of those partners is the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. Representative Dale Anthony says the results are plain to see.
GREAT has been established in schools throughout the country of Belize, and today we have over four thousand graduates who have completed the program. The ministry, along with the other partners, is more than happy that this has happened, because it also assists the Department and the unit I worked in, so that our unit doesn’t have all this heavy work to do. You can look on the streets today, you will definitely see that we don’t have that amount of students hanging around any more. I must tell you that because of this program, today there are definitely changes in our youth and in their behavior.