Operation Jaguar Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 20 May 2010 00:00

Searches conducted on civilians under the watchful eyes of BDF soldiersOne woman on Kraal Road said, “I can’t remember the last time I have been so happy to see police.” This was her remarks after seeing five police trucks within a two minute span. Obviously the patrols are not consistently that intense but the sentiment that woman shared is the overall intent of Operation Jaguar.

Operation Jaguar was launched before the dawn of Monday, May 17. According to a press release from

the National Security Council, Operation Jaguar will be conducted for a sustained period of time and will target high crime areas in Belize City. It involves the reassignment of additional police officers as well as Coast Guard personnel and more than one hundred additional soldiers from the Belize Defense Force. In addition, there will be more personnel deployed with high level of training in urban operations from the Belize Special Assignment Group.
Operation Jaguar is a bold initiative on the part of the National Security Council which is chaired by Prime Minister Dean Barrow. However, its success will rely heavily on public support. Assistant Commissioner of Police Elodio Aragon is the man on the ground for the operations. In speaking with the Guardian he explained that there have been numerous foot and vehicle patrols in high crime areas of the city. Though he explains that the success of the operation cannot yet be measured there have been a number of persons who have been stopped and searched as well as houses that have been searched. The house searches conducted were done so based on intelligence.

The operation entails some 70 BDF soldiers along with over 30 police officers on the ground working the operation. They are complimented by a number of officers from the Coast Guard. Allaying the fears that may exist of soldiers patrolling the streets, Aragon says the BDF soldiers on patrol have been sworn in as special constables, giving them the powers of arrest as police officers. He added that the police and the BDF’s presence on the streets of Belize City is to do a job which he says is to bring about greater security for people living in the Southside of Belize City. He adds that “they should at no time be apprehensive; there may be inconveniences because we are out here doing our job, and we are out here looking at people who are known to the police to be involved in criminal activity. And we’ll be out here doing our job.” Lt. Col. David Jones who is in charge of the BDF personnel on the ground says that “the soldiers are here to support the police, they got the rules and regulations in regards to opening fire towards any civilians, they are going to be using restraint, the soldiers are going to be professional at all times.”

Complementing the stop and search operation will be static and roving vehicular checkpoints. Again this is not to frustrate residents but to deter criminals. Operation Jaguar is heavily dependent on intelligence. Residents can be a part of this city saving operation by offering any useful information they possess. There will be increased vehicle, house and yard searches as police are going after illegal weapons. There are many cases at the moment where criminals are hiding weapons in people’s yards who are not aware of it. If a search operation goes through your yard do not be abusive to the officers; instead, help them along. The additional foot, bike and mobile patrols will improve their response time.
The question is being posted all over: “Just how much effect will Operation Jaguar have on crime in the city?” The answer to this question is as much as you want it to have. This operation is sure to stir a lot of sensational media broadcasts. No doubt we will see an increase in accusations of profiling, harassment and abuse. We in the media will be all too happy to cover these incidents. Therefore, those who support the initiative must show that they do by boosting the officers’ morale with a kind word or gesture of appreciation. This operation requires them to work more intense hours to provide safety and security for residents in crime affected areas and to restore public confidence in Government’s anti-crime efforts. The only people who should be frustrated by this operation are criminals.