G.R.E.A.T. Programme graduates 20 Belizeans and 14 Salvadorans Print E-mail
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Thursday, 12 October 2017 00:00

As part of gang resistance in Belize and in the wider Central American region, various police departments have been working with the US Embassy to implement the “Gang Resistance Education and Training” (GREAT) program since 2008. Since the inception of the program in Belize, a total of 210 officers have been inducted as GREAT officers. Gang violence has a negative effect on the victim as well as the criminal. The consequences of burden are significant and, according to ACP Robert Mariano, Commander of Management Service, preventative measures are best to be taken to avoid decisions that may become irreversible.

The Belize Police Department saw the need to establish a more proactive approach in battling the issue of youth and gang related problems. In 2009, 8 Belizean officers were sent to El Salvador among other Central American representatives to participate in the GREAT Programme. The officers were sponsored through the US Embassy. Through the program, they learnt personal, resistive, and social skills to be applied in an educative way. These skills among others give the police officers an outlet to engage with children and youth in a more interactive way. While the US Embassy plays a vital role, the Belize Police Department also works with NGOs, the Ministry of Education, as well as the communities in Belize to perform their tasks.

GREAT Belize and Community policing receives support from the US Embassy and Robert Gibson, INL Coordinator, US Embassy Belize, says that they will continue to receive support. “Preventing crime is better than responding to crime”, said Gibson. Since 2008, the US Embassy has invested over USD $40,000,000 and even more in El Salvador.

The 8-day 2017 GREAT training was stressful for most of the participants but it was worth it. The real work begins now and the officers believe that they have gained the right tools to approach youth in the community. A total of 14 officers from El Salvador and 20 officers from Belize graduated from this year’s GREAT Training. In the closing remarks, Ron Doyle, INL Regional Coordinator, reminded the officers that the one thing that always makes a difference is building strong, caring relationships with children. The graduates participated in the program in 5 teams and each time has leadership. Some of the leaders hailed from the United States, El Salvador, and several from Belize.