New Fleet of Vehicles for Police Department Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 07 June 2012 00:00

Hon. John Saldivar and US Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally signingThe Belize Police Department received a new fleet of vehicles from the United States Embassy on Wednesday, June 6. The department received 17 vehicles, four highly trained dogs and additional equipment through the United States’ Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).  CARSI is a multi-million dollar effort by the U.S. State Department to combat the effects of organized crime and strengthen the rule of law in Central America. According to the United States Embassy, CARSI has committed approximately million to law enforcement personnel in Belize over the past year alone. This most recent donation will improve the department’s patrol efficiency and responsiveness.

Ten of the vehicles are Ford Ranger pickup trucks. Those will be used in the recently re-zoned Belize City. Elodio Aragon Jr., Assistant Commissioner of Police and Officer Commanding Eastern Division, explained that the Belize Police Department had divided Belize City into six police zones. A patrol crew would cover the entire stretch of one of those six zones. However, the recent increase in criminal activities has proven that the police needs to strengthen their presence on the streets and improve on their ability to respond to reports of crime. Because of that, the department has further divided the six zones into eleven police zones. There will be one patrol vehicle per each zone; making it easier to cover the areas. On Wednesday, Aragon told the Guardian, “We will swarm the hot spots of the city.” Additional vehicles alone will not allow the department to maintain the kind of presence needed to “swarm the hot spots”. There will also be a change in the work schedule of police officers. Officers will serve twelve hour shifts instead of the eight hour shifts that are being served now.

The new fleet of vehicles also includes two buses, three vans, a Nissan SUV and an additional pickup truck. The buses will be used by the Community Policing Unit. The United States Embassy has developed a strong partnership with the Yarborough Community Policing Center. The center occasionally sponsors field trips for youths of the area. The buses will be used to transport the groups to various destinations. Two of the vans will be used to transport detainees to and from holding cells. The special steel interior is designed to keep individuals inside and make escaping virtually impossible. The third van will be used by crime scene investigators. It is equipped with storage space for evidence collected from crime scenes. The inside of the van is impressive. It looks like it came straight from the set of one of the science fiction crime-fighting television series. An SUV and pickup truck will be used for vehicle interdiction.

News of the police department receiving new vehicles always comes with a sense of skepticism from the public. The force has a bad reputation when it comes to taking care of its resources. That is simply perception, according to Aragon, who says that the department has come a long way in its efforts to maintain its equipments. The technology that will be adapted to the new fleet should deter any act of recklessness. The vehicles are equipped with cameras that cover the outside and inside of the vehicle so that the department will be able to see exactly where the vehicle traveled and what happened outside and inside the vehicle. The vehicles will also be equipped with GPS, which will allow the department to track them. That service is courtesy of the department’s partnership with Belize Telemedia Limited.    

Hon. John Saldivar was present at the handing over ceremony. He thanked the United States Government for their generous donation. He said that the Government of Belize will continue to do its best to provide the necessary equipment that will enable the Belize Police Department to perform well. He expressed the confidence he has in the department to get the job done. Saldivar also reiterated his zero tolerance policy towards corruption in the force. He plans to restore public confidence in the Belize Police Department by getting rid of rogue cops. Those, however, are the few and all of Saldivar’s praises were reserved for the majority of police officers that try to make a positive difference in the community every single day. Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally handed over the vehicles to the Ministry of Defense. He said that the United States looks at Belize as a strong partner in the fight against narcotics trafficking and transnational gangs. Saldivar and Thummalapally were impressed by a display of the K-9 Unit. The dogs donated by the United States showed off their skills by locating drugs and explosives that were hidden in the area.

The United States’ donation is worth a little over $2.2 million.