Jun 6, 2012
The violent crime statistics has placed Belize among the five most violent countries globally. The US government today stepped in with a major donation that will hopefully assist to improve those statistics. Through a regional security initiative, CARSI, the US handed over today a fleet of vehicles, loaded with state of art security equipment to help law enforcers in the detection and apprehension of criminals. News Five’s Jose Sanchez was present for the handing-over at the Roger’s Stadium in Belize City.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
The Central American Regional Security Initiative is assisting the Belize Police department with its crime solving efforts. US Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally outlined how the equipment has now made it a technological war on crime.
Vinai Thummalapally, U.S Ambassador to Belize
“Over the past year, I’m excited to announce that the U.S. Embassy and Government of Belize have signed for almost six million U.S. dollars in CARSI funds. These funds are designated for citizens security initiatives in Belize including among others; law enforcement capacity building, border initiatives and crime prevention efforts. Towards this end, we are donating approximately one million U.S. dollars worth of equipment today; including seventeen vehicles. We are also providing training and assistance to law enforcement personnel, grants for at risk youth programs and infrastructure and technology upgrades. Let me highlight just a few of the key things we are doing under the CARSI program. With the new scenes of crime forensic vehicles, the police will have a far better ability to gather and use forensic evidence to process crime scenes and use the evidence collected to help catch and convict criminals.”
The new Scenes of Crime van has been outfitted with equipment giving it a value of ninety thousand dollars. It comes equipped with cameras, road lights, metal detectors, and a restoration kit for vehicle VIN numbers and a generator to keep scenes well lit.
Lloyd Roches, Head, Scenes of Crime
“The equipment varies from cameras to evidence hardcore lifting kits to the aphids tracker system.”
“What does that do; how does that help you with your work?”
“The aphids tracker system is used for when we go to scenes especially burglary scenes where we lift up any finger prints. When we return to the office, we download it into the system and if there is any match in there, the aphid’s tracker system will automatically say this finger print matches this person. We cannot say that this person committed the crime, but this person was at the crime scene.”
“And this has been used before in the court. I think I’ve seen at least a couple convictions with it.”
“Yes, it has been used before—in the last years or so. Last year we had thirty-eight finger print matches when we are using Aphid’s system.”
“With ten new vehicles for increased mobile patrols for South Side Belize City, police will be able to respond more quickly. And coupled with increased training and computerized equipment, they will strengthen their investigative procedures from beginning to end. With U.S. government assistance, Belize is developing a canine detection capability. Canines have been provided to find drugs, explosives and much more.”
According to Assistant Commissioner of Police Elodio Aragon junior, the police department structure once divided Belize City into six zones, population growth and technology has seen the need for eleven zones.
Elodio Aragon Jr., Assistant Commissioner of Police
“In all, the city has now eleven zones, police zones. With the donation of these vehicles based on a proposal, we have looked at putting each one of these vehicles in each zone. So we will have eleven police zones with one vehicle each in each zone. Certain zones that we consider hot spot areas, etc where there is an increase in crime, etc., those zones will be complimented with additional resources that we presently have. So, [it is] to ensure that we are able to respond to calls from 911 quickly and to ensure that we have high visibility of police within these areas.”
In those areas, the vehicles will be using audio visual feeds that will be monitored by the police department.
“Each of these vehicles that we have are equipped with a video camera. Previously we had ten which were already active. The camera records outside, inside and audio of whatever is going on at the time; it records all of the information. It also gives the location at the time of the recording—where the vehicle is—with a GPS setting and monitors the speed and mileage that the vehicle is going at the time.”
“Why is it important to have a visual of what the officers are doing or what they are saying?”
Santiago Ciau Jr.
“Well it comes in handy if there is any allegation against the police officers if they did anything on that time. We can go back and review the camera and check to see if it did happen. Other than that also it shows what the police officers are doing at the time of the patrol. So it gives them the ability to defend themselves and protect the citizens.”
“Where does this information go? Is it going through the internet? Where is it monitored? Is it something that is viewed at the end of the day?”
Santiago Ciau Jr.
“It is viewed every morning at eight o’clock; the footage is downloaded and viewed. It is reviewed by me. There was one incident with a mobile where it crashed into a bus and the bus driver came out and said that it was the mobile’s fault. When reviewing the camera, it showed that the bus was parked and that the mobile; that the bus came into contact with the mobile. The bus owner then said that it would make the insurance deal with it because it was his fault.”
“So how many vehicles are with this system?”
Santiago Ciau Jr.
“Well currently we have ten that are already out and all the other vehicles that are here came equipped with it already.”